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Understanding Ownership’s Role In DeBoer Firing

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have officially made their first big move of the offseason. Firing head coach Pete DeBoer is a clear sign that despite the consistent injury excuse Vegas found 2021-22 unacceptable.

Following the year, The Creator went on record saying he was going to be more vocal and proactive in helping his team regain their identity.

I’ve always been invited to all the meetings. They take my input, but I try and stand aside when everyone is convinced something needs to be done. This time, after all these years, I’ve got a few specific ideas of things that I believe need to be accomplished. If I’m being very transparent, I’m going to be active. –The Creator to LVRJ

In the same interview, he took one type of adjustment to the team off the table.

Foley said he met this past week with general manager Kelly McCrimmon, who will return for his fourth season in that role, and does not anticipate dramatic changes to the roster. –Dave Schoen, Las Vegas Review Journal

The biggest move a team can make from a non-player perspective is removing the head coach. Vegas did that, so naturally, it makes sense that it came from the big man himself. Those suspicions were confirmed in a recent article from The Athletic.

Several external sources suggested the main impetus for the coaching change came from owner Bill Foley. –Eric Duhatschek, The Athletic

But then there was the press conference with Kelly McCrimmon explaining the move. And in his words, it didn’t go that way at all.

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New VGK Coach Will Have A Chance To Win But Won’t Have Long

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Following the release of Pete DeBoer, the Golden Knights are set to hire their third coach in team history. DeBoer coached a total of 160 games with Vegas, won 98 of them, and amassed a .650 winning percentage. He was fired with a winning record like his predecessor Gerard Gallant. VGK’s first coach was behind the bench for 213 game, registered 118 victories, and a .601 win percentage. All in all, the average lifespan of a Golden Knights coach is 186.5 games or 2.2 seasons.

I can’t say I was surprised. Peter DeBoer is an excellent coach but things kind of went sideways down the stretch. It was more than just injuries. The way certain things were handled there was a lot of discussion about that. I actually felt that they might need to change the GM. It seemed unlikely they would be back together. -Brian Lawton on NHL Network

After Gallant was fired the organization expressed to fans that he was “basic” and “wasn’t the right fit.” Now, VGK enthusiasts are told the players “need of a new voice.” No wonder Golden Knights fans are apprehensive the same front office that hired and fired two head coaches, will get it right the third time around.

DeBoer’s firing is another example of the front office being impatient, indecisive, and masters of disguise. Twice now, after some adversity, the Golden Knights made the quick decision to find a replacement instead of standing behind their coach. The organization tried two different styles and despite “nothing but success” were unsatisfied with both. And without fail, the organization’s sleight of hand fooled fans into believing DeBoer was safe.

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Ownership’s Decision To Take More Vocal Role Could Be Best Solution For Golden Knights Identity Problem

What was once the best story in professional sports has turned into arguably the NHL’s most loathed. From the subjects of a heart-warming documentary to the butt end of collective hatred from fans across North America, the Golden Knights have done a complete 180. Now, they enter an offseason in which they have to decide what’s next.

The Golden Knights are at a critical juncture regarding the state of the franchise as a whole. It goes much deeper than just missing the playoffs or finding themselves in the middle of a few eccentric situations over the course of the turbulent 2021-22 season.

This franchise must figure out what it was then, what it is now, and what it wants to be moving forward. And this offseason stands as the most important in team history as they attempt to do just that while untying the complicated salary cap knot they voluntarily stepped into.

From the outside looking in, it’s clear how different things have become. But from the inside speaking out, there appeared to be a bit of a murkier view.

Comments from the general manager, head coach, captain, and many key players indicated a bit of a woe-is-me-type atmosphere. For each question about what went wrong, the solution was always the same, better health. Or in other words, better luck, something beyond anyone’s control.

That was until The Creator stepped forward recently in an interview with the Las Vegas Review Journal’s David Schoen.

We’ve got to get better. And we will be better next year. We might have lost a little personality over the last few years with some of the things that have happened. Our goal is to get back to this identity of never giving up, never giving in, and being a team. I believe we did move away from that identity somewhat with all the changes that have been made and the constant machinations. –The Creator to LVRJ

The Golden Knights’ owner vowed to be much more hands-on in solving this problem.

