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Carp: Gallant’s Firing The Knights’ Biggest WTF Moment

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

I was grocery shopping when the news broke Wednesday morning and my phone started pinging with text messages.

What I thought was unthinkable and improbable had happened. The Golden Knights had fired Gerard Gallant.

What the F***?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. Especially with the news they had hired Peter DeBoer to replace Gallant.

The man everyone knows as Turk was done wrong. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. This was George McPhee’s call and Bill Foley signed off on it. I guess the guy who guided his team to the Stanley Cup Final in 2018 suddenly forgot how to coach.

The Knights claim this was a performance-based decision, not some off-ice situation like Bill Peters or Jim Montgomery. The team has been struggling for stretches since October as injuries and subpar play from certain individuals have contributed to a frustrating season for everyone.

But keep in mind while this team technically started the day on the outside looking in for the playoffs, the Golden Knights are three points out of first place in the Pacific Division. A week ago, they were at the top of the division. So to think this is a knee-jerk reaction by McPhee is ludicrous.

I don’t believe Gallant had lost the locker room. Some of you have indicated on Twitter that the team wasn’t playing hard and the blame for that goes to the head coach. A couple of you think Gallant was too loyal to certain players, one being Cody Eakin.

To me, this has been brewing for a while, not in the last week. McPhee may have had ideas on who should be playing and perhaps Gallant resisted his suggestions. Maybe Misha Donskov and his hockey analytics staff had given Gallant data that he refused to acknowledge and implement, much like he did in Florida which ultimately led to his demise with the Panthers. Maybe Gallant and goaltending coach David Prior didn’t see eye-to-eye. Remember, McPhee hired Prior before he hired Gallant, and that was a move made outside the norm. Perhaps Prior and Gallant never got fully comfortable working together.

Again, this is all speculation on my part. It could be all of the above, or none of it. But from having been around this team since Day One and having gotten to know Gallant pretty well, I know virtually all his players liked playing for him, respected him and wanted to win for him. David Perron, who was on the inaugural team in 2017-18, said as much on Twitter the other day that he loved Turk.

Now maybe there’s a guy or two who if you hooked him up to a polygraph machine might say they didn’t care for Gallant. But the majority loved him, play hard for him and tried to win for him. But there have been protracted slumps that have impacted this team’s performance.

Alex Tuch is having a miserable season. Ditto for Nate Schmidt. William Karlsson is going through a major goal-scoring slump. Eakin has struggled. Cody Glass’ development has been slower than hoped for. Even the goaltending, both from Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban, has been inconsistent.

You want to hold Gallant accountable for that? Go ahead. But you can’t sit everyone who is underachieving (especially when you are as cap-strapped as the Golden Knights are.)

Let’s remember a couple of things here. One, Gallant played the roster he was given. He adjusted the way the defensemen played and it helped spark the team in December. He has shuffled his lines, mostly out of necessity due to injuries.

Second, this roster is of McPhee’s construction. He built this team. He changed it. He opted not to re-sign Perron or James Neal. He’s the one who traded Colin Miller and Erik Haula. He gave up on Nick Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom to get Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone, then paid them big money and gave them long term deals.

Ultimately, this is on McPhee. Foley trusts him to put the best team together. Foley allowed McPhee to spend to the salary cap, which also has factored into some of the team’s lack of success this year (see Nikita Gusev).

And McPhee’s lack of accountability in this situation is appalling. To do a press conference in Ottawa and make Kelly McCrimmon have to answer the questions with just one media member available — Jesse Granger of The Athletic — speaks volumes. For him not to be available to the Las Vegas media at City National Arena and explain himself and take questions is bogus.

McCrimmon did confirm that firing Gallant was not a decision that was made Tuesday night because of a 4-2 loss to the Sabres.

We thought about this a lot. It certainly wasn’t something that we did in haste or something that we did based on the recent four games. It was a decision that was arrived at over time. –McCrimmon

Obviously, DeBoer has been on McPhee’s radar for a while. The man known as “Prickly Pete” for his relationship with the media had obviously run his course in San Jose, just as he had in New Jersey. Yes, he took the Devils and Sharks to the Stanley Cup Final but his name is not on the Cup. He has won at his three prior NHL stops — in Florida, in Jersey and in San Jose. He’s 415-329-111 as a head coach and he’s 46-38 in the postseason. So he has had success behind an NHL bench.

