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Golden Knights Coaching Candidates With The Most To Gain/Lose

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On Wednesday we highlighted several Golden Knights players that will have the most to gain and the most to lose under a new coach. Let’s reverse that and examine the same for potential head coaches.

Most To Lose

In reality no coach really loses accepting a position with the Golden Knights. The new skipper will have a roster filled with known veteran players impatiently waiting for another Cup run. However, there isn’t much room for error. There will be immediate pressure on Vegas’ next coach no matter who it is.

Barry Trotz

History would be made if Trotz led the Golden Knights to their first Stanley Cup. The 23-year veteran would be one of four coaches to win a Stanley Cup with two different franchises. Which would cement him as one of the elite coaches in NHL history. Also, Trotz will be known as the guy that was able to clean up the mess in Vegas. So, how does Trotz have anything to lose?

Trotz will have his pick of the litter. More than a handful of NHL organizations are hoping he accepts their offer. Some have weaker rosters than Vegas but have less red tape. Trotz has shown interest in having an influence on team management. Will the Cup winning coach want to deal with an already crowded Vegas front office? There’s a potential power struggle situation if Trotz wants to shop for his own groceries. Also, it’s unlikely he will sit idly by when the front office is performing their annual cap gymnastics. It’s just speculation but Trotz may have a fundamental difference chasing a Stanley Cup when his lineup is over the salary cap. That’s not how you get in the conversation with Scotty Bowman.

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While Filling One Age Gap, The Golden Knights Have Created Another

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Due to the nature of the Expansion Draft, one of the ongoing challenges the Golden Knights have had to work through is dealing with what’s been coined “the age gap.”

We didn’t have the ability to draft (players with birth years) 1998, 97, 96, 95, or 94. We had no players available to us in those age groups. -Kelly McCrimmon

They were able to acquire a few via trade, but in Vegas’ first season they had just four regulars who were born between 1994-1998, which at the time would have made them 21-23 years old. A year later that number remained at four but there were two different players involved.

At the time, it wasn’t that big of a deal because the majority of the group was hitting their prime, somewhere between the ages of 24-30, but it was always clear what was coming on the horizon if the gap was not addressed.

So, over the course of the previous four seasons, the Golden Knights have worked hard to bulk up that group. The kingpin is 1996-born Jack Eichel (which cost a fellow 96 in Alex Tuch). Vegas also have Shea Theodore, William Carrier, Nic Roy, Zach Whitecloud, Keegan Kolesar, Michael Amadio, Dylan Coghlan, and Logan Thompson in that group. (They’ve also cycled through Dylan Sikura, Jake Bischoff, Valentin Zykov, Gage Quinney, Jimmy Schuldt, Stefan Matteau, Brendan Leipsic, and Oscar Dansk who all played NHL games.)

Trades, free agents, waivers, and diamonds in the rough have helped the Golden Knights find a group that will play next season between the ages of 24-28.

Now, you look at our team today and the players that we have in those age groups are very important. Those players are really important in (developing our identity of rolling four lines), they are really important in a salary cap world. They are good players. They help our team win. That to me is critical in your team having that depth and developing that identity that you want to see. -Kelly McCrimmon

There’s one problem. In the quest to fill one age gap, the Golden Knights have created another one, and one that is of even more significance “in the salary cap world” as McCrimmon puts it. The 94-98 group are no longer on their entry-level deals, meaning they are all being paid something close (or more) than their market value. Meanwhile, the younger group is still bound by the ELC system which caps out at less than $1 million.

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Golden Knights With The Most To Gain/Lose With The Coaching Change

Somehow almost every player I picked ended up in this picture. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Often times when teams swap coaches they see a shift in usage among players on the roster. Some guys see dramatic upticks in their ice time while others watch their’s decrease or even diminish entirely.

Of course, we still don’t know who the next coach will be, but we do know who benefitted most from Pete DeBoer’s system and who didn’t. So, here are the four players with the most to gain and the four with the most to lose as the Golden Knights switch coaches.

Most To Gain

William Karlsson

It’s no secret Karlsson’s best days in the NHL were under Gerard Gallant. The forecheck-reliant, free-flowing, transition-heavy style fit Karlsson’s game perfectly. Not only was he at his best offensively, but he and his line of Misfits were always the best defensive line as well. Under DeBoer, it often felt like Karlsson was overthinking the game which led to hesitancy in the offensive zone in favor of making the “right” play to keep them safe defensively. This seemed to sap his confidence which has proven to be a huge factor in Karlsson’s success. The new coach will likely improve his power play numbers as well. In his first two seasons in Vegas, Karlsson notched 15 PP goals in 164 games. The last three years, he had five in 186.

