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DeBoer Will “Stick To His Guns” Says Former Assistant

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Pete DeBoer has been the head coach of the Vegas Golden Knights for about 15 months now. He’s led the team to an excellent 37-15 record including two playoff series wins.

But still, mainly due to the pandemic, it feels like we are still getting to know DeBoer and his style and tendencies.

We’ve seen surprise healthy scratches, line jumbles, and a system that is built on structure in all three zones. Because he’s only had one playoff run, and it ended with a whimper, the biggest question mark surrounding DeBoer’s coaching style is his willingness to adapt to different situations.

In the playoffs against the Canucks, and then even more so against the Stars, we saw the Golden Knights’ opponent start to play an ultra-conservative style which was focused on keeping Vegas to the outside and cleaning up and rebound chances. It led to Thatcher Demko and Anton Khudobin, two goalies far from the league’s elite, posting incredible numbers and the Golden Knights offense going bone dry for  about two weeks.

Personally, I’ll never forget DeBoer’s comment on the off-day prior to Game 5 against the Stars, as the Golden Knights trailed in the series 3-1 and had posted just six goals in four games to that point.

The worst thing we can do is to change our game. -DeBoer on 9/13/20

It was a massive head-scratcher to me as the Golden Knights were staring down the barrell of their season ending and the coach was sticking to his guns. But what it also represented was a look into the coaching style of Pete DeBoer.

Things were not going Vegas’ way in that series and it was starting to look like a golden opportunity to win the Cup was slipping away. Yet here is the head coach of the team coming out with a vote of confidence both in the team’s system and structure, but also in the players themselves. He truly believed if they kept grinding, things would eventually turn around.

In that instance, they didn’t, but that doesn’t neccesarily mean the philsosphy is a failure or even flawed. Just go back one series before, to the Vancouver series, the first time the offense dried up. They stuck to their game and eventually pulled through with a Game 7 win to advance to the Western Conference Final.

It’s a style that shows a certain confidence that not all coaches have. That sentiment was recently echoed by a former assistant coach of DeBoer’s in an interview with SanJoseHockeyNow.com.

I worked with Pete DeBoer, as well. I was really impressed with Pete because he was very — whatever he thought was the right way to do things, he didn’t deviate from that. He just thought, ‘This is the way we’re going to do it and we’re going to try to do it better than anyone else.’ So, that was kind of his mindset, and he kind of stuck to his guns that way, so it was good. I learned a lot from Pete. –Rob Zettler, Tampa Bay Lightning assistant coach

To this point in DeBoer’s VGK career, they have “done it” better than everyone else.

Compared to the Gerard Gallant led teams, the Golden Knights are alloweing fewer goals per game, they are killing penalties at a higher rate, they are much cleaner breaking out of their own zone consistently, and most importantly their winning percentage has risen from an already impressive 55% to an astounding 71%.

There’s no questioning that DeBoer is an excellent NHL head coach. His playoff win percentage is a stellar 56%, he’s guided three different teams to the conference finals, and has two Stanley Cup Final appearances.

But, he, like Vegas’ 21-year veteran President of Hockey Operations, George McPhee, has never lifted the Stanley Cup.

Both of their plans are to change that this season, and they certainly may have the horses to do it.  But just remember, when the going gets tough, don’t expect a brand new system to arrive overnight. Either DeBoer’s plan works or it doesn’t, and he’s not going to depart from it.

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45 Comments

  1. Ken – there is some truth in what you say except – it is foolish to keep doing the same thing that’s not working and expecting different results – that is the definition of insanity. No one is suggesting a total change but adjustments are part of winning, that’s the difference in raising the CUP or going home without it. What worked yesterday is no guarantee what will work today – it might it might not – tweaks are part of life and that is what winning teams are capable of doing.

    • Daryl

      I completely agree… nobody is expecting a system over haul but fine tune adjustments are always needed. It’s said in all sports when talking about great teams matching up, which ever teams makes the better intermission adjustments is going to win. Maybe that is why PDB has never won the Cup even though he’s coached some loaded teams

      And I’ll throw this out there, while his playoff record is very impressive its also declined every year he was with the team

      • I was about to say the same thing, you usually get one good year out of DeBoer and now that he stayed in the same conference, have we seen that first year playoff run.