Peter is a really good coach, he’s had a lot of success in the National Hockey League, of course with him working most recently in the Pacific Division. We’ve had a chance to watch his teams play. I think that his teams are always very well prepared, very well coached. We expect that he’ll do a really good job for us. I think he is a very respected coach in the industry. He’s always been a coach that has had a lot of respect from his players. I think he relates well with players. He’s an intelligent guy. Teams have always been very strong special teams. He’s been to the Stanley Cup Final with two different teams. He enjoyed a lot of success in the National Hockey League as a coach and I think with this opportunity he’ll continue to do that. –McCrimmon

I’ll be curious to see how the dynamic of the room changes with DeBoer now in charge. Will there be pushback on the part of some individuals? Will his concepts and philosophies be universally embraced? Can he get a few of the struggling Golden Knights going?

Again, the situation is not as bleak as you think. There are 33 games remaining. The division is not strong. There’s time to get things back on track. I would expect McPhee to make a move or two, if he can, given the team’s salary cap restrictions, to try and improve the roster.

As for Gallant, I have no doubt he’ll be back behind an NHL bench. He’ll obviously be the favorite to replace Jeff Blashill in Detroit, given his friendship with Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman. He could also find himself in Calgary. Or perhaps New Jersey. Or… Seattle.

I was fortunate to know Gallant beyond hockey and what a genuinely good, down-to-earth guy he is. Plain and simple, business decision or not, he deserved better.

**Steve Carp is the author of “Vegas Born — The remarkable story of the Golden Knights.” Follow him on Twitter @stevecarp56. All of Steve Carp’s work here on SinBin.vegas is presented to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm. For over twenty-five years, the Jimmerson Law Firm has been widely recognized as one of Las Vegas’s preeminent full-service law firms. Specializing in high stakes business, civil and family litigation, the Jimmerson Law Firm has an unparalleled track record of winning when it matters most. To reach the Jimmerson Law Firm, call (702) 388-7171 and tell them SinBin.vegas sent you.**

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40 Comments

  1. schmitty 88

    did you guys out there see this coming you cant get rid of 22 players

    • How do all the players feel about this?

    • Richard Santomauro

      Never should have let Neal, Perron, Miller, Belly, Haula and Carpenter leave. Chemistry was destroyed. Misfits dismantled. On paper Patches, Stone and Stasny were supposed to be an upgrade. Never translated to the ice much at all. I doubt we will ever see the superb chemistry and teamwork that we all witnessed in year 1.

      • Vgk4life

        Stone and Pacioretty are great improvements. Stastny not so much. Shea theodore is garbage as our so called top defensemen. Put him at winger where he belongs instead of being a moving pylon for opposing teams players to skate right around and bury pucks in the net.

    • Debbie B

      Last thing Flower needed was to have the feeling that he contributed to the current situation. I realize they are all professionals but can tell from the interview he is carrying much of the burden . Very emotional time for him to start with. Now this

  2. Ellen LaPenna

    I’d really like to know how the players feel about this… i am pretty sure they are not happy – he seemed to be very well liked .

  3. Carl

    Much as the players sometimes make me want to scream, this boneheaded move makes me want to cry.

    • Richard Santomauro

      Prediction – this move just killed our playoff chances. These players won’t perform for DeBoer. Write it down.

  4. press press pull

    more media bias.. They LIKE him, so they are all upset. nothing about results, just because they LIKE him. The Sally Field media.

    That is the problem, the players like him, but they don’t worry about their job because he is too soft toward them…case in point, he should be benching guys who take needless penalties costing the team games, but he does not do it, so it continues.

    • Mike G

      Wait… wasn’t this the same coach that eviscerated the media every time they asked a difficult question? And now you are saying they are all his buddies?
      Also how many times has PDB benched Kane for taking a needless penalty? Hmmm

  5. Herby Widmer

    Great analysis of the situation. McPhee sold the future of the team for short term success. But he did put a team together with major holes.

    Our D
    Engelland: The one season too many
    Mc Nabb: Takes too many penalties
    Theodore: By far our best D man
    Schmidt: Is not the same anymore since the suspensiom
    Merrill: Is not a winger
    Holden: Makes too many mistakes and too much money
    Hague: Needs more time.