Jack Eichel

It’s not like Eichel struggled under DeBoer, he clearly didn’t, but there’s a pretty good chance a new coach will tailor his system more to Eichel’s skillset than we saw from DeBoer. Center was a demanding position defensively under DeBoer, and that simply isn’t Eichel’s strong suit. He’s likely to be matched with at least one stellar defensive winger, which under a less defensive-minded system could free up Eichel in the offensive zone. Also, there’s a good chance the new coach is less reliant on working the puck from low to high which very well may unleash more of Eichel’s creativity.

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Golden Knights In No Hurry To Hire Next Head Coach

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A big decision is coming for the Golden Knights as they look to hire their third head coach in six seasons. Most are focused on the “who” and that will clearly be the most important part of it all, but what about the “when.”

Going back through the history of the franchise, this is a unique situation for Vegas. Their first coach, Gerard Gallant, was hired in April of 2017, nearly 10 months after GM at the time George McPhee joined the team. The other coach hire happened simultaneously with the firing of Gallant. The Golden Knights didn’t even play a single game with an interim head coach. Gallant’s last game was on a Tuesday in Buffalo and Pete DeBoer was behind the bench in Ottawa on Thursday.

The Golden Knights announced they released DeBoer on Monday of last week. It was two weeks after their season officially came to a close and nearly five months until their next meaningful game.

It’ll be lengthier. That’s what the offseason allows you to do. We’ll be thorough. We’ll look at all the candidates we can identify. We’ll work with people in our organization that have past affiliations with coaches or ideas. We’ll solicit opinions from our pro staff and our amateur staff and people that are in the game at different levels. We’ll identify who the candidates are and go through an interview process. -Kelly McCrimmon

While McCrimmon is right that the offseason allows for plenty more patience in the search, there are still some time restraints based on the competitiveness of the coaching market and the NHL’s offseason calendar.

The biggest such date is the opening of the new league year on July 13th. It’s crucial because every contract set to expire this summer does so on that date. One would think the decisions on pending free agents in the Golden Knights’ system and ones soon to hit the open market from other teams would be something you’d want the new head coach in on.

Not important at all. You need to be reasonable. The person needs to move a family, the person needs to hire a staff and get set up. But in terms of preparation for the amateur draft or free agency, it’s not essential. It may well be (that we hire a coach before), but we’re not bound by any dates in the short term. -McCrimmon

So, buckle up, the Golden Knights could be coachless for a while.

New VGK Coach, New VGK PP

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No matter who becomes the next coach of the Golden Knights they will have to address Vegas’ underachieving power play. Clearly, the man advantage was one of the reasons the organization missed the playoffs, and why Pete DeBoer was fired. It’s a cold world when your team struggles to net pucks 5-on-4. So, regardless of how it looked over the past two and half seasons the new staff will be tasked with fixing it by opening night.

Trotz has got a lot of interest there’s mo question to that. Additional to Philadelphia his list includes Winnipeg, it’s also believed to include Vegas and Detroit. There could be more. -Elliotte Friedman on Hockey Night In Canada

Last season the average power play efficiency was 20.61% with teams scoring on average 49 PP goals. The Golden Knights were below the cut line and totaled ten fewer goals than the league mean. Vegas ended up 25th out of 32 clubs and missed the postseason like all but one team below them (LAK). Had the Golden Knights performed to just the league’s average we’re probably breaking down a second round series or grieving a first round exit.

Most suspect the front office will hire a coach and staff that has had special teams success. Realistically, any candidate that performs above average would net Vegas an extra ten goals. However, there is a lot of expectations and pressure for the next staff. The power play has been under a microscope for some time now and it will continue to be scrutinized. Putting in simple terms, power play success could be a quick way to win over the fanbase.

Currently, the Florida Panthers are the perfect example of how an inept power play can severely damage a team’s pursuit of the Cup. One of the league’s best man-advantage units in the regular season is coming up empty in the second round. In ten power play opportunities the Panthers have one goal to show for it. Tonight, they’re facing elimination. A few conversions may have changed the trajectory of the Sunshine State series.