I’d say we’re going to be a team now that we’re ‘Ready, aim, fire’ not ‘Ready, fire, aim.’ We’re going to be careful. That’s a big priority for me, and I’m going to be involved in it. I’ve got a few specific ideas of things that I believe need to be accomplished. If I’m being very transparent, I’m going to be active. –The Creator to LVRJ

It’s a stark contrast to the words of one of his top lieutenants, general manager Kelly McCrimmon.

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VGK’s Frustration Visibly Noticeable To Opponents

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s been eerily quiet since the Golden Knights season finale. There hasn’t been a peep from any of Vegas’ players, coaches, or executives since their postgame press conferences on Friday night. It’s almost as if The Creator and his staff are choosing the next Pope.

Without any knowledge of the conversations being held it’s impossible to guess which direction Vegas is heading. Whatever it may be, it was apparently obvious to many lineups across the NHL.

I had a few teams tell me today that Vegas was always a very together team. Through good and bad. This year was the first year they really saw them as a frustrated team. Doors slamming in games, players showing frustration or snapping at each other occasionally during games. I don’t want anyone to take that I think the Vegas Golden Knights all despise each other because I don’t know if that’s true. –Elliotte Friedman, 32 Thoughts Podcast

It’s no secret, Golden Knights fans witnessed their team’s frustration almost weekly. That’ll happen with extensive injuries, poor performances, and a struggling power play. However, we can’t hear the doors slamming or snapping on the bench. Mark Stone and other team leaders keep their locker room tight but it’s hard to believe it felt the same without the captain for most of the year. Add in injuries to Max Pacioretty and Alec Martinez and the chemistry had to have taken a hit.

When you’re losing and your season is slipping away that’s normal. Teams noticed it more this year. Was that just as frustration of the injuries and the season slipping away or is there any chance the fabric of this team has been changed and they have to address that. I don’t know. Teams noticed it this year, more than ever. –Friedman, 32 Thoughts Podcast

Friedman’s advice to the Golden Knights is to address the goaltending situation. Over the weekend, the Sportsnet reporter continued to stress that Robin Lehner’s frustration and season ending injuries were sensitive matters.

The number one thing they have to deal with is Lehner. People are telling me wait. This is not over. There’s still more to go here. What’s everyone going to say? This is going to take some skill and handling. There are the possibilities of aftershocks. Is this something that the league and the Players Association are going to have to get involved in? Depending on where all of this goes. –Friedman, 32 Thoughts Podcast

It doesn’t take a spyglass for an opposing team to hear or read about the tension between Lehner and the coaching staff down the stretch. It was on full display after Vegas’ late-season loss against the New Jersey Devils.

Is there a way to deal with this so that it can be solved to everyone’s satisfaction mentally, and physically, and emotionally without a series of aftershocks that further damage the franchise. If it’s not dealt with in a proper way it’s going to get worse before it gets better. –Friedman, 32 Thoughts Podcast

The Stanley Cup playoffs begin tonight, unfortunately without the Golden Knights. On the bright side, missing the cut allows Vegas more time in the offseason. A head start helps examine prospects, target free agents, trades or anything else they feel they need to get sorted out. The next few days will reveal what the organization’s plans are going forward. Lehner, DeBoer, slamming doors, and teammates snapping are areas that need immediate attention.

Iole: VGK Offseason Agenda

This season, diehard VGK fan and legendary combat sports columnist Kevin Iole will be delivering columns a few times a month on Sundays. Today is the last column for the season from Kevin. We cannot thank Kevin enough for contributing to the site all year.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Trying to forecast what the Golden Knights’ will be like in the 2022-23 season is all but impossible. We don’t know who is going to manage the team, who will coach it, and if several of the key players on it will ever be the same physically.

From owner Bill Foley on down, VGK management has to be praying that Mark Stone’s back injury that kept him out of 46 games this year and left him a shell of himself when he did return for the final, ultimately futile, playoff run is healed and just a sad memory when next season begins.

That’s no guarantee, though, and without a healthy and productive Stone, it’s all but impossible to take this team seriously as a contender no matter what else they do in the offseason.

There are a number of free agents, though none more important than Reilly Smith. But with the Knights up against the salary cap, will they be able to find the money to bring him back? And even if they can, will he want to return?

The answers to those questions will play out in the next several months. But I’ve identified six areas whoever is running this team will need to solidify in the offseason if it is to have a reasonable hope of fulfilling Foley’s dream of a Stanley Cup title by Year 6.

