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.
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.
If hired Maurice would be a warm welcome to the Golden Knights organization. He was the former coach of the Winnipeg Jets, so he has the all important Manitoba connections the front office desires. The 24-year bench boss has had strong lineups before and appeared just once in a Stanley Cup finals. Remember when most of the hockey world predicted Maurice’s Jets sweeping the Golden Knights in 2018?
Really, Maurice wouldn’t lose much by taking Vegas’ head coach position. Unfortunately, the fans may. Over his last three postseasons, the Jets were swept by the Montreal Canadiens, lost in the bubble qualifying round, and were eliminated in six first round games. It was disappointment after disappointment in Winnipeg. It led Maurice to step down this season because he felt his team needed a fresh voice, in other words he ‘lost the team.’ Sounds a lot like what happened to Pete DeBoer. Both find the other to be superior leaders, yet neither have rings. Maurice is a safe choice, and could end up being a continuation of VGK’s last three seasons. High expectations but overall underachieved.
Most To Gain
The former Coyotes and Lightning coach has never had a winning percentage above .529 in six seasons. However, Tocchet could boost his personal stats in Vegas. Over four seasons he quietly led a team at the bottom of the league in organizational support, payroll and talent. Somehow he managed to register 284 points in 290 games. Just imagine if he had a hungry, skilled lineup to coach.
Some consider Tocchet a player’s coach because he was a successful former player but there’s more than just having something in common. He won’t sugar coat or make excuses. Tocchet will tell it like it is, not how it could have been. The Golden Knights as a whole could use a voice like that. On the ice Tocchet was a gritty forward that played 22 seasons, scored 40+ goals twice and added 20 power play goals in 1992-93. The TNT analyst understands today’s NHL isn’t the same league he played in. Which is why Tocchet was applauded for what he did with a young, raw roster in Arizona. Winning in Vegas would earn him more respect across the league. Tocchet has a stronger personality than other candidates and if successful would fit the city of Las Vegas more than DeBoer did. If he can manage pressure and succeed here, Tocchet would be beloved in the Valley. Plus, he shops at Sprouts, which is obviously a sign of his supreme intelligence.
Another incredibly successful coach is without a job looking for another opportunity to add to his unblemished on ice record. However, if it’s Vegas or somewhere else, Quenneville will have difficulty winning over the majority of fans. Some fans are able to compartmentalize off ice discrepancies with winning hockey, most will never accept and forgive the three time cup winning coach. If he wins they may look the other way. Let’s be honest, Quenneville can only gain if he’s hired by any franchise. Surely, he’ll get the most out of his players and will give Vegas the best chance to win 16 playoff games.
Until we get an explanation as to why he’s survived multiple coaching cuts, I’m not counting out Craig. He’s my dark horse. Think about it, it makes sense. He clearly has the backing of the organization. Craig was brought in straight from the AHL and was immediately assigned to Gerard Gallant’s staff. He’s been involved in every franchise win and loss, and has had an up close view of the ups and downs over five seasons. The 40-year-old is familiar with the players, understands the organization’s philosophies and will work hand in hand with the front office.
Craig would be playing with house money if he were named the Golden Knights head coach. If he were to successfully lead Vegas to their first Stanley Cup, Craig would be immortalized in town. There’s very little to lose. If the team loses the blame will go squarely on the players and front office. Also, Craig will naturally gain by proving to other organizations that he can lead an NHL club. It would be a bold decision from an organization that trends to value experience. Again, Craig is a dark horse but the organization must have a plan. Why else keep him around?
There are no perfect candidates. The NHL is a league widely known for recycling coaches and it’s unlikely the Golden Knights are prepared to trust an unproven candidate. Think back, every time they’ve upgraded it’s always leaned towards experience. In 2018 Nick Suzuki was traded for Max Pacioretty, an experienced NHL star. Vegas signed veterans Mark Stone and Alex Pietrangelo to max deals, and they hired and fired two veteran coaches. Ingenuity and risk is not something NHL organizations are interested in. Especially the 31st franchise.