Imagine what the Golden Knights would look like right now if the first season went the way everyone projected. If they played like an expansion team usually does and finished at or near the bottom of the standings. A lot would look different, but the men behind the bench would still be familiar.
The Golden Knights overachieved in every sense of the word in their first season. They won more games than they were supposed to, they went further in the playoffs than anyone could have ever imagined, and they created a culture of success.
In just one season, the most magical season not to result in a championship in sports history, the Golden Knights went from an organization willing and able to be patient to one with a “Cup or Bust” mentality every single year.
When most players learned they were headed to Vegas in the Expansion Draft, they didn’t know what to expect. Despite whether the player was established, under-utilized, or had not even broken through into the NHL yet, there was a semblance of hesitation with all of them. They’d heard the stories of barren buildings, unknowledgeable fans, and tons and tons of losses. With Vegas, they didn’t know what to expect and there were plenty of reasons to expect the worst as opposed to the best.
Less than a year later, Vegas became a destination. Following every game players would rave about the building, the atmosphere, and the relentlessness of the team on the ice. The first offseason, James Neal, David Perron, Ryan Reaves, and Luca Sbisa all expressed a genuine desire to stay in Vegas. Paul Stastny inked a deal after Vegas knocked his team out of the playoffs a few months before. And then the big one, the captain of the Montreal Canadiens, Max Pacioretty, agreed to sign a long term deal before even stepping foot in the city allowing the Golden Knights to pull off a blockbuster trade right before the second season began.
Every new player, and especially Pacioretty, ranted about the rest of the league’s growing perception of Las Vegas. In less than a year, it went from an unknown to one of, if not the most, desirable destination in the NHL.
That led to players like William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, Alex Tuch, Shea Theodore, Brayden McNabb, and Nate Schmidt to all take fairly friendly deals to stay. It helped keep Marc-Andre Fleury, who could have gone anywhere he wished, in Vegas for the long haul. And again, it led to another trade and sign of Mark Stone, who hasn’t shut up about how much he loves Vegas since.
Success led to more success which led to expectations and those expectations were what ultimately sent Gallant and Kelly packing.
They were handed a group of players, an empty locker room, and a blank canvas and they spun it into what it is now, a team with legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations year over year. They got the most out of a group of players every other team in the league decided were expendable and in doing it, they allowed the front office to capitalize and add more and more talent to the mix.
Without the success in Year 1, there would be no Pacioretty, no Stone, no Stastny, and probably no Fleury.
The building wouldn’t be known as the most electric in the league.
The locker room wouldn’t be viewed as one every player in the league would gladly accept becoming a part of.
And the worst of all, the job of the head coach wouldn’t be so desirable that a recently fired Pete DeBoer sitting next to a pool in Florida with his family would accept the position so fast that he didn’t even have time to find a suit before getting on the plane to take the job.
Gerard Gallant and Mike Kelly were instrumental in creating a winning culture and lofty expectations. They ultimately ended up becoming the first to pay for it as well.
No matter what comes of the rest of this regular season, the postseason, and the future including this core of players, while credit will be given to just about everyone else first, Gallant and Kelly will always deserve their fair share.
Their names won’t be on the Cup if the Golden Knights ever win it. They won’t be at the parade down Las Vegas Boulevard. But their contributions to the Golden Knights franchise should never be undervalued.
Wonderful article, Ken! History won’t forget what the Knights accomplished year one, and Gallant & Kelly will always be a part of that
Congrats for this article. Ironic: Without the success of season 1 Turk would still be the coach of the VGK.
Beautifully stated! Well written Ken—
Proud to support the VGK team, organization and the Inevitable difficult changes that comes with all professional sports organizations. Hoping DeBoer can make his own memorable history here as well! Let’s give him a chance—
Well said Ken. I couldn’t agree more. Those guys will be on bench again soon, I’m guessing Detroit, and I wish them only the best. The legacy from everyone involved in that fairytale first season will never be forgotten
Ken, Good article. You took it from when the Knights became Vegas Born to where they are now. Vegas also will give Gallant and Kelly to go coach where they want to. We hit milestones in our first season shocking not only us here in Vegas but across the NHL.
