The change from Gerard Gallant to Pete DeBoer brought about a slightly new style of play, but more so it seemed to bring a new emphasis on how the Golden Knights would go about creating their offense.
Back when DeBoer was with the Sharks, we specifically highlighted one stat that indicated the exact difference between his way of generating offense and Gallant’s. At the time it was written as an example of what Vegas needed to stop to win the series, but now, it’s what the Golden Knights need to work to be successful in 2020-21.
That stat is percentage of team shots attempts taken by defensemen. Back when DeBoer was with the Sharks, his teams were consistently among the league leaders seeing about 40% of their shot attempts coming from blue liners. Vegas, under Gallant, came in with significantly less, at around 34%. Over the course of the 2018-19 season, that meant about 300 fewer shot attempts from Vegas defensemen than San Jose’s.
It didn’t take long for DeBoer to begin implementing that style of offense here in Vegas. Thanks to some dandy research by SanJoseHockeyNow.com‘s Sheng Peng, the increase in shot attempts from Gallant, to pre-Pause DeBoer, to post-Pause DeBoer was massive.
One of the bigger changes expected with Pete DeBoer taking over for Gerard Gallant was a little more reliance on top players as opposed to rolling four lines and three pairs.
We expected to see a lot more Mark Stone, Shea Theodore, and William Karlsson, while less Nick Holden, Ryan Reaves, and Tomas Nosek. In the regular season, we saw just that with the defensemen, but the forwards actually saw their TOI decrease slightly after the coaching change.
The playoffs are a different animal though, one where coaching decisions are magnified. The largest of coaching decisions is deployment, which players play when and for how long. The expectation was there would be more of a hierarchy under DeBoer than Gallant, while in reality, there were slight changes, but not what you might expect.
Both DeBoer and Gallant used the Pacioretty/Stone line (which was centered by Stastny in 2019 and Karlsson in 2020) for exactly 31% of the game. That’s a little less than 19 minutes per night.
If it wasn’t clear before, it should be now. Robin Lehner is the Golden Knights starting goalie.
Robin (Lehner) has done what you want players to do when they show up with a new team. He has played at a level, not just in games but also through camp, where we have had to give him the net. This is not about Flower not doing something. He has been great. Robin has just been at a different level. –Pete DeBoer to The Athletic
The Golden Knights sticky goalie situation is starting to become a bigger story in the national media. With it has come a rash of opinions about the present and the future, both of which will be challenging for Vegas to navigate.
The next series, two, or three will certainly go a long way in determining where the Golden Knights head with their future between the pipes. At the same time, the reason it will be one, two, or three series is directly correlated to how the situation is handled in the present.
It’s a situation that hasn’t been easy to maneuver already and the Golden Knights have only lost a single game since arriving in Edmonton.
That’s going to be a tough one for them, there’s no doubt. Marc’s such a popular guy and a great character guy but, as I found out, it’s all about winning. They want to win, they’re thinking they’re doing the best thing for their team. They are tough decisions. It’s easy to look at it from the outside and say ‘Why isn’t Fleury playing? He’s done this and that for them,’ but you know they are on a path where they are trying to win every game and obviously they think Lehner is the better goalie right now. It’s a tough call for them and everybody knows that, every fan knows that. A thousand people have asked me that question the last couple days and I say ‘hey I don’t have to make that decision anymore.’ –Gerard Gallant to 2 Man Advantage podcast
In the shortened 2019-20 regular season the Golden Knights led the NHL with 34.5 shots on goal per game. In fact, since they entered the league Vegas has averaged the second-most shots per game over that three-season span.
Vegas led the entire NHL in 19-20 with 28 victories when they won the SOG battle. That’s 71% of their total wins for the season. The Golden Knights went 28-12-7 (.670), and are now 92-43-13 (.665) in franchise history when they’ve outshot other teams. Compare that to their 11-12-1 (.479) record this year when they were outshot and 35-37-9 (.488) all-time.
In 22 games as Golden Knights coach, DeBoer’s club outscored opponents 19 times, and went a stellar 13-4-2.
The bulk of the shots come mostly from the Golden Knights top-six forwards. Max Pacioretty led the team averaging 4.32 shots per game, followed by Jonathan Marchessault. Shea Theodore and Alex Tuch do their part as well, both creating several scoring chances per night. When DeBoer gets all of his weapons firing on net, opposing goaltenders have to play at their best, or else it’ll likely be a long night.
