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Patience Is The Right Way Forward For The Golden Knights

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

Unpredictability, it’s what makes sports the best soap opera in the world. It’s also what makes the lives of the decision-makers so incredibly difficult. No matter what the data and history say, no one truly knows what is going to happen until the humans who put on the jerseys actually step onto the ice and compete.

From 100 points and competing for the Stanley Cup to barely hitting 80 and starting a rebuild and anywhere in between, opinions on what’s in store for the Golden Knights this season range wildly.

There are questions surrounding scoring, depth, health, goaltending, coaching, continuity, accountability, and more. And not a single person on the planet has even some of the answers, let alone all of them.

This volatility is why the Golden Knights must finish the offseason and enter the regular season with a patient approach.

It’s probably an oversimplified way to look at an extremely complex sport, but say you break the teams into a few different tiers. The tiers include bad, average, good, great, and elite. Teams in the bad and average tier will miss the playoffs, those in the good tier will fight for the final spots, while the great teams will compete with the Stanley Cup favorites, the elite.

As mentioned above, it’s not far-fetched to place Vegas in any of the five tiers. Reasonably though, they are likely to fall somewhere in the middle three, average, good, or great.

With the injury to Robin Lehner, Vegas suddenly have a bit more cap flexibility. Lehner’s $5 million can be stashed on LTIR, giving the Golden Knights room to add to the team. It’s possible with the perfect combination of moves, they could leap up one tier. With where we are in the calendar and the limitations of what $5 million can buy in today’s NHL, a two-tier leap is highly improbable. So, if they are average, they can become good. If they are good, they become great, but if they are average, they aren’t becoming great this season.

Here’s where the need for patience comes in.

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VGK’s Untrustworthy Nature Will Catch Up Eventually Says Allan Walsh

(Photo tweeted by Allan Walsh, Marc-Andre Fleury’s agent)

One of the common themes swirling around the Golden Knights for the past few seasons is the concept of loyalty. Actually, in VGK’s case, it’s a lack of loyalty, but you get the point.

In an unabashed quest to improve the team at all costs, the Golden Knights have had to make some difficult decisions along the way. It’s easy to applaud them for the gusto missing from many front offices around the league, but the bubbling undertone of crossing the unwritten line between hockey business and the mistreatment of people is becoming unmistakable.

Vegas treats you great until they don’t. They’ve gone from the team of opportunity, the ‘golden misfits’ or whatever, to the ‘evil empire.’ I think as long as they win they’ll avoid problems, but if they have a losing season, watch out. –Anonymous NHL agent to The Athletic

Unfortunately, the Golden Knights stopped winning last year and a not-so-anonymous agent thinks it could start to bite them moving forward.

In Vegas, no player is safe. Several players have made the comment now that no player is safe. At any time the rug can be pulled out from under you and if it’ll happen to Marc-Andre Fleury, trust me it can happen to anybody. Some players are going to ultimately decide to play in that environment and don’t care but other players are going to value being in a place where there is a sense of loyalty and stability and appreciation that goes both ways. –Allan Walsh on Agent Provocateur Podcast

Now that the Golden Knights have officially rid themselves of all Walsh clients, he’s not holding back on sharing his feelings publicly about the way Vegas operates.

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Collaborative Effort Between McPhee And McCrimmon Continues As It Has Since Year 1

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

To most this is probably going to be a minor detail, but for some reason, it bothers me that many ignore it, are ignorant to it, or simply prefer the alternate reality in which it is not true.

It’s about the front office and the chain of command. How they operate now and how they’ve operated since the very beginning of the franchise way back before they were even officially recognized as a franchise by the NHL.

The fact is, George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon, no matter what the placard on each of their doors says, work collaboratively as a pair.

Shortly after McCrimmon was hired on August 1st, 2016, he and McPhee had a “fantasy draft” of sorts.

I divvied up the teams, I said you take these 15 NHL teams, I’ll take these 15 NHL teams. You deal with them all year, I’ll deal with these and we shared everything. -McPhee on May 2nd, 2019

It’s a story each has recounted publicly upwards of 10 times, including most recently on an episode of the Cam and Strick Podcast.