Despite the lack of winning games we recently had, when you look at what we achieved, we have alot to be proud of and grateful for. Good Job!
Barbara A Landes
Exactly correct. Too bad the men at the top forget the people who helped get them there.
Everything adds up to this being a knee-jerk move forced upon management by the owner.
Question: Do you think DeBoer will keep practices open to the public? Not sure who makes this call, but I know VGK fans would miss this tradition.
Just got it confirmed by the Golden Knights. Practices will remain open.
Great article, just spot on Ken. Gallant will never be forgotten. He lit the in Vegas, so did Kelly. He fought for his player’s too. Foley is older, he wants a Cup now. I respect his willingness to spend big money to get guys like Stone and Patches. It hurts all of us to lose Gallant, especially the players, they have to feel responsible. One favor to anybody reading this, quit the booing, WTF !! Its demoralizing to our guys, they try so hard. Ok?
Great article, just spot on Ken. Gallant will never be forgotten. He lit the fire in Vegas, so did Kelly. He fought for his player’s too. Foley is older, he wants a Cup now. I respect his willingness to spend big money to get guys like Stone and Patches. It hurts all of us to lose Gallant, especially the players, they have to feel responsible. One favor to anybody reading this, quit the booing, WTF !! Its demoralizing to our guys, they try so hard. Ok?
Response from Foley? Just wondering
He has not offered anything at this time.
James V. Morris
This article nailed it. The facts are facts. I read your articles each and everyone of them. This one hit home for me. It took 24hrs of mourning before I could thank the coaches that built this team and let them go. It will be a sad day indeed when the cup sits in Las Vegas without their names on it. So the hockey world turns. Welcome home Pete Deboer! Go Knights Go!
Great comment Ken. You got everything right. Now if the fans stop worrying about the coach and get behind the team we have a winner.
Great article! Great insights! “Ditto” to everything Mr Boehlke wrote!
Foley’s Corporate scream , “bring me my Cup or else” is embarrassing. It debases the teams truth.
Mr Foley, the Cup is not a crown!
Amen !! Beautifully written ..
Thank you for this !! I hope management reads this and realize what they did . They just ripped out the heart and soul of this team ! The decision to not offer Perron a deal is already bitting them in the ass. Imagine what this decision will do if the don’t make the playoffs now !
Excellent article and interesting perspective. Hadn’t thought of it that way.
Great article Ken. Sad when success gets you fired but like flower said pretty tuff to fire 15 guys to ring in a wake up call – so there had to be a sacrificial lamb unfortunately Jerard and Kelly were the chosen. You and l have bantered back and forth the importance re: attitude which many of the players alluded to the firing fell directly on their shoulders so lets hope a lesson learned again won’t be for gotten and propel the team to success regardless who’s at the helm. Galiant and Kelly will be snatched up and vegas fans could land up not happy with them when they come in here behind the bench and kick vgk butt. Not anytime soon l hope. Keep smiling the sun will rise tomorrow and so will the Knights.
Great article Ken.
My theory on Gallant being fired is that Gallant tried to play hard ball during his extension negotiations, knowing that he had the Red Wings job to fall back on. Based on the Gusev negotiations. GMGM does not take kindly to hard ball and he was looking for an opportunity to drop the axe.
Thanks for all that you do.
I agree with this theory. In fact I’ve heard it speculated on National shows that Gallant was interested in the Red Wings job regardless.. all this is speculation of course and we’ll never really know. But it still doesn’t change what he did for this team and the excitement level for hockey in this community
Well Said !
Amen to all of it!
Great article. Focus on Gallant & Kelly. They and the misfits who are now gone are in our hearts. The players and coaches that remain are as well. It remains to be seen where this team is going to be in the future. If the new players like Patches, Stone, and Stasny, and the new Coach are going to win us over – the future begins tonight in Montreal. New chapters unfolding. As a Season Ticket holder, I am hoping that all of the negativity of losing key players and coaches can be put behind us sooner rather than later.