    Depth on the wing:
    Zykov, Pirri, Kolesar, Merrill are our best options if there are injuries. This speaks for itself

    Backup Goaltending
    Subban is below 900 now and his stats are getting worse every season. Turk had to overplay Fleury and the result is that he is struggeling now as well.

    The problems are the holes in the team and not the coaching and the persons to blame for it Mc Phee and Mc Crimmon.

    Sad day for the franchise.

    • Richard Santomauro

      See my post. Too many stars were moved and too many that needed to be moved are still on the roster. Fact.

    • BINGO!! The cap and a poor defense are errors that are hard to answer. The guys need to hitch ’em up and play.

      Need to rid the Tam of 3 Dmen and bring in a good backup goalie. There is one in Pittsburgh, DeSmith, that would be a good addition. Needless to say I’m a Pens fan too.

      Come on George get off your ass and fix the D and cap you created.

    • Vgk4life

      Theodore is our best defensemen? The last time I checked the first thing blue liners need to do is play defense. That’s the last thing 27 does. When he does, hes absolutely terrible. He should be a winger before Merril. The guy is an offensive skater and has rocks for brains when it comes to stopping wingers streaking in shooting. To top it off he held this team hostage threatening a hold out for more money. We dumped Miller and Perron to pay for this clown.

      Shea theodore and defense should never be used. Ever.

    • Deborah B

      When this does not work Mccrimmon takes the fall. If you look at his minor team record always the bridesmaid never the bride. I KNOW one thing whatever team Gallant takes over they will prob be the only team that gets a standing ovation at TMobile when the team comes out on the bench. And Mccrimmon may be the first VGK associate to be hung in effigy in Toshiba plaza

  6. Tim

    Am I the only one that saw this coming the last to weeks I’ve said to many excuses and the team was tuning him out. The shock was hiring our sworn enemy from our most hated team San Jose now that I didn’t see coming.
    Now George and Kelly are in a corner a lot of blowback with this decision so now there going to make some changes and I mean big changes. No one is safe Cody Eakin, Nick Holden, John N Merrill. Malcolm Subban, Paul Stantny, are at the top of the list. Nate S. and Alex T. are just putting in the time but I think there safe. They’ve got to create cap space after that it’s easy we’ve got so many draft picks they’ll pickup Two D-Men, a Goaltender and a Forward you can bet on it. This team like I’ve said was not built to win a cup so Gallant was the sacrificial lamb whether you like it or not.
    I still can’t get over it’s Pete DeBoer

    • I had been getting the feeling Gallant getting fired was possible. True he had orchestrated a magical first two seasons. However everything that made the VGK effective under Gallant’s system was missing this year.

      Went from one of the fewest penalized teams YR 1 & YR 2 to one of the most penalized this year…especially bad/silly penalties.

      The Forecheck/backcheck which is the engine that drives the Knights have been wildly inconsistent this year. When on the Knights can beat anybody. When off they can lose to anybody.

      Too many bad giveaways. And especially lately with a pattern of going down 2-3 goals early forcing the team to chase.
      Sure it was the players doing it but as others said you can’t sit 12 players. And even when it got “fixed” within a few games this team would revert to the “bad” Knights way too easily.
      Can’t sit 12 players. You can sit the coach.

  7. Richard Santomauro

    Season Ticket Holder 11-T-15&16. WTF IS RIGHT. 3 points back and McPhee has finally shot himself in the foot. Neal, Perron, Miller, Belly, Carpenter, Haula all gone. He took the beauty of fate given to him in year 1 and has turned it into awful inconsistency on the ice. Stone, Stasny, and Patches may look like an improvement on paper but it has not translated to the ice at all. The chemistry enjoyed in year 1 has been destroyed. And now – LOCKER ROOM TURMOIL on top of everything else these players are going through. Prediction: No Playoffs….write it down. Disgusted that I signed a 3 year renewal contract for my seats. Come on McPhee – own this move! I agree, it was a chickensh** move to have McCrimmon role out this piece of ***** to the fan base. Lastly, God Bless Turk and I hope he does well because he won’t be unemployed for long.