No one is expecting the Golden Knights to lead the league in power play goals next season but fans are simply asking for an improvement. Letting go of Pete DeBoer was a sign the organization desired an upgrade. Maybe it’ll be a simple strategy change or new offensive weapons. All the Golden Knights need is more production from their special teams to go along with VGK’s history of solid 5-on-5 play. If not, history will most definitely repeat itself.

Q&A w/ Dr. Pinegar On Mark Stone’s Lumbar Discectomy

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On Wednesday, Mark Stone underwent a surgical procedure to repair a back issue that has been plaguing him for several years and basically ruined his 2021-22 season.

The Golden Knights announced Thursday that the lumbar discectomy surgery was a success and added he is expected to be ready to play for the regular season.

We consulted our resident injury expert, Dr. Caleb Pinegar of Crovetti Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine to give us more information on anything and everything surrounding this type of surgery.

Here’s the full Q&A with Vegas Sports Doc, Dr. Pinegar.

How do you pronounce lumbar discectomy and what is it?

When you say it you say the word “disc” first then “ectomy” which means removal. So lumbar discectomy means they’ve taken part of the disc out of the vertebrae.

Between every bone of the spine is a little shock absorber and each of those shock absorbers is pretty stout and strong but if you take the wrong hit or fold or just actively mobilize the spine while you change positions and if you do it just right you can squirt this little inner shock-absorbing material out of the rim that’s supposed to be real strong.

Wait, “squirts out”?

Yeah. The material is called the nucleus pulposus. It’s a jelly-like substance that looks like crab meat. So this little gooey stuff squirts out of your shock absorber and it causes the nerve near it to get really inflamed and irritated or it’s big enough of a squirt that it will pinch the nerve and cause the nerve to not work.

The initial major injury happened in October and then he came back multiple times and played. So do we think this “crab meat” shot out then?

Probably. The odds are very good that disc herniations get better over time. They don’t necessarily go away but the body can reabsorb some of the disc material and if you give the person time, anti-inflammatories, steroids, and physical therapy a lot of people can skip the surgery. So for the period of time he was out, they were probably trying to calm it down. If the symptoms calm down and the person isn’t having any shooting pain and they just have the ache of back pain, you can play through it. But if you don’t get it to go away then you can just say, let’s go get that piece. They do a minimally invasive incision and clean out that torn disc.

Does taking a part of the disc out fix the problem for good?

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Understanding Ownership’s Role In DeBoer Firing

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The Golden Knights have officially made their first big move of the offseason. Firing head coach Pete DeBoer is a clear sign that despite the consistent injury excuse Vegas found 2021-22 unacceptable.

Following the year, The Creator went on record saying he was going to be more vocal and proactive in helping his team regain their identity.

I’ve always been invited to all the meetings. They take my input, but I try and stand aside when everyone is convinced something needs to be done. This time, after all these years, I’ve got a few specific ideas of things that I believe need to be accomplished. If I’m being very transparent, I’m going to be active. –The Creator to LVRJ

In the same interview, he took one type of adjustment to the team off the table.

Foley said he met this past week with general manager Kelly McCrimmon, who will return for his fourth season in that role, and does not anticipate dramatic changes to the roster. –Dave Schoen, Las Vegas Review Journal

The biggest move a team can make from a non-player perspective is removing the head coach. Vegas did that, so naturally, it makes sense that it came from the big man himself. Those suspicions were confirmed in a recent article from The Athletic.

Several external sources suggested the main impetus for the coaching change came from owner Bill Foley. –Eric Duhatschek, The Athletic

But then there was the press conference with Kelly McCrimmon explaining the move. And in his words, it didn’t go that way at all.

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New VGK Coach Will Have A Chance To Win But Won’t Have Long

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Following the release of Pete DeBoer, the Golden Knights are set to hire their third coach in team history. DeBoer coached a total of 160 games with Vegas, won 98 of them, and amassed a .650 winning percentage. He was fired with a winning record like his predecessor Gerard Gallant. VGK’s first coach was behind the bench for 213 game, registered 118 victories, and a .601 win percentage. All in all, the average lifespan of a Golden Knights coach is 186.5 games or 2.2 seasons.

I can’t say I was surprised. Peter DeBoer is an excellent coach but things kind of went sideways down the stretch. It was more than just injuries. The way certain things were handled there was a lot of discussion about that. I actually felt that they might need to change the GM. It seemed unlikely they would be back together. -Brian Lawton on NHL Network

After Gallant was fired the organization expressed to fans that he was “basic” and “wasn’t the right fit.” Now, VGK enthusiasts are told the players “need of a new voice.” No wonder Golden Knights fans are apprehensive the same front office that hired and fired two head coaches, will get it right the third time around.