VGK Shot Leaders
Max Pacioretty: 4.32 S/GP Jonathan Marchessault: 3.56 S/GP Shea Theodore: 3.08 S/GP Mark Stone: 2.58 S/GP Reilly Smith: 2.38 S/GP Alex Tuch: 2.33 S/GP William Karlsson: 2.19 S/GP
Last night two of the Golden Knights biggest personalities joined Spittin’ Chiclets to sip some brew, talk some trash, and play a little NHL 20.
Schmidty has been nervous about this all week. -Reaves
As usual, Chiclets hosts Ryan Whitney and Paul Bissonnette loosened up their guests and the video chat turned to trash talk, inside jokes and small nuggets of information. The combination podcast/game-watch was close to an hour, and for a guy who doesn’t enjoy watching others play video games, it was very entertaining. Plus, there was one hilarious story involving former Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant.
The two teammates were asked about getting back to work, and if the team has gotten together at all during the pandemic. Reaves mentioned the entire team was in Las Vegas but they haven’t been able to see one another.
Yeah we’re all here, but no you can’t. Yeah but everything is opening up now. I don’t know what’s going to happen.-Reaves
While we assumed most, if not all of the Golden Knights stayed in Las Vegas, Reaves confirmed it. With players from all over the world, you have to wonder if the organization pleaded with the players to stay in town during the coronavirus lockdown or left it up to them. Either way, it makes it easier for the team to fully unite than if they had to wait for other teammates to self-quarantine.
Las Vegas as a potential NHL hub city came up in conversation, and it sure seems like the players know they won’t be getting any advantages.
I was thinking that would be quite a bit of an advantage for the Golden Knights considering they get to stay at home, but that’s not the case. -Paul Bissonnette
Yeah, we still have to go to the hotel and everything.-Reaves
And with no fans, yeah you’re pretty much in the same ballpark. Other than, would you then be able to see your family?-Bissonnette
No. I don’t think so. I think we’re in full lockdown.-Reaves
So it’s clear the Golden Knights have been told some directives regarding the league’s plan to return. With the concern of creating a disadvantage for the other teams, if Vegas is allowed to play in their home city, they really should be looking at it as if they’re on the road.
Schmidt even thinks this could be the toughest Stanley Cup to win for any team.
Don’t you think that if we start up again it’ll actually be even tougher because everyone’s healthy? -Schmidt
Schmidt’s theory has been floating around hockey media and it’s interesting to hear a player talk about how hard it’ll be to hoist the 2020 Stanley Cup.
Okay, okay enough burying the lead. Let’s get to the funniest moment of the entire webcast. Bissonnette and Whitney pushing Reaves to tell the story about the time he took a shot on net and lost the puck in the netting for a delay of game penalty.
Anytime there’s a change in regime it takes time for the new person in charge to make the adjustments before the world sees results. For Presidents, we give them 100 days. For NHL head coaches, let’s go with 10 games.
Pete DeBoer’s 10th game behind the Golden Knights bench was on Thursday where he led his team to a crazy overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. It moved the team’s record under DeBoer to 5-3-2. They’ve scored 37 goals while allowing 34 with the power play operating at 22.6% and killing at 75%. Their shot share is a whopping 58.5% and the PDO has remained steady under 100 at 98.3.
Let’s start by comparing this all with Gallant, who coached the Golden Knights for 49 games before being let go.
GF per game
GA per game
The numbers show DeBoer up a bit in most categories, but the changes are far from significant.
There have been 8 head coaching changes in the NHL this season. One is Gallant, one just happened yesterday, so we’ve got six others to work with. How did their teams stack up over the first 10 games you ask? We head back to the table!
Imagine what the Golden Knights would look like right now if the first season went the way everyone projected. If they played like an expansion team usually does and finished at or near the bottom of the standings. A lot would look different, but the men behind the bench would still be familiar.
The Golden Knights overachieved in every sense of the word in their first season. They won more games than they were supposed to, they went further in the playoffs than anyone could have ever imagined, and they created a culture of success.
In just one season, the most magical season not to result in a championship in sports history, the Golden Knights went from an organization willing and able to be patient to one with a “Cup or Bust” mentality every single year.
