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Who Waited For Whom, And Why It Took So Long To Bring Gallant On Board

November 27th is a date that will forever live in the mind of new Vegas Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant. That’s the day he was let go from the Florida Panthers, paving the way for him to make history in Vegas.

But November 27th was 137 days before The Creator and George McPhee announced the knighting of Gerard Gallant. One has to wonder why it took so long, and more importantly, who caused the holdup.

We felt that we had a process that we wanted to go through, Kelly (McCrimmon) and I had discussed how we wanted to do this. I guess there are three issues why we took our time. First of all we didn’t have any players to coach, so we weren’t in a rush to have a coach, and we had so many other things to do. We had to get our priorities in order and take care of some of other things before we got to the coach. The second thing is when you have time in this business you use it. We needed every bit of it. The third reason was there were some people who had requested we talk to them at the end of their seasons. So, we went through the entire process. We did it the way we wanted to, and it worked out very well for us. We got the right person for this team and we did it in the timeline we set for it. -George McPhee

And what did it look like from Gallant’s point of view?

The first time I talked to George about it was probably in mid-December, he gave me a call and asked if I had any interest. I said definitely I had a lot of interest in it. Then I did an interview in mid-January and I flew out here for two days and we met for 3-4 hours with him and Kelly McCrimmon, Misha Donskov, and the owner. From that point on we talked about once every two weeks about the job and the process he was going through to hire his new coach. It was good, it was a long process but it was real good and it was everything I expected when we talked. -Gallant on Hockey Central at Noon

Gallant’s initial interview happened in January. Right around the time rumors started to fly that the Golden Knights may move up their coach hiring. Then, they didn’t, and here we are now, with the same guy that caused the rumors in the first place behind the bench?

When we met him we really liked him and there was an inclination to maybe do this right now because there’s some risk in waiting. But we wanted to be able to come here today and say ‘you know what, we did this right, it was a comprehensive exhaustive process and we took our time and we got the right guy.’ I talked to Gerard about two weeks ago and said when the season ends this is going to happen fast. We have one other person to talk to and when we get through that we will know exactly what we are doing. Throughout the process we kept coming back to Gerard and we felt like he was the right guy, and on Monday night we said, you know what, he’s the guy, let’s go. –McPhee to the Rink Rats

Gerard in the mean time was scooping up interviews himself.

To be honest with you there were a few teams out there and I talked to two other teams. This is the one that’s been closest for the most part and at the end of the day this is the one I was happy to get. There were definitely a couple of other teams out there, and I went through the process, and it was outstanding. -Gallant NHL.com

Feel free to make your own judgements on this, but here’s how I see it.

Three weeks after Gallant got let go in Florida, McPhee reached out to him. They set up an interview for mid-January. He came out, did the interview, and was told the Golden Knights plan is to wait until the season ends to make a decision. At this point, Gallant thinks he’s done well, but isn’t sure he’s got the job. So, he goes and interviews for the New York Islanders job.

If Gerard Gallant wanted to be the head coach of the New York Islanders he would have been the head coach of the New York Islanders. -Bob McKenzie, TSN

It was Gallant’s decision to pass on the Isles, not the other way around. Likely because he’s getting calls from Vegas once every other week telling him he’s still the leader for the gig here. So then the season ends and things really heat up. Gallant takes another interview, and George runs through a few interviews with assistants, and possibly the newly available Lindy Ruff and Darryl Sutter. But in reality, no one had a chance.

McPhee says it was worth the risk (of losing Gallant) to go through the exhaustive process and feel confident about the hire.

It was a long process and George told me that from day one that they were going to hire a coach sometime in April.  –Gallant to NHL Now on NHL Network

But here’s the problem, that didn’t happen. Gallant was in the picture for months. The NHL season wrapped up on a Sunday. On Tuesday, Gallant was already in Vegas signing the contract, The Creator spilled the beans on Wednesday, and the press conference was on Thursday. No other candidate progressed past the phone call, they couldn’t have, there wasn’t time.

Job openings in Los Angeles and Dallas may have concerned McPhee. It’s possible the repositioning of Dale Tallon back to his rightful seat in Florida could have sped up the process. Or, the guy McPhee really wanted, and was waiting for, never came available.

I wrote a piece back in January saying I didn’t want to see the team settle on a coach, and I’m not 100% sure that’s what happened, but it sure looks that way. From all the quotes gathered, and from a very brief conversation I had personally with the new Vegas bench boss, I got the feeling this was were Gerard wanted to be, and he was willing to wait to make it happen. He was ready to become the coach whenever Vegas would have him. Therefore, it’s on McPhee and his team to explain why they waited, to which he gave three reason, all three of which I question.

1) We didn’t have players to coach.

But couldn’t Gallant’s input have been used in the scouting department? How about in the mock drafts? And would it have been the worst thing to start trotting Gerard around Vegas selling the game and the team?

2) We had other priorities.

I don’t doubt that, the amount of work that’s gone into forming this team has been absurd, but this is undoubtably the most important hire McPhee has made. I’m not exactly sure what those priorities were, but it’s interesting how the moment there was a feeling Gallant could go elsewhere, his signature became priority number one.

3) A few people requested an interview.