      • Daryl – Based on their performance against Denver Thursday evening the remark about declining every year has all the makings of being the case again. If you think about it it’s amazing that stubborn and stupid both start with the letter “S”. Just because they start with the letter “s” doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. Before everyone gets excited this isn’t any different that suggesting one goalie isn’t better than the other. Adjustments (tweaks) is what make good teams great. The Knights are a decent team just not a championship Cup winning team at this moment. I truly believe attitude has a great deal to do with winning and the coach is a big part of that – these guys are professionals yes but even once in a while they need a wake-up call. The difference between winning and loosing can be very small but just going through the motions won’t cut it in the long run.

    • Michael A Rice

      Very nicely put couldn’t say it better myself.
      Thanks Michael Rice

  2. Roberta Kendall

    They say: if you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got. No cup. Maybe stubborn not putting fleury in last year cost him.

  3. DOC (Go Knights Go)

    PDB is a very good coach. Lots of those who might have doubted that, are realizing it now. He was criticized from the start when he came here to Vegas, because, he replaced the “beloved” Turk, and, he was the coach of the hated sharks.

    Again, there are those that say he doesn’t make adjustments. Well he has proven many times he reacts both between periods and during games to try things. But is still criticized that he didn’t make changes in last years playoffs. Well, you DON’T change your entire system in the middle of the playoffs That would be ridiculous.

    He’s a very good coach and we have a good roster of players. He and they will win the cup soon, IMO, if not this year!

  4. THE hockey GOD

    compared to prior coach who didn’t 1) like russians and 2) never changed anything PDB has made many changes when needed and has been flexible. That statement by whoever claiming otherwise is plain wrong. He has pushed the right buttons. He has scrambled the lines. He has changed the style of play.

    Rob Zettler’s comment is taken completely out of context. Then another comment addressing a specific moment in time back in September, again a comment not suited to theme that PBR is inflexible or as author puts it “sticking to his guns” or “unwillingness to adapt” due to events over come by time and specifics at the time that comment was made.

    My conclusion: that has not seen the case these past few months. PBD has made novel changes in personnel, line changes, and style of play when needed. Including using rookies adeptly, playing a sound game most of time, and having a level headed approach (esp. with officials which has not always been the case). The only beef I have is not changing out RR and using one goalie too much over time. But what was other choice ?

    Sorry not buying it.

    Don’t believe this tripe being thrown on white screen. I am wiping it off now before it stinks up the rest of my building.

    zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
    spray
    shishh !!

    Done, moving on. Screen clean.

    My mind is also serene and empty of these negative waves.

    • Hello from New Jersey!
      We called him Pete Da-boring
      I don’t know how this article got in my feed but it’s nice to see Pete is still the same old Pete. You people out there should go back and find what was written about him by the rabid NY media when “coaching” the Devils. Then all you have to do is change a few names and repost it. Everyone will think you are a hockey mavin with a spooky ability to predict the future.
      Pete is Pete and you can always rely on Pete to be Pete. Nothing ever changes. Nothing. Ever. It may get a little lipstick to pretty it up every now and then, but rub that away, and it’s the same old Pete Da-bore.
      Good luck to all if you! You’re always going to be almost good with Pete.

      • Eddie – interesting post – show up more often as living in the East you have witnessed him longer than the folks out here. His performance last year in the playoff told anyone with hockey sense what to expect going forward. When you can’t adjust and continue what you did and got poor results why would you expect anything different – that’s stubborn and just not using GOD given common sense. They talk about the team needing a wake-up call seems to me that should start at the top. Not sure what went on with the Devils but mgt here is under the false impression you can buy the Cup by the actions they have taken putting themselves in cap hell hole.

  5. A VGK Fan

    The tone in this article is much better Ken. less pessimistic, and more balanced. finally reading something that doesn’t piss me off

  6. Tim

    I think as your always looking for a teams weakness minor changes need to be made. Through the year certain teams have better success against certain teams find out why and capitalize on it. My thought would be nothing is set in stone depending on your opponent make adjustments.

  7. Mikegron32

    “ But just remember, when the going gets tough, don’t expect a brand new system to arrive overnight.”

    Ken you realize they did this right?? And to this day you are still pissed off about it and FWIW the previous coach was the WORST at making any changes. We changed nothing while the Caps roasted us 3 straight. We changed nothing when the Sharks came back from 3 game deficit the next year. Whitecloud would still be in the AHL. Just even the suggestion of changing something would get him all red faced and abruptly end the press conference

    • Daryl

      Some of you seem to forget that Whitecloud was injured so he never really got a chance under Gallant. When he did get back he was outperformed by several other players. There was a reason Whitecloud wasn’t given much of a chance and it isn’t the coach

  8. coaches

    More than a year later, and Gallant has admitted that he has not received even one coaching offer. That says plenty. But the thing that really hurt him, both here and among the other teams, was when he said it was “not his job” to get the players up for a game. That is a toxic statement, especially when he said it in response to the Knights getting behind 3-0 in the first period of several games. That was the last straw.