  8. Richard Santomauro

    Last comment. McPhee was fired by the CAPS for not bringing home the Cup. The only consistent thing about McPhee is that he must hate winning because he has gone all out to dismantle the MISFITS since the end of year 1. The only thing I can think of is that the guy must hate winning. I was upset when Neal left, miffed when we lost Miller, aggravated when we lost Perron, pissed when we lost Belly and sick when we lost Haula. All the while the Knights are supposed to stand together and be loyal. McPhee has been everything but loyal. I am really pretty pissed about this move. Makes no sense being 3 points out. NONE.

  9. Vic

    Many here recognized that the team hasn’t been well…even though near the top of the division. It’s a business decision as management likely feels the team peaked late in year one. The reasons for the decline are clearly spelled out by the previous posters, but what hurts the most is the new coach. I didn’t like him when I was a Sharks fan before the VGK were established, and I don’t see him adding anything special. I would have preferred the drunk from Dallas. Management likely wanted a guy who will come in and make some hard changes like demotions, promotions, line reorgs, improved special teams, etc. Today is the worst day for us since Not a Major.

  10. McFeeble

    the fact that Eakin and Subban are still on the team is a complete joke. They have been absolutely TERRIBLE this season, and have cost them several games. and Eakin’s cap hit is costing them a good dman.

  11. Tim

    After my above comments I’ve got to touch on the screwups George made and I’m in line with Steve Carp on most of what he said. First not signing David Perron for 4 million for 4 years was the start of many bad decisions. Nikita Gusev has got the hang of it 27 points on a bad New Jersey team will probably hit 60 points another big mistake. The famous Thomas Tatar trade First, Second, and Third and he was a zero here. Haula I could see with his knee issue, Colin Miller was an airhead showed it again last night with his double minor, Bellemare nice guy having a good year but close to 2 million a year he was a cap hit, James Neal close to 6 million he had to go. England at any price shouldn’t take a roster spot. Now let’s look at our draft picks very disappointing Cody Glass decent at best, Payton Krebs can’t make the World Junior team, Jimmy S, Zach Whitehead, Jake Bishop, and all the rest of the Wolves zero’ except maybe Dylan C. and Lucas E. the two Russians aren’t coming resigned with the KHL, the college kids who knows probably not much and the there’s Jack Dugan the one shinning light who may actually become a star. They did a great job assembling the Golden Misfits but it’s been all down hill from there.

  12. Donald Rehrer Jr

    I think it was a chicken crap move to fire Gallant, when injuries and poor play are the problem. A coach can only motivate players so much to perform, the players have to step up and do it.

    The hiring of Peter DeBoer won’t help, if the same issues exist, plus he’s not the ideal person for this situation. Let’s see at the end of the season where the Knights are, and how many players will be coming back next season.

    • Debbie B

      Last thing Flower needed was to have the feeling that he contributed to the current situation. I realize they are all professionals but can tell from the interview he is carrying much of the burden . Very emotional time for him to start with. Now this

  13. Mike G

    It’s ironic to me that the reasons they listed for firing Turk are the exact same reasons PDB got fired from San Jose… underperforming players, bad contracts, crappy defense, horrible goaltending.. sound familiar?
    My biggest thing with PDB from watching him coach, especially in playoff games is the dude always has the same blank stare on his face. It never changes, regardless of what’s happening on the ice. If they are looking for a fiery guy he’s not it

  14. DOC Williams

    OK ….. I have been critical, a lot, about the constant BS answers Gallant has given at postgame pressers. I also have been so damn sick about lack of effort this year in many games, with Galant seemingly without a clue on how to help that situation. BUT, for him to be fired at this time is just a bunch of crap! AND, to hire our most hated rivals ex-coach???????? Are you kidding me! HE will not go over well with the Knights fans. At least not right now! Tome this should be owned 100% by THE PLAYERS. They let their coach down with the constant ho-hum effort they have put forth. I hope we all are singing the players and new coaches’ praises in a couple of months! But will we???????

  15. DOC Williams

    PS – I agree with MikeG above. If making a change it should have been to a guy with some FIRE about him. This guy DeBoring is not that guy!!!!!

    • flying coach

      they obviously are looking for a guy who will not be buddy buddy with the players, and will make the hard unpopular decisions

  16. Tim

    Just listened to the player comments on the Knights site and to a man it was there underachieving that got him fired and they were all sad about it. Pete DeBoer is in such a bad spot coming from the enemy wasn’t bad enough now every decision he make will be criticized. Like I said I understand the firing because to many excuses in his after game interviews but DeBoer just puts a bad taste in my mouth. Here’s a thought who’s going to coach the West All-Stars Gallant earned it will they add salt to the wound if he coaches it just to stick it to George and Kelly. Stay tuned the insanity continues.