DeBoer’s firing is another example of the front office being impatient, indecisive, and masters of disguise. Twice now, after some adversity, the Golden Knights made the quick decision to find a replacement instead of standing behind their coach. The organization tried two different styles and despite “nothing but success” were unsatisfied with both. And without fail, the organization’s sleight of hand fooled fans into believing DeBoer was safe.

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Vegas Doesn’t Do Much Of What Makes A Team Hardest To Defend

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Brayden McNabb is among the best defense-first defensemen in the NHL, and certainly one of the best on the Golden Knights. He’s played more than 600 regular season and playoff games in the NHL, so it’s fair to say he’s seen just about every type of player, offensive system, and situation a defenseman can face.

Following the season, I asked McNabb a question that generated an answer I found telling, even if he didn’t mean it to be taken the way I’m about to take it.

The question was simple, “what makes a team hardest to play against for you as a defenseman?”

If they play fast. If they are putting the puck in and forechecking us and you are getting slammed into the boards every time they do that I don’t care who you ask no one really likes that. Teams that move around in the O-zone, make it difficult by making you make hard reads and making it confusing. -McNabb

It all makes perfect sense and nothing in his answer should be surprising to anyone.

But it made me think…

Do the Golden Knights do any of it?

“Play fast.” At times, sure, I’d argue that the Golden Knights played a fast brand of hockey this season, specifically in transition. When they were turning pucks over in the neutral zone or defensive zone, they sprung into the attack quickly and would often demolish teams on the rush.

In the offensive zone though, fast is not a word most would use to describe the VGK offensive style. They were much more methodical, placing a high preference on puck possession as opposed to quick passing.

Next is forechecking with physicality. This was rarely a part of the Golden Knights’ game this season at all. Vegas was not a heavy dump and chase type team and when they were forced to do it, throwing bodies was not exactly the preferred method of retrieval. Instead, Vegas would send the first player into the zone trying to force the puck along the boards to where the second forechecker would usually be. They’d then try to turn the puck over and hit their third forward coming through the center of the ice, or recycle the puck to eventually generate shots from the point.

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VGK Set To Advance Next Postseason Against Weak Pacific

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Throughout team history, Vegas averages 102 points over an 82 game season. This season, 102 points would’ve earned Vegas a third place finish in the Pacific Division and a seven game series against Edmonton. There’s a strong case that a healthy Golden Knights roster would’ve given the Oilers a run for their money.

There are no excuses and we need to have a good start and go from there, but this is part of playoff hockey and you’re going to go through adversity. There are no easy games and no easy series, so we’re going to be prepared to go .-Ryan Nugent Hopkins, EDM forward

So far, only the Central Division has had a team eliminated. In a few days, it’s possible two of three Pacific Division teams are sent home packing as well. Sure, Calgary is up a game but Dallas hasn’t been an easy opponent. In the other western series, the Oilers have fallen right into the trap of the underdog Kings. It’s premature but none of the three Pacific teams are looking like favorites to win the Stanley Cup.

Let’s say the Golden Knights are healthy enough next season to make the playoffs. If they top off at 102 points they would likely be the second or third team coming out of the Pacific. In that case, Vegas would be guaranteed to face off against a divisional rival. Chances are the familiar faces will be in play in 2022-23. Which statistically favors the Golden Knights.

It’s not just about scoring. There’s a lot more to the game than that.-Daryl Sutter, CGY coach

Since 2017-18, Vegas has a total of 464 points. The Golden Knights have earned more than a third from inside their division. Excluding the now Central Division Coyotes, the Golden Knights have tallied 176 Pacific Division points in 119 games. That’s a hearty .676 winning % against the teams Vegas faces most and in the opening rounds of the playoffs.

Golden Knights fans have now watched how predictable the Pacific division has been for half a decade. LA in and Vegas out was the only real surprise over that period. The landscape will likely stay the same next season.

When the oddsmakers set the lines for next season’s divisional leaders the Golden Knights are likely to be the favorite. Other teams have areas to address as well. Calgary will have to make some big decisions, so will Edmonton, San Jose and Vancouver. LA’s quick climb to the postseason will be interesting if it keeps up, especially if a healthy Vegas team is rolling. In year six no matter what changes have been made the Golden Knights will have a chance to fight for the division and form a path to another conference final. It’s that easy, depending on offseason changes.

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