    He might get the Seattle job, because it is an expansion team, but even the lowly Detroit Red Wings, who he played for, did not want him.

    and, let’s face it, coaches are hired to be fired. see Joel Quenneville, the winningest active coach, fired by Chicago after winning 3 cups in 6 years. DeBoer has already coached 3 teams, and he knows the way it works.

    • Daryl

      I actually agree with Gallant on that statement. I disagree with him coming out and saying it but we are talking about professional athletes, MEN. I don’t believe a coach, any coach ,can get these guys fired up for a game

      • Funny. Phil Jackson wasn’t much of an X O man. His assistants diagrammed plays. He was expert at motivating players and getting their minds right to excell together. Bad coach I guess.

        • Daryl

          Yeah he had to work really hard with Jordan and the other all-star players on that team. smh

  9. Mikeg- why the comparison Turk is gone concentrate on the present. What was done or not done is history and doesn’t matter. Hopefully we all learn from mistakes and adjust accordingly. As l recall you were not to happy about the lack of adjustment during the playoff. All I pointed out in original post is sometimes being stubborn is not a good solution. You must admit this is a changing world, not sure for the better, but that’s another subject. Whether we like it or not life is about tweaks – not total changes just adjustment to the situation.

  10. sb

    There’s only so much any Coach can do. He doesn’t put players on the roster and doesn’t go out and play the games. This guy is stuck with the bottom five forward positions filled with AHL level talent. Below Tuch, there’s absolutely nothing. Zero secondary scoring. Management has done a great job upgrading goaltending and D-Men since Year #2 ……. at the expense of the forwards. Offense was strongest Year 1 and has slowly leaked out of the system since Day 1, Year 2. The need at last year’s trade deadline was No. 1, a backup goaltender and No.2, a hi-end center for Line 1. Instead, they brought in a second starting goalie – not Lehner’s fault. Now the team has $12 mil in starting goaltenders and no Number center. Got worse when they signed a $9 mil D-man instead of fixing what was missing. Defense and goaltending are solid. No Number 1 center and five zero production bottom forwards. Worse ….. no cap space. Not the Coach’s fault. Not Lehner’s fault. Not Pietrangelo’s fault either.
    VGK is a very good 2nd tier team that has run out of cap space. Enjoy the remainder of the regular season and Round 1 of the Playoffs. Better then being in Buffalo.

    • Daryl

      Unfortunately, you are correct

    • Can fix it by shedding a goaltender and bringing in 1C at trade deadline, right? Plus experiment with bottom 5 from Henderson or even Krebs from the Juniors? Aside from a big deadline move why not try some prospects when a playoff spot is nearly locked up?

      • Daryl

        Here is my thoughts with Henderson… VGK plays enough games against weaker teams they’re is no reason to not experiment with these players. What would it hurt to bring them up for a couple games and see what they can do

  11. Flip flop

    Reading these comments you would think the Knights were at the bottom of the league standings.

    • Daryl

      If they were at the bottom of this Division nobody would care what’s going on since that means we would be the worst in the NHL

    • Tim

      By a twist of fate we could have been at the bottom. If Fleury was traded and after Lehner’s injury we could have been close to the bottom. Sometimes the trades you don’t make are your best trades.

      • Daryl

        This Division is so bad I still think we would be 3rd

        • I don’t really think the other divisions are much stronger in the bottom five. Maybe the East but even there the Flyers’ slide continues. Vegas definitely needs to bring their best game when playing COL or MIN but so do the top three in the other divisions. I think this West is the weakest is a bit overplayed here. Post season is what matters.

          • Daryl

            I agree ,the others aren’t much stronger but I do think they are stronger. From top to bottom this Division is the weakest and it dies give COL and VGK the easiest path to the playoffs.

            But, to my point in the above comment, I think VGK finishes at least 3rd even without MAF or Lehner and still makes the playoffs. Fans keep saying how bad VGK would be if they had traded MAF and Lehner was injured and I don’t think much would have changed… ateast as far as making the playoffs. Playoffs are a completely different thing

  12. THE hockey GOD

    you always dance with the girl
    that you brought to the dance
    you don’t let her be a wall flower
    never ever

    and it’s not over
    until the fat lady sings.

    fade out
    fade in
    scene three Delta house

    action

    Bluto: What? Over? Did you say ‘over’? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hll no!

