When the Golden Knights pulled off the blockbuster trade to acquire Jack Eichel, it became clear they would have to do some serious work to on their salary cap. That work is now complete and it has resulted in the departures of Max Pacioretty, Evgenii Dadonov, and Dylan Coghlan.
The trio of players shipped out accounted for 42 goals last season with Pacioretty missing more than half of the year due to injury. Also, while still unsigned, it’s possible Mattias Janmark and his nine goals exit Vegas as well. That’s more than 50 goals leaving the organization without a single new player being added to the fold (at least to this point).
So, how do they make up that offense?
That question was posed to GM Kelly McCrimmon at today’s press conference and his answer was essentially four-pronged. Let’s go through each of them.
“We anticipate a healthy lineup will put more offense into our lineup”
McCrimmon specifically singled out Stone, but the larger point is that without virtually every important player on the team missing significant time, as we saw last year, there will be an influx in scoring.
Stone, Eichel, Karlsson, and Smith will all likely generate more this coming year than they did last year. Between them, they scored 51 goals and tallied 128 points in 2021-22. The career averages of those four players calls for something closer to 98 goals and 245 points. Throw in Martinez, Howden, and Hague and there’s room for even more.
It’s pretty clear that if the team is significantly healthier, scoring will go up.
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.
Today the Golden Knights introduced a head coach for the third time in franchise history as they set to enter their sixth season.
Gerard Gallant, the team’s first coach, led the Golden Knights through a storybook inaugural season that ended up just three wins from the Stanley Cup, the closest Vegas has ever been. 18 months later, he was out of a job, replaced mid-season by a rival who had been standing on the other bench in Gallant’s last postseason game as bench boss of the Golden Knights.
Pete DeBoer took over and got off to a winning start before the world shut down due to a pandemic. When hockey resumed, he led the Golden Knights to back-to-back conference finals before experiencing a season unlike any other in 2021-22, mired by long-term injury and resulting in Vegas missing the playoffs for the first time ever. Two weeks later, he was relieved of his duties as head coach ending a tenure the man who just fired him said, “cannot be considered anything but a success.”
Now, in walks Bruce Cassidy. A head coach who, like his predecessors, enters with a sterling record of success in the NHL but, also like his predecessors, having felt his time at the previous stop was cut short.
As for the other coaches, Turk and Pete, I’ve gotten to know them over the years, two excellent coaches doing good jobs in the league but I thought I did a good job in Boston too and here I am. So it’s a part of the business. -Cassidy
So, why choose Vegas knowing their penchant for making rapid changes at the position he’d be hired into?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.