Get younger and faster

The Knights were the third-oldest team in the league in the 2021-22 season, and at times it looked like they didn’t have the jump they needed. They certainly didn’t play with the pace of a championship team.

When the Misfits went to the Stanley Cup final in 2018, they forechecked ferociously and took time and space away from the opposition on virtually every shift.

The inordinate number of injuries they suffered through played a role in that, but they need to infuse the lineup with both young, hungry players and speed.

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Vegas Recognizes What They’re Dealing With

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Tonight the Golden Knights will face an electric Florida Panthers team that won’t have trouble scoring. In their last ten games, the Panthers have 40 combined goals scored. Vegas on the other hand, has a total of 25. It well could be another one of those nights. We’re all hoping it’s not.

This is not how Vegas operates. Vegas isn’t fond about making excuses. Maybe management would look at it and say ‘we got thirty million dollars worth of players that are wearing suits.’ I don’t know if the owner looks at it that way. -Jeff Marek on 32 Thoughts Podcast

Of course, fans would rather the Golden Knights compete for a Stanley Cup this postseason but it seems like a hopeless dream at this point. Vegas has been devastated with injuries and there’s no doubting that. The Golden Knights’ goal of reaching the Stanley Cup Finals may have unfortunately been upended by the injury bug. It’s an excuse, but some would argue it’s a darn good excuse.

Look at how much money you’ve got in injured reserve or long term injured reserve. Between all of those guys you’re over $30 million dollars out of the lineup. -Elliotte Friedman on 32 Thoughts Podcast

Most injuries are uncontrollable and an unfortunate element of professional sports. Sadly, some teams cannot make up for impactful players getting hurt and missing significant amounts of time. It’s unlikely the Golden Knights will never be fully healthy this season. Even if the club makes a remarkable run to the finals it won’t be enough time for each injury to completely heal. Don’t get me wrong, if Mark Stone and Alec Martinez are available in the playoffs they will dress. They may not be 100% healthy but they will play their tuchuses off.

Realistically, it probably wouldn’t be enough to eliminate Calgary, Colorado, or Tampa Bay in a seven-game series. So, what’s wrong with planning ahead?

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Iole: Enough Bang For His Buck?

This season, diehard VGK fan and legendary combat sports columnist Kevin Iole will be delivering columns a few times a month on Sundays. Kevin’s back today to take a look at a position of depth, one that’s been notoriously thin in years past.

As a lifelong fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates, I’ve often longed for a team that was aggressive in free agency, pursued the best players with vigor regardless of cost, and had ownership that almost seemed insulted if it didn’t win the championship.

But now, I have that in the Vegas Golden Knights, where owner Bill Foley has focused only on winning. He’s allowed his staff to trade for the big names who were available on the market. He’s permitted them to go after the elite free agents.

Like the late Jack Kent Cooke, the former owner of the Washington Redskins once said about his coach, George Allen, “He was given an unlimited budget and he exceeded it.”

Foley has to feel that way as Season 5 winds down with a Detroit Lions Super Bowl championship looking about as likely in a few months as a VGK Stanley Cup title.

Foley’s spoiled the fan base, and no doubt his hockey operations department, by his seeming eagerness to spend any sum, make any signing, in pursuit of that elusive championship.

Goaltender Robin Lehner is sidelined now with upper-body AND lower-body injuries, you say? The fan base simply calls for Foley to spend the millions it would take to bring old friend Marc-Andre Fleury back to town.

These are real dollars, people, that Foley is spending, not just Monopoly money that has no impact. Foley has done everything reasonably expected of an owner, and then some. Hell, he’s even sat down for an interview with Ken on multiple occasions!

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In addition to the trades for Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, and Jack Eichel, and the free agent signing of Alex Pietrangelo and the extensions for Lehner, Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, William Karlsson, Alex Tuch (Remember him?), Nate Schmidt (Or him?), Foley went so far as to purchase an AHL team and build a new rink for it. The benefit? So the NHL club could fill fourth-line, third-defense pairings and backup goalie spots a bit easier.

He’s laid out an inordinate amount of cash — to be fair, the Golden Knights are also a pretty profitable franchise — and what does he have for it? Well, no Cups, and so they’re a failure if that’s the only standard you measure by.

But that’s not fair. The Golden Knights have become one of the destination franchises in the NHL and you don’t see any of the players, past or present, complaining about the way they’ve been treated while they’re here.

They’ve won two division titles, one conference title and have been among the league’s Cup favorites every year since the second season.

