On Sunday afternoon an odd NHL firing became Las Vegas news. So why was the firing of Florida Panthers Coach Gerard Gallant newsworthy to Vegas Golden Knights fans? Because a comment from The Creator last week could mean Mr. Gallant will be soon be turning into Sir Gallant.
George is looking for a particular type of of coach. He’s not looking for a first-termer. He’s looking for a guy who’s learned a lot and has coached a couple of other teams. I would say the coach that will name is going to be a recognizable individual but he has to fit George’s culture. –The Creator
So after the first NHL coach firing of the season and the big man’s comments let’s take a look at potential head coaches for VGK (or VGS or VEG or whatever they go with).
“Sir” Gerard Gallant: Head Coach/Florida ’14-’16, Head Coach/Columbus ’04-’06, Player/Detroit & Tampa ’84-’95
As I mentioned in the first paragraph, Gallant’s firing became a big topic of discussion for Vegas fans over the past two days. For a few reasons Gallant fits the bill, but his curb drop firing has me a little concerned. To start, Gallant has had some success as a head coach. Last season, the Panthers surprised the league with 103 points. However, it was Gallant’s only playoff season. Mostly what concerns me is his Florida dismissal and how it went down. Reports are Panthers execs fired Gallant after Sunday’s game in Raleigh, and told him to find his own ride home. Photos have surfaced showing the axed coach hauling his luggage into a minivan cab. Now we’re hearing a major disagreement in philosophy between Gallant and the Panthers front office. We know about Florida’s new-found dedication to analytics and Gallant was more traditional. Even with the Panthers successful ’15-’16 campaign, Gallant was doomed. Florida has their strategic plan, and they’re sticking to it. Gallant obviously didn’t buy into the method and after 22 games, the Panthers had seen enough. It’s concerning if Gallant was released from because of style differences. He does have a connection to the Vegas organization with Scott Luce and Erin Ginnel on staff, but personally, I would move on to other candidates that could be available next June.
Jack Capuano: Head Coach/NY Islanders ’10-Present, Player/Toronto, Vancouver & Boston ’88-’92
Anyone who reads the site is aware of my man crush for Capuano. The Islanders Coach is one of the NHL’s most underrated. He’s had some level of success, most notably last season. The Islanders won a first round playoff series for the first time since 1993. The Rhode Island native deserves credit for that alone. However, after some real momentum the Islanders sat on their tuckus and failed to improve the club. The Islanders are an underachieving team in a tough division. Twice this season, Capuano’s bosses have spoken publicly about his job. Unfairly the Islanders are expecting the same results with less talent. I’m not just talking about ownership either, fans have been unforgiving as well. Also, their Barclays Arena partnership has been criticized and they need a good club to distract fans. If Capuano can’t keep up with ownership demand, he’s most likely out at the end of the season. In fact, I doubt he sees past January. The former defenseman turned coach played and coaches the same way. Defensive, gritty and physical is Capuano’s style. Blocking shots, winning neutral zone battles and puck possession can be effective. When it works it succeeds in the postseason. Capuano won’t have trouble finding his next job. Hopefully, he’ll be on McPhee’s short list.
Paul MacLean: Head Coach/Ottawa ’11-’15, Player/St Louis, Winnipeg, Detroit 80-’91
The coach nicknamed the Walrus is considered one of the NHL’s most likable guys. Since his firing in Ottawa, MacLean has been running the power play in Anaheim. Some thought the Walrus would take over after Gabby (that’s Bruce’s nickname, I like nicknames) Boudreau got the boot but he was kept on for special teams. Considered one of the hottest candidates for next season, MacLean would be a good fit in Las Vegas. He’s a systematic thinker and believes in advanced statistics like Corsi. His offensive style of play is exciting but can lead to dangerous turnovers. The Ducks assistant coach was groomed under Mike Babcock’s Cup winning system and could be effective for Vegas. Plus, as how could you possibly not want a guy named the Walrus?
Bob Hartley: Head Coach/Calgary ’12-’16, Head Coach/Atlanta ’02-’08, Head Coach/Colorado ’98-’02
The only Stanley Cup winning head coach of the group. Hartley could be an interesting candidate for the Golden Knights. With a silly loaded roster, his 2001 Colorado team beat New Jersey in seven games for the Cup. Hartley led the Avs to 115 points, averaging 5.6 goals per game. That’s exciting hockey. His last stop in Calgary played the same high-octane style of play. In fact he won the Jack Adams award for his success with the 2014 Flames. Of course Hartley has some flaws to his style. Goaltending has always been a problem for Hartley’s teams with the exception of Colorado. Hartley is known for his high demand from players. He is well liked among his players and always praises them publicly. On the other side, his expectations have created locker room issues. Hartley doesn’t believe in days off, and expects a player’s best every night. With 82 grueling games a season, most coaches accept that it’s not possible. Hartley’s a good candidate that brings excitement and discipline. A style a West Point man could appreciate.
Dallas Eakins: Head Coach/Edmonton ’13-’15, Player/Multiple teams ’88-’04
Before I get laughed at, hear my out on Eakins. He was a young coach who installed the wrong system in Edmonton. Eakins inherited a young offensive team, but believed in the “swarm” defensive style that clearly didn’t work. After being essentially laughed out of Edmonton after two seasons, the coach has gained back some confidence in San Diego. Eakins has learned from his boring classroom practices and ping pong tournaments Oiler players complained about. Many believe he’ll coach again in the NHL, maybe growing with VGK would be a good for both. Let’s face it, Eakins wouldn’t have the same roster he had up in Edmonton.
Other candidates: Paul Maurice- Head Coach/Winnipeg, Mike Kitchen- Head Coach/St Louis ’03-’07
Long shot candidates: Claude Julien- Head Coach/Boston, Alain Vigneault- Head Coach/NY Rangers, Peter Laviolette- Head Coach/Nashville