    It ain’t over now, ’cause when the goin’ gets tough, the tough get goin’. Who’s with me? Let’s go! Come on!(He ran to the front door but no one followed him)

    Bluto (returning): What the f happened to the Delta I used to know? Where’s the spirit? Where’s the guts, huh? This could be the greatest night of our lives, but you’re gonna let it be the worst. ‘Ooh, we’re afraid to go with you, Bluto, we might get in trouble.’ (shouting) Well, just kiss my a from now on! Not me! I’m not gonna take this. Wormer, he’s a dead man! Marmalard, dead! Niedermeyer…

    Otter (Tim Matheson): Dead! Bluto’s right
    cut
    it’s a take !

  13. phantom major

    the optimists say the glass is half full

    the pessimists say the glass is half empty

    and the realists just use a smaller glass

  14. Mike StG

    This constant lamenting about how the West division is so lousy, thus Vegas’ record is not legit, is getting tired. Personally I think the North is worse. If you played a tournament with the bottom 3 of all 4 divisions it’s a toss-up who wins. The only superior division is the East, and their bottom 2 teams are just gross. The others have maybe two potential contenders each – TBL/CAR, TOR/WPG, COL/VGK. The East has 3 – NYI/WSH/BOS. The Wild are a good team, STL is better than their record, playing mostly w/out Tarasenko and Parayko. Since there is no inter divisional play saying the West sucks is a wild ass guess. If you think Vegas is so lousy or mediocre, then I guess making it to the conference finals (losing by 1 goal overall in 5 games in a closely fought playoff) means nothing. They didn’t get blown out by Dallas, their 4 losses were all by 1 goal. Vegas did that last year without Petro and with a weaker D corps. They will need to augment their forward group though, since they lost Stastny and Glass isn’t turning into the center they hoped he’d be by the end of this season, which is fast approaching.

    • Daryl

      You must be a VGK fan. The top 3 in the North is better than the top 3 in the West. The top 3 teams in the East is better. COL is on par with the 2 and 3 team in the Central.

      Penguins have been my favorite team since the late 70s while VGK has become a very distant second…. but I am a huge hockey fan and usually watch several different teams play ever week. I’m basing my thoughts on watching these other teams play and not solely on their record. My comments aren’t negative nor biased.

    • Daryl

      And yes VGK lost several close games last year and that was against an inferior opponent, just like they struggled in the prior series against inferior teams

    • Loosing by 1 goal or 10 the results are the same. OUT

  15. DOC (Go Knights Go)

    WOW! A number of positive comments!

    I love it!

  16. Mike StG

    VGK scout attending ARI-SJS game tonight. Second ARI game they scouted this week. Seems pretty clear to me they’re looking at Garland. He’d be great on L3, left wing.

    • knights fan in minny

      garland is not part of there future hard to believe he has a friendly contract

    • vgk21

      I totally agree. Garland is a nifty little puck carrier, and he is fearless, he takes the puck to the net. He could help bigtime on any line, and on the PP. I hope they get him.

  17. Jake

    Pete DeBoer – perhaps the Kirk Ferentz of the NHL?

    Stick to the system. Refuse to change. Have a winning record. Win The Freedom Bowl.

    That said, I liked the hire of PDB.

  18. LVsc

    McNabb should be sent to the taxi squad after that pathetic first goal. He played the puck instead of the man, something he should have learned not to do as a peewee. The replay showed it clearly, Donskoi always makes that move, so it was no surprise to anyone, especially clumsy McNabb. You just can’t have slow stumblebums like him on your d corps and expect to win. remember when he was out they did fine without him. trade him now. don’t forget who it was who got beat for the OT winning goal by the Sharks 4th liner Goodrow to lose that infamous game 7 choke. Goodrow walked right around McNabb to win that series.

    and Fleury has clearly cooled way off from his hot start this season. goal #2 was Stone getting beat by his man at the point, but Fleury should be resting today, he is not on top of his game right now.

  19. LVsc

    Fleury getting back on track in the 2nd period.

    McNabb threw a good hit, had a better 2nd period, but then he also got beat twice by Rantanen, falling down, but Fleury bailed him out with a poke check.

  20. LVsc

    Knights great 3rd period, they regained their mojo, and Patch does it again in OT. a WOO moment.

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