In Year One, in terms of the division of responsibilities, George came to me early on and said he wanted to split the teams. He thought it was too much for one guy and I would do a good job with my teams. So, we split the teams and it was pretty random how we split them, I had 15 teams I was responsible to deal with the general manager of and bring the information back to our group and George had 15. –McCrimmon on Cam And Strick Podcast

Both have maintained this style of management has continued on ever since.

We basically co-managed for three years and that will continue. -McPhee on May 2nd, 2019

Over the course of that year, and every day since, our titles have changed but we do everything really collaboratively. We work together every day. That’s the way we’ve run it from the outset. –McCrimmon on Cam And Strick Podcast

McPhee’s quotes are from a press conference at City National Arena the day McCrimmon was named GM. It’s the same day we first learned of the phrase “President of Hockey Operations” which became McPhee’s new title.

Literally however insignificant a move we’ve made, it has never ever been someone overruling the other. -McCrimmon on May 2nd, 2019

So, why is it so important to me that this fact be more widely known? Well, it’s because of where much of the credit and criticism has fallen over the past few seasons.

Many credit McPhee for everything that went on in the first two seasons and give McCrimmon the acclaim for the last three. It makes sense based on the title and who is standing behind the podium answering questions from the media, but it doesn’t when you consider the Golden Knights’ process.

Any credit given to the organization for the epic build-out from the Expansion Draft belongs to both McCrimmon and McPhee. While any critique of the changes that have been made since belongs to both as well.

Happy about the Stone and Stephenson trades? Angry about the Tatar one? Pumped about the run to the Cup Final? Livid about the excuse-ridden playoff-less season? Amazing culture in year one? Callus nature of the roster shuffle the past few? Three coaches, cap hell, Eichel, Pietrangelo, Lehner?

You name it, read the quotes above and realize all of it should be viewed as a joint effort.

So, if you are defending the front office, or doing the exact opposite, do it properly and dole it all out to both Mc’s, not just the one that had the arbitrary title of General Manager at the time of each event.

Bruce Cassidy Joins VGK’s List Of Coaching Candidates

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

This week former Boston Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy officially joined the available coaching class of 2022. With several other highly regarded head coaches on the market, you’d have to imagine the same suitors are reaching out to Cassidy, including the Golden Knights.

The 57-year old coach has strong ties to the Golden Knights organization. George McPhee hired Cassidy to his first NHL head coaching job in 2002. Subsequently, McPhee ended up firing the freshman coach after 110 games behind the bench. Cassidy was a young coach at the time and McPhee was known for his quick trigger finger. It was somewhat of a disaster.

Over the years the two matured and became successful NHL statesmen. However, both are still seeking their first championship.

It’s exhilarating to have that opportunity and that’s my goal to get my name on the Stanley Cup. –Bruce Cassidy on Zoom call with reporters

Some of the complaints McPhee dealt with in Washington were Cassidy’s inability to communicate with certain veterans and the amount of pressure he placed on young players. Both knocks followed him nearly two decades later to Boston. Thankfully, the Golden Knights are a roster full of desperate, hungry veterans.

However, Cassidy disputed the accusations that he’s hard on younger players in his recent Zoom chat with the Boston media.

When I came on board, we changed a lot of the players and we infused our team with a lot of young talent; Jake DeBrusk, Anders Bjork, Danton Heinen, Pasta was still young, Grzelcyk, Carlo, McAvoy. And I think a lot of those guys have gone and had real nice careers. I’m very proud of my record with young guys. –Cassidy on Zoom call with reporters

20 years later things are much, much different. Cassidy has successfully built up a strong resume, coaching the Bruins to the playoffs six times in six seasons. Including, an appearance in the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals.

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Golden Knights In No Hurry To Hire Next Head Coach

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

A big decision is coming for the Golden Knights as they look to hire their third head coach in six seasons. Most are focused on the “who” and that will clearly be the most important part of it all, but what about the “when.”

Going back through the history of the franchise, this is a unique situation for Vegas. Their first coach, Gerard Gallant, was hired in April of 2017, nearly 10 months after GM at the time George McPhee joined the team. The other coach hire happened simultaneously with the firing of Gallant. The Golden Knights didn’t even play a single game with an interim head coach. Gallant’s last game was on a Tuesday in Buffalo and Pete DeBoer was behind the bench in Ottawa on Thursday.