Foley’s done his part.

Now, do we blame McPhee or McCrimmon for what is going on here? Does Pete DeBoer, as coaches so frequently and so often unfairly do, pay for it with his job?

Do we simply blame the injuries and say, “Things will be better when everyone is healthy?”

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VGK: Point Rescuers

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

When The Creator decided to name his team the Golden Knights, he did it with the idea that they would follow a very specific mantra. “We will never give up and never give in. The Knight always advances and never retreats.”

It’s clearly a cliche and for my money incredibly hokey, but to this point in the 2021-22 season, it’s about as good a way to describe the Vegas Golden Knights as possible.

Tuesday night’s game was yet another example in a long string of games this season where the Golden Knights have seemingly rescued a point in the standings they had no business of picking up.

Maybe you don’t deserve a point, but you hang around, our goalie was good, and we were opportunistic. -Pete DeBoer

It was the 6th time this season in which Vegas has entered the 3rd period trailing and walked away with at least an overtime loss.

We could have folded the tent and just accepted defeat, but it was a good comeback by us. -Mark Stone

That’s just never what the Golden Knights do. Sure, they’ve lost 10 times when trailing to begin the 3rd, but look at some of the comebacks they’ve put together this season.

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McPhee And Creator Weigh In On Salary Cap Plans Post-Eichel Return

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

Every time Jack Eichel steps on the ice his return draws a bit nearer. What felt like it would take an eternity when he was first acquired from the Buffalo Sabres is now right there in sight.

And while there won’t be a more exciting moment during the Golden Knights regular season this year than when Jack plays his first game, that moment will come with some roster consequences.

If fully healthy, the Golden Knights’ current roster sits a little more than $10 million over the salary cap. To get Eichel, Pacioretty, and Martinez all back on the ice, the Vegas front office will have to make some decisions, incredibly tough decisions that will change the makeup of this team.

We’re going to have to make adjustments but we do have a lot of guys that are hurt. We’re looking at that and making sure we don’t do something prematurely. We do have a plan, some alternatives, but we’re trying to hold off until we really see how the injuries sort out over the next 25-30 days. –The Creator

George McPhee echoed those thoughts as well.

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The Creator Gives A Rough Guide Of What VGK’s February Schedule Will Look Like

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Like every team in the NHL this season, the Golden Knights have had a number of games postponed due to the ongoing/never-ending pandemic. Luckily, Vegas is in a much better spot than most teams in this regard, needing just four games to be placed back on the schedule.

The Golden Knights were supposed to be in Calgary tonight and were scheduled to play in Edmonton last night as part of an All Alberta road back-to-back. Also, in late December, Vegas lost a pair of home games when the December 23rd game against the Kings and the December 27th matchup with Avalanche were wiped out.

NHL discussions have indicated that these games, along with most of the other postponed ones around the league, will be rescheduled during the month of February that was previously left vacant for the Olympics. With NHL and AHL players no longer going to Beijing, there are three full weeks to squeeze in these makeup games.

I believe we are going to play seven total games in February, might be eight. -The Creator

The current schedule calls for a home game against Buffalo on February 1st and then a home/road back-to-back in Arizona and against Colorado to end the month of February 25th and 26th. Assuming the four games are rescheduled, that would make for seven. However, the mention of eight leaves room for the possibility that another game from later in the season is moved up as the league rearranges the schedules for the teams needing to make up north of 10 games.

Seven games in February would be the lightest month in the Golden Knights’ five year history. They played 10 in in February last year and played at least 13 each of their first three seasons. It’s not all great news though.

Unfortunately we have two back-to-backs, because the league commands we do. We’ve gone back and we’ve tried to get some things adjusted because unfortunately we play a back-to-back then skip a day then play a game and then we have something like seven or eight days off. -The Creator

He wouldn’t give us the exact dates as they are still being finalized, but did give out a few hints.

When you come back from the All Star break you are not supposed to play on the Sunday. So you can practice on Monday but we actually have to travel for two back-to-back road games. -The Creator

This means the Golden Knights are likely headed to Alberta on February 8th and 9th to play the Oilers and Flames. The earlier comment seems to indicate that there would be a home game on the 11th (LAK or COL) and then the Golden Knights would be off most of the week before returning to action with the other home game on the 19th or 20th.

The month would wrap up with the ARI/COL back-to-back on the 25th and 26th with the possibility of another game being snuck in at some point during the month.

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