But they were never even given a shot. Gallant flew to Vegas. He met everyone in person. No one else got more than a call. I’m all for professional courtesy, but had they waited to sign Gallant to stay on the good side of a few assistants around the league, and wound up watching Gerard slip their their fingers, that would have been worse than the documentary scene.

I went into the press conference with the assumption and through everything I’ve learned since I’ll stick with it, Gallant wasn’t McPhee’s first choice. The Golden Knights played it slow because they had their eyes on someone else. Who it was and why that person wasn’t on the stage Thursday afternoon, we’ll likely never know, but there’s just too much there to convince me otherwise.

It doesn’t mean Gallant won’t be great, it doesn’t mean the guy McPhee was waiting for would have been better, and really, in the end, it doesn’t make any difference anymore.

But in my mind, it’s “I guess Applebee’s” and not “F*** Yes! We’re going to Applebee’s!

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9 Comments

  1. cody

    A lot, A LOT, of conjecture here and a job interview is a job interview. It was in the team’s interest to wait to see who was available after the yearly firings and they did, and decided on Gallant. Teams all over the league hire coaches, yet only one gets to win the Cup, i.e. “succeed.” Gallant has shown things but hasn’t really won where he’s coached. Even if he was the first choice for McPhee, he was never going to be a “wow” kind of hiring. Sutter wouldn’t have been the right choice (if he would’ve even been interested), Ruff has a lot of gravitas but maybe wouldn’t have been right either, and I shudder at the thought of a Dan Bylsma taking the reins. Who else is available? Not really much of anyone. Your first coach is never your last coach. Let the Knights be satisfied being Gallant.

    • Slack

      Totally agree.

    • I tried to gather as much information as physically possible on the situation and I’m not sure any other reason that you could come up with for why this took so long.

      This wasn’t at all a knock on Gallant, I really like him and think he’s a good option.

      It’s just that he wasn’t a complete fit with everything they were saying they wanted, and I personally believe the reason why is that they were waiting for someone else.

      It’s not the end of the world, but to me it’s highly probable that this is the case, and I think it could easily have an impact on the franchise down the road.

      • Slack

        I am not questioning the research you did, just saying it may have happened as simple as this:1) interview Gallant and make him tops on the list. 2) wait till the end of season to see who becomes available 3) phone interview those 4) realize Gallant is still you’re number one and sign him before other teams who are LAcKing a coach does.
        The bottom line is, there are no perfect coaches, there are however, good situations where there is a match and even those don’t last forever. The average NHL coach tenure is what, 3 years? Even when you have a great coach, his methods and messages get stale over time. Gallant is a good hire in my opinion to get the ball rolling, we can call for his head later.

    • PhiSig 150

      A phone interview and being flown out for a face to face to interview ARE two completely different things to me. I’ve never been hired from just a phone interview there was always a face to face follow up or they weren’t really interested in me and I never got a call back. I think Ken’s research is solid on this one.

  2. James

    @Ken Boehlke
    ‘3) A few people requested an interview.

    But they were never even given a shot. Gallant flew to Vegas. He met everyone in person. No one else got more than a call.’

    My money’s on New York Islanders assistant general manager Doug Weight. A players’ coach and friend of McPhee’s. It was almost certain that Weight would get the interim head coach tag removed. McPhee waited just in case.

    It’s fairly obvious that Dale Hunter was also above Gallant in the pecking order, but wasn’t a real threat to leave the London Knights.

  3. PhiSig 150

    I’m ok with settling if who they really wanted was unavailable. I’m not ok if it was settling on account of budget restraints (doesn’t appear it was). Not sure from what I read this is the guy that will deliver the brand of hockey that Foley says he wants. There had to have been a candidate out there that could coach the style of hockey they want and at the same time develop the youth. If the guy is a first time head coach so be it. I never liked the half assed reasoning that we don’t want to evaluate players and a coach at the same time. In sports players and coaches should always be under evaluation unless they’ve reached the pinnacle of their profession even then you have to keep a close eye to catch when they start slipping and lose a step or two. If Gallant isn’t the guy 3 to 5 years down the line I’d rather have that guy even if you have to groom him. If your number 1 is established and doesn’t want to be a part of an expansion team then make it worth his while. Money, guarantees, say in players, etc. I just hope Gallant doesn’t end up being a lame duck head coach.

  4. RJ

    Let’s ask the question a different way. Why WOULD they hire Gallant in December when they could wait until April? McPhee speculated, correctly, that he could wait until after the regular season ended to see what his options were. Perhaps Gallant was the best option all along, perhaps not. Maybe there is a guy McPhee ‘really’ wanted that wound up not being available. (I kind of wonder if the Capuano interview was REALLY about Doug Weight?)

    Either way McPhee was in a position where time was a resource. The other 30 NHL GMs needed to have a coach, or at least an interim coach, and McPhee could afford to not have one. To forfeit that resource would not have been smart.

  5. Joel

    Unless they went with someone new, Gallant was the best choice (Ruff, hell no…Sutter is retiring again, doubt he’ll coach anytime soon…the others are all bleah at best)…going with a NHL coach is the right call…if you are right that they were going after Hunter or Weight, thank God they missed out on them! Not good coaches. Gallant will be a Murray type of coach when he was with the Kings…3-4 years of developing the team and then he will be replaced by someone else.

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