The Golden Knights announced they released DeBoer on Monday of last week. It was two weeks after their season officially came to a close and nearly five months until their next meaningful game.

It’ll be lengthier. That’s what the offseason allows you to do. We’ll be thorough. We’ll look at all the candidates we can identify. We’ll work with people in our organization that have past affiliations with coaches or ideas. We’ll solicit opinions from our pro staff and our amateur staff and people that are in the game at different levels. We’ll identify who the candidates are and go through an interview process. -Kelly McCrimmon

While McCrimmon is right that the offseason allows for plenty more patience in the search, there are still some time restraints based on the competitiveness of the coaching market and the NHL’s offseason calendar.

The biggest such date is the opening of the new league year on July 13th. It’s crucial because every contract set to expire this summer does so on that date. One would think the decisions on pending free agents in the Golden Knights’ system and ones soon to hit the open market from other teams would be something you’d want the new head coach in on.

Not important at all. You need to be reasonable. The person needs to move a family, the person needs to hire a staff and get set up. But in terms of preparation for the amateur draft or free agency, it’s not essential. It may well be (that we hire a coach before), but we’re not bound by any dates in the short term. -McCrimmon

So, buckle up, the Golden Knights could be coachless for a while.

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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McPhee Not Concerned About Lehner/DeBoer Relationship Because “People Get Over It”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The saga at the end of the season between the pipes for the Golden Knights was, well, messy.

It started with Robin Lehner fighting reports of his injuries publicly and it ended with him serving as the backup in a must-win game when he had already decided his season was over and he’d undergo shoulder surgery.

In between, there were soft goals, scathing public comments about his play, a goalie pull during a tie game, a press release about a maintenance day, and a whole lot of speculation.

It’s the second time in three seasons with Pete DeBoer behind the VGK bench that drama about the goalie has marred the end of a season. At least this time there weren’t any graphic memes on Twitter.

So now, the focus turns to the simple question of “can Pete DeBoer and Robin Lehner coexist as head coach and starting goalie of this team?”

During his postseason media availability, DeBoer detailed his entire decision-making process during the final few weeks of the season and even went as far as to express regret that he used the term “healthy” about Lehner down the stretch. He then pointed to the situation as the main reason why it got so contentious.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that there’s friction at the end of a tough season between coaches and players or even players and players. Everyone’s frustrated, everyone’s pushing, there’s lots of tough conversations that are had down the stretch in those situations and you are pushing people to max amount because we need it. This isn’t something that’s unique to us or our group or Robin Lehner. -DeBoer

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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 Collective Failure Began In Early January

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Since January 1st, the Golden Knights were statistically one of the worst teams in the NHL. Over the last four months, Vegas finished in the bottom ten in; Wins, Regulation Wins, Goals For, Goals Per Game, 5-on-5 Shooting Percentage, Losses When Outshooting Opponents, Wins When Outshooting Opponents, Goals Scored in 1st Period, Goals Scored in 2nd Period, Power Play Percentage, Penalties Drawn, Hits, Shootout Win Percentage, and Wins When Trailing First.

Incredibly enough, they only finished a few points behind the final Wild Card spot.

We got to camp and we were never at full health. You’re tired of hearing it, I’m tired of talking about it for as much as we have but clearly it’s the overarching issue that dominated our season. -McCrimmon

The numbers not only show Vegas was a below-average team in the second half of the season but struggled in a myriad of offensive statistics. Leading the way was the Golden Knights’ now notorious inadequate power play. Yet the organization is looking beyond the numbers.

I have great faith in the coaching. I’m not absolving responsibility on us as coaches either. We’re going to look at everything and I think we showed that in what we did during the season. We changed responsibilities, we had different voices, different looks. We’re going to keep looking at this until we get it right and I’m confident we will. -Pete DeBoer

Of course, it was an unfortunate, injury-plaqued season but it’s fair to ask if coach Pete DeBoer and his assistants adjusted enough in the final four months. Did the staff design or tweak enough to help generate more offense in the first 40 minutes of games? Unfortunately, it felt like DeBoer stuck with having “great faith” in what most would consider status quo.

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