    • bowlegged goaltenders

      it was 2 guys who deserve most of the blame for Gallant’s firing, the stats prove it. and they both wear goalie gear.

  17. coaching changes

    Naturally, we are reminded of the success stories every year around this time — teams like the 2011-12 Los Angeles Kings, the 2008-09 and 2015-16 Pittsburgh Penguins and last season’s St. Louis Blues, all of whom hoisted the Stanley Cup after making a mid-season coaching change.

  18. THE hockey GOD

    Babcock and Peter Philip Laviolette Jr. are better coaches, too bad scotty bowman isn’t available

  19. vgk part 2

    kevin Weekes and mike Rupp making very good points that the move was made to combat the COMPLACENCY on the Knights that had set in. as several fans on here had posted, complacency has led to a reduction in the compete level and battle level of the players that was very evident in recent weeks. the local media simply won’t admit the obvious.

  20. Vgk4life

    Our defensemen are garbage. They insisted on keeping Shea Theodore for big bucks who would be better served as a cherry picking winger. The rest are between average to atrocious. That’s the GMs fault.

    This teams direction with getting rid of Ally and Brad May was already questionable for the start of this season. Now firing a guy who’s done nothing but try to get the best out of a very average skilled team? And then you hire a former sharks coach who has even less success with a much bigger cap?!?! McCrimmon is a criminal.

    I need to change my name please because this is bs.

    I need to change my name because this stinks as yet another non hockey move.

  21. Bent Hermit

    I don’t agree with the team underperformaning as to why he was fired.

    1. Goaltending has been bad. That’s Dave Prior’s job to fix not Turk’s.
    2. Their D isn’t very good. Everyone knew it going into the season. Gallant did what he could by changing to zone to help them out. This was putting a bandaid on something GM should of taken care of.
    3. 5 on 5 they have some of the best stats in the league except for shooting %. This tells me his system is working that players are where they need to be to get chances. It falls on the players to finish on those chances.

    There could be the possibility that not reaching a deal for his contract extension might have opened up their willingness to let him go. If they knew that he wasn’t going to be around after the end of the year they might have thought that firing him now might jump start the team. With both Detroit and Seattle looking for a coach Gallant might have been looking to move on.
    I was surprised Rocky Thompson didn’t get a chance. I thought management was grooming him for the position..
    The changes I think Deboer will make:
    Marchy – Stastny – Smith
    Patches – Karlsson – Stone
    Carrier – Stepheson – Tuch
    Nosek – Eakin – Reaves
    When Glass comes back if he’s not a center he gets sent down.

  22. DGL

    Turk, we appreciate what you have done for this team and this city, you will be missed. Best of luck in your future endeavors!

  23. zeb

    very well written,

  24. Roberto

    From following and watching live hockey for a long time, it’s just part of the game that coaches get fired after a few years. You have to look at it like changing a pitcher in baseball. For those raised on baseball, football and basketball, hockey slowly, but surely, presents itself as the most irrational of the big sports.

    As for this year’s team, the team’s age is showing with regard to the development of quality organizational depth. Look at the Caps, who had no room for Stephenson, who’s quickly become one of VGK’s more reliable players. VGK, in a similar spot, had to run Zykov out, and no one bothered to kick the tires on him. Even back to last year, lack of org depth led the team to pick Zykov up in the first place.

    The big deal now has been Marchessault being out, as well as Cody Glass who was really humming with Alex Tuch. When you slot in dudes in their place that are at best AHL average, good results will not occur. Expecting otherwise, while not impossible, is not logical.

    With Marchessault back, and Glass not too far off, the ship should course correct soon. If so, will be interesting to see the overreactions on what a brilliant move letting Gallant go was by the front office.

    And amid the challenges, always keep in mind that we have pro hockey here in Vegas. It’s the best live sport in the world, and VGK is a very good team and well run organization. Not perfect, but what other team is?

  25. THE hockey GOD

    foley is turning into jimmy jones of NHL , bone headed move firing coach on road is pure garbage tactic in middle of long road trip

    hard for team to adjust to this timing

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