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A Look At The Top Head Coach Candidates In Vegas

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


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  1. James

    It’s quite hard to judge NHL head coaches. There’s an old saying that goes, show me a good goaltender and I’ll show you a good head coach.

  2. pfh64

    Take Capuano, please. Take his assistants, too. They make no adjustments. They have ruined more players (high draft picks) than they have developed. The GM might be part of that, too but playing time & in game is on the coach. They have stopped playing hard, and for the past two plus seasons, I have never seen so many late goals (both end of periods & games) given up in 45 years of watching hockey. I will drive him to the airport if you want.

  3. Great responses guys. I understand your feelings on Capuano but I think your being too hard on him. And James you’re right but no one would call Therrien a good coach.

    • pfh64

      Jason, if Capuano coached DET, CHI, or just a few minutes west, in Manhattan, he would be crucified for the way he handles his roster and game day decisions. He is about to destroy Ryan Strome, in favor of guys like Shane Prince & Alan Quine. Look at what happened just this season with a guy who is supposed to be can’t miss in Matthew Barzal. Lots of teams give junior players nine game looks, but how many of those teams keep a guy scratched for a month? He played like a rookie for the game or two he played, but either play him or send him back.

      As for Joel Quenville, I love him as a coach. If they can co exist, and he is willing to coach an expansion team, that is your man. Flash the rings and see how quickly that locker room pays attention.

      Better yet, take Capuano…this way if new Isles owners/Garth Snow are smart, they hire Quenville.

      • James

        I wasn’t suggesting that Joel Quenville would coach Vegas. I mentioned Quenville and Belichick in the same breath because the Blues and Avalanche didn’t know what they had with him. It’s up to McPhee to find another diamond in the rough.

        Let’s say, for example, that the Bruins let Claude Julien go at the end of the season. I’m not sure if he will accept the Vegas job. Vegas isn’t close to contending for a Stanley Cup. It depends what jobs are available.

  4. James

    @Jason Pothier
    Be like looking for a needle in a haystack, but I read somewhere that George McPhee is looking for his Bill Belichick. The Cleveland Browns fired BB and he was better the second time around. Perhaps that guy in the NHL is Joel Quenneville?

    I don’t follow the Islanders as closely as pfh64, but Capuano has a reputation for holding the Islanders back. It’s believed that the next head coach of the underachieving Islanders could take them to the next level.

    I’m intrigued by Kevin Dineen, assistant coach of the Chicago Blackhawks. Philosophically, I like the way the Hawks play the game. That being said, Belichick’s coaching tree has not exactly flourished.

  5. James

    Ralph Krueger is the popular choice to coach the Vegas Golden Knights. Krueger took a rag-tag bunch of misfits and turned them into a World Cup finalists! Krueger would inherit a rag-tag bunch of misfits in the expansion draft. He didn’t get a fair shake from Edmonton.

    • Dwayne Lucyk

      I agree it should be Ralph Krueger, provided he has an out clause with his current management role with an English soccer club. He also had a decent amount of upsets while coaching the Swiss National Team and was an assistant coach with the Canadian Olympic team. His one year winning percentage in Edmonton was the highest in the last 10 years of futility of any of the past and present revolving door coaches. The Oilers sure could use Ralph now, even if it was just to coach their bad power play. Absolutely he got a raw deal and was deemed expendible when Todd McLellan became available.

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