As it stands right now the Vegas Golden Knights are a fully functioning NHL franchise, if you just ignore their roster of one. Vegas is now preparing for the 2017-18 season just like the 22 other teams no longer vying for the Cup. With the head coach Gerard Gallant comfortably in the Zamboni seat, it’s time to add his staff of assistants. The organization will want to add two or three coaches to help direct special teams. Mike Kelly (the other guy in the taxi pictures), Gallant’s assistant in Florida and with the Saint John Sea Dogs, is the leading candidate to become one of those assistants, but there are still other seats to be filled.
In the NHL the assistant coach should be a good source of communication for the head coach and players. A hockey scout explained an assistant coach as the Tom Hagen of the team. The consigliere should always protect the head of the family and be trusted by the soldiers. Consider Gallant as the team Godfather and the soldiers as the players. The assistant coach will communicate the message. The Golden Knights will bring in a coach that should lead by example, communicate clearly and continuously work to improve the club. If that doesn’t describe Hagen, I don’t know what does. He politely told Tessio he couldn’t ‘get him off the hook’ and then sent him off to be killed. Okay, back to assistant coaching, here’s one potential individual who is currently in the sports pages.
Former St. Louis Blues head coach and assistant to Joel Quenneville, Mike Kitchen, was let go yesterday in somewhat of a surprising move.
Sources said Bowman likely fired Kitchen to reassert authority over personnel and send everyone, including Quenneville, a message going into next season. Bowman’s decision to fire Kitchen was also likely a move in self-preservation to pacify a demand for change coming. –Chris Hine, Chicago Tribune
Kitchen designed Chicago’s penalty kill during their 2013 and 2015 Stanley Cup runs. Kitchen’s unit broke the top ten in 2014-15 stopping opponents 83.4% on special teams. However, it got worse after Chicago’s last parade. For the past two seasons the Hawks penalty kill was one of the worst in the league. Of course, Kitchen was evaluated after defensive production continued to drop. His players sealed his fate after being embarrassed by Nashville.
Putting the Predators series aside, Kitchen had a really solid run in Chicago. His tight relationship with Quenneville identifies his strong ability to coach and his loyalty. Gallant will need a defensive specialist and loyal companion to work along with during rough patches. Gallant’s initiatives and message will have to be understood by the entire team. Kitchen did that for seven years with Chicago.
Overall, Kitchen could do more for Vegas than Vegas could do for him though. As a former head coach, and two-time Stanley Cup winning assistant, he could make a real difference to a young franchise. Having the experience would be an added asset for Gallant. If Kitchen desires to become a head coach again, Las Vegas may never even appear on his radar. On the other hand, he just got fired as an assistant so the limited head coaching positions left may not even be available to him.
The Golden Knights could be a good franchise to rebuild his reputation. If Vegas succeeds in penalty kill efficiency, Kitchen would get plenty of praise. It’s a classic case of one hand washes the other. Remember, there is no Tom Hagen without the Corleones. But let’s face it, there’s no Corleone family without Tom Hagen.