When most players learned they were headed to Vegas in the Expansion Draft, they didn’t know what to expect. Despite whether the player was established, under-utilized, or had not even broken through into the NHL yet, there was a semblance of hesitation with all of them. They’d heard the stories of barren buildings, unknowledgeable fans, and tons and tons of losses. With Vegas, they didn’t know what to expect and there were plenty of reasons to expect the worst as opposed to the best.
Less than a year later, Vegas became a destination. Following every game players would rave about the building, the atmosphere, and the relentlessness of the team on the ice. The first offseason, James Neal, David Perron, Ryan Reaves, and Luca Sbisa all expressed a genuine desire to stay in Vegas. Paul Stastny inked a deal after Vegas knocked his team out of the playoffs a few months before. And then the big one, the captain of the Montreal Canadiens, Max Pacioretty, agreed to sign a long term deal before even stepping foot in the city allowing the Golden Knights to pull off a blockbuster trade right before the second season began.
Every new player, and especially Pacioretty, ranted about the rest of the league’s growing perception of Las Vegas. In less than a year, it went from an unknown to one of, if not the most, desirable destination in the NHL.
That led to players like William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, Alex Tuch, Shea Theodore, Brayden McNabb, and Nate Schmidt to all take fairly friendly deals to stay. It helped keep Marc-Andre Fleury, who could have gone anywhere he wished, in Vegas for the long haul. And again, it led to another trade and sign of Mark Stone, who hasn’t shut up about how much he loves Vegas since.
Success led to more success which led to expectations and those expectations were what ultimately sent Gallant and Kelly packing.
They were handed a group of players, an empty locker room, and a blank canvas and they spun it into what it is now, a team with legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations year over year. They got the most out of a group of players every other team in the league decided were expendable and in doing it, they allowed the front office to capitalize and add more and more talent to the mix.
Without the success in Year 1, there would be no Pacioretty, no Stone, no Stastny, and probably no Fleury.
The building wouldn’t be known as the most electric in the league.
The locker room wouldn’t be viewed as one every player in the league would gladly accept becoming a part of.
And the worst of all, the job of the head coach wouldn’t be so desirable that a recently fired Pete DeBoer sitting next to a pool in Florida with his family would accept the position so fast that he didn’t even have time to find a suit before getting on the plane to take the job.
Gerard Gallant and Mike Kelly were instrumental in creating a winning culture and lofty expectations. They ultimately ended up becoming the first to pay for it as well.
No matter what comes of the rest of this regular season, the postseason, and the future including this core of players, while credit will be given to just about everyone else first, Gallant and Kelly will always deserve their fair share.
Their names won’t be on the Cup if the Golden Knights ever win it. They won’t be at the parade down Las Vegas Boulevard. But their contributions to the Golden Knights franchise should never be undervalued.
I think every coach has some tweaks and some beliefs they want to instill. Coming in mid-season it’s going to be a little slower process and take some time. -Pete DeBoer
DeBoer has been tasked with taking over a team that knows it’s good but haven’t quite been able to sustain it consistently. The Golden Knights started out the season with two big wins against DeBoer’s Sharks, then dropped 15 of their next 24. Next, they hit a hot streak winning 13 of 19, but things quickly took a turn for the worse with Vegas losing four straight, costing Gerard Gallant his job.
Now, DeBoer is in charge and he has to figure out how much needs to be changed and where he needs to implement those changes.
From a systems point of view, there will be some tweaks but this is a well-coached team, I’m not coming in here to change everything. -DeBoer
Those tweaks will come eventually, but don’t expect to see them in the next three games.
We’ve got to take it a little bit slower for me. These games until the break I’m going to use to get to know the guys and the team. The players, I want them to play, show me what you can do, what you are capable of, and hopefully coming out of the break we can start to establish some of those things. -DeBoer
However, DeBoer did outline a few things he says he won’t wait for, those he calls, “non-negotiables.”
I was a coach have some non-negotiable things we’re going to stress and that’s attacking and playing north, stopping and defending hard, tracking back, keeping our shifts short, playing four lines. Those are the non-negotiable items for me that we’re going to try and instill right away. -DeBoer
For the most part, it’s all standard coach speak and things the Golden Knights were already doing with Gallant. But, there’s one “item” among the non-negotiables that will require a change from Vegas’ players.
“Keeping our shifts short.”
