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
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.
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.
There’s a real chance that DeBoer had nothing to do with Dadonov’s struggles in his first season with the Golden Knights, he might simply be over-the-hill in his hockey career. But there were flashes of Dadonov’s skill, especially in transition, that might be able to be harnessed a bit more by a system not forcing him to stand up at the defensive blue line. Statistically, he was actually pretty good, notching 20 goals and 43 points in 78 games, but the Golden Knights proved what they thought of his season when they tried to pay to give him away at the deadline. Now, they might be stuck with him, and the new coach could lift his game.
Coghlan just wasn’t a great fit for the style of play DeBoer preferred out of his defensemen. He consistently had trouble making the proper reads in the defensive zone and his responsibilities going backward appeared to thwart much of what he’s capable of doing going forward. There’s no doubt Coghlan has quite the offensive arsenal, but he has to get a lot better in his own end if he’s ever going to get enough ice time to show it off. Maybe a new defensive system fits him better and he can become the player most hoped he could be.
Most To Lose
Before Pete DeBoer was named head coach of the Golden Knights, Whitecloud had just his one “thank you for signing with us” NHL appearance under his belt. Despite the struggles the Golden Knights were going through defensively in the 19-20 season, Gallant always preferred Nic Hague over Whitecloud. But the moment DeBoer got the job, Whitecloud became a staple in the lineup. He grew to become an everyday player and an analytic darling as he pitched in much more offense than was ever expected of him. It’s not only DeBoer leaving that could hurt Whitecloud too. Ryan McGill, the assistant coach in charge of the defense, is also out, and he undoubtedly had a massive impact on Whitecloud’s development. All signs point to Whitecloud still being an everyday player for the Golden Knights, but there’s a chance he’s not the perfect fit for the new system like he was in the previous one.
Like Whitecloud, Kolesar had played just one NHL game prior to DeBoer’s arrival in Vegas. In camp of 2020-21, it appeared certain he was going to be waived and head back to the AHL, but he stayed with the big club seemingly out of fear of the team losing him on waivers. He worked his way into the lineup, averaging about six minutes a night for his first handful of games before he gained the trust of DeBoer. He stuck with VGK all of that season and then became a no-brainer to be in the lineup every night in 2021-22. He was consistent through the season and definitely seemed to be headed in the right direction as the year progressed. Not all coaches value that style of player, especially as his finishing ability continues to lack, but he does seem to have the backing of the front office which should help.
Claimed off waivers in 2021-22, Amadio stepped right into the Golden Knights’ lineup and rarely came out. As the injuries continued to pile up, he proved to be the best option for the elevated role. For a while there, he was pushing 15-16 minutes a night which is basically unheard of over the course of his career where he averages less than 12. He was defensively responsible, willing to go to the blue paint, and skated well enough to keep up with anyone DeBoer stuck him with. History tells us Amadio is not the right fit for many coaches in the NHL. Despite the extension, it wouldn’t be surprising if he’s a healthy scratch, on waivers, or a Horsie at different points next year.
Hutton was a God-send to the Golden Knights last year as he went from sitting on his couch wondering if he’d play hockey at all to a top-pair defenseman much of the year for the Golden Knights. In the DeBoer system, he was a perfect fit to pair with a top player like Alex Pietrangelo. He wasn’t the perfect player (very few who enter an NHL season without a contract are), but he was so much more than serviceable for the Golden Knights under DeBoer. He parlayed that into an extension which has him set to make $1.7 million over two seasons ($850k AAV) whether he plays for the Golden or Silver Knights. Like Amadio, he’s proven to be fairly easily replaceable and the new coach may choose to do just that in favor of a player like Coghlan, or a more unproven option like Daniil Miromanov, Kaedan Korczak, or one of the many other prospects.