The average shift length of all players in the NHL is 45.5 seconds. 47.1 seconds for defensemen and 44.6 seconds for forwards. (as of 1/21/20)
Under Gallant Golden Knights came in way above the averages, while DeBoer’s Sharks teams have been below.
Vegas’ shifts are on average over five seconds longer than San Jose’s and four seconds longer than the league. The difference mostly comes down to forwards, where the Golden Knights 49.1 seconds per shift. While Gallant was at the helm, that was tied with Washington for the highest in the league. (Games through 1/14/20)
**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**
I was grocery shopping when the news broke Wednesday morning and my phone started pinging with text messages.
What I thought was unthinkable and improbable had happened. The Golden Knights had fired Gerard Gallant.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. Especially with the news they had hired Peter DeBoer to replace Gallant.
The man everyone knows as Turk was done wrong. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. This was George McPhee’s call and Bill Foley signed off on it. I guess the guy who guided his team to the Stanley Cup Final in 2018 suddenly forgot how to coach.
The Knights claim this was a performance-based decision, not some off-ice situation like Bill Peters or Jim Montgomery. The team has been struggling for stretches since October as injuries and subpar play from certain individuals have contributed to a frustrating season for everyone.
But keep in mind while this team technically started the day on the outside looking in for the playoffs, the Golden Knights are three points out of first place in the Pacific Division. A week ago, they were at the top of the division. So to think this is a knee-jerk reaction by McPhee is ludicrous.
I don’t believe Gallant had lost the locker room. Some of you have indicated on Twitter that the team wasn’t playing hard and the blame for that goes to the head coach. A couple of you think Gallant was too loyal to certain players, one being Cody Eakin.
To me, this has been brewing for a while, not in the last week. McPhee may have had ideas on who should be playing and perhaps Gallant resisted his suggestions. Maybe Misha Donskov and his hockey analytics staff had given Gallant data that he refused to acknowledge and implement, much like he did in Florida which ultimately led to his demise with the Panthers. Maybe Gallant and goaltending coach David Prior didn’t see eye-to-eye. Remember, McPhee hired Prior before he hired Gallant, and that was a move made outside the norm. Perhaps Prior and Gallant never got fully comfortable working together.
Again, this is all speculation on my part. It could be all of the above, or none of it. But from having been around this team since Day One and having gotten to know Gallant pretty well, I know virtually all his players liked playing for him, respected him and wanted to win for him. David Perron, who was on the inaugural team in 2017-18, said as much on Twitter the other day that he loved Turk.
Now maybe there’s a guy or two who if you hooked him up to a polygraph machine might say they didn’t care for Gallant. But the majority loved him, play hard for him and tried to win for him. But there have been protracted slumps that have impacted this team’s performance.
Alex Tuch is having a miserable season. Ditto for Nate Schmidt. William Karlsson is going through a major goal-scoring slump. Eakin has struggled. Cody Glass’ development has been slower than hoped for. Even the goaltending, both from Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban, has been inconsistent.
You want to hold Gallant accountable for that? Go ahead. But you can’t sit everyone who is underachieving (especially when you are as cap-strapped as the Golden Knights are.)
GM Kelly McCrimmon held a press conference in Ottawa prior to the Golden Knights practice.
"We are in the unique position where we are right in the mix. This isn't a case where the bottom fell out and we were left with no choice. Proactively it was our belief that this is what was going to be the best thing for our organization." -Kelly McCrimmon
"He relates well with players. He's an intelligent guy. His teams have always had strong special teams. He's been to the Stanley Cup Finals with two different teams. He's enjoyed a lot of success in the NHL as a coach and w/ this opportunity, he'll continue to do that."-McCrimmon
"As a manager, sometimes you have a feeling that something isn't the way you need it to be or want it to be. We feel we've underperformed a little bit, and that's not to pile at the foot of Mike and Gerard but sometimes you feel a change is needed." -McCrimmon
DeBoer is expected to join the team later tonight or tomorrow and coach them in tomorrow’s game at the Ottawa Senators. Assistant coaches Ryan Craig, Ryan McGill, Dave Prior, and Tommy Cruz are expected remain with the team.
Are you pleased with the Golden Knights decision to fire Gerard Gallant and hire Pete DeBoer?
DeBoer says there were too many odd-man rushes against last night and said there were a myriad of issues that led to them (bad pinches, forwards not covering, pressing for offense). He thinks it's easily correctable and doesn't foresee it being a long-term problem.