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Gerard Gallant And Mike Kelly Helped Create What Eventually Got Them Fired

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.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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.

VGK Assistant Coaches Explain How/Why They Select D-Pairs

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

For just the second time this season, the Golden Knights will see a new defensive pair along their blueline. Following the injury to Nate Schmidt, Nic Hague was placed into the lineup playing alongside Deryk Engelland. He held that position for seven straight games, recording two assists, six shots on goal, and averaging 14:28 per game.

Tonight, however, Hague will watch from the press box as Jake Bischoff is slated to make his NHL debut. Bischoff made the Golden Knights roster out of training camp last year, stayed with the team for about three weeks, but never drew into a game. This year, he was sent to the AHL out of training camp before being recalled eight days ago to replace Jimmy Schuldt.

Like Hague, his defense partner will be Deryk Engelland as the two slot in as the Golden Knights third pair.

Recently, speaking at a fan Q&A hosted at Jaguar & Land Rover Las Vegas, assistant coaches Ryan McGill and Mike Kelly were asked about what goes into the decision-making process of picking defensive pairs.

First of all, we like to try to put experience with a little bit of inexperience. Just to give them a little bit of a safety valve. Number two, you want to have somebody that can move the puck up the ice quick or that can be involved with the play with another guy that can watch his back. -Ryan McGill

McGill is the assistant that handles the Golden Knights defense.

But the biggest thing trying to find chemistry. If you don’t find chemistry you can’t have those players together all the time. -McGill

Kelly, who has worked alongside Gerard Gallant for nearly a decade, piggybacked McGill’s comments.

If something happens on the ice where it didn’t go well for the younger guy, he makes a mistake, he’s going back to the bench with the guy he’s playing with. You like to have someone who is a good person with experience whispering in his ear saying ‘don’t worry about it kid.’ -Mike Kelly

The Golden Knights have always had a heavy focus on leadership, character, and other unquantifiable intangibles. Through two years and eight games, it’s hard to argue against its success.

You put them with people that you think it’s going to work with and you kind of look the other way, cross your fingers, and hope it works. Most of the time it does. Sometimes they are going to hit a rocky patch but you know if they are with a Deryk Engelland you know they are hearing the right words. -Kelly

Every rookie that’s come through the Golden Knight d-corps, Hague, Schuldt, Whitecloud, and Theodore, has found their way to Engelland’s side.

Now it’s Jake Bischoff’s turn. Here’s to hoping there aren’t too many “don’t worry about it kid” comments needed from Engelland tonight in Pittsburgh.

Revenge On The Mind For The Golden Knights Against Gallant’s Former Team

Remember what these fools did to us? Time to get even Mikey! (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s just a part of life for an expansion team that every night it’s going to be someone else’s turn to be going against their old mates.

Though most had the Penguins game circled as the most emotional one on the schedule, the circumstances surrounding tonight’s game may be more motivating for the Golden Knights.

We were winning 2-1 after the 2nd and they came back 3-2. We lost that game. I think we were a little over .500. We lost the game, we were disappointed, but out of nowhere they told us to go back into the room. We didn’t know what was happening. Tom Rowe, the GM, told us they were going to fire Turk and Mike. Everybody was just shocked and so mad because Turk was the kind of coach that a player wants to battle for. That’s one of the reasons we are winning right now, because he want to win for a guy, not because he’s a good coach. Everybody was disappointed, and when I say everybody, I mean everybody. -Jonathan Marchessault

But not only did the Florida Panthers fire head coach Gerard Gallant and assistant Mike Kelly, they left them on the street to hail a cab. It was widely regarded around the league as the wrong way to handle business and it didn’t go unnoticed in the Golden Knights locker room. I asked seven players if they knew about the “taxi picture” and the way it ended in for Gallant in Florida, six of the seven were aware of it and the seventh seemed legitimately peeved when I told him what happened.

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Power Play Scoring Must Pick Up From Career Numbers

Power-Play
/ˈpou(ə)r plā/
noun

A situation in hockey where one team has a greater number of players on the ice because the opposing team has a player or players are in the penalty box Sin Bin, giving the team a scoring advantage.

It’s no secret, NHL teams that have success on the power play, usually end up in the playoffs. Eight of the top ten most efficient PP units made the postseason. Tampa was one of the teams to miss the playoffs, but only by one point. For example, take last season’s Stanley Cup champion. They were 3rd in PP% at 23.1% and 2nd in PP goals with 60.

With playoff expectations low in Las Vegas, the Golden Knights coaching staff will have all season to find the right PP combinations. It could be frustrating for Gerard Gallant but that’s why he has Assistant Coach Mike Kelly. We’ll get to him later…

Offensively, PP goals can be a way to neutralize an opponent. Inferior teams can compete further in a game when they win the penalty battle. Let’s get serious, this is the NHL, stars get the calls, and unfortunately, Vegas’ only star is between the pipes, which likely means the Golden Knights will be down a man more often than they’re up one. But, if they can make the most of their PP opportunities, it could help pick up a few wins or overtime losses.

2017 Top NHL PP Percentage:

Sabres 24.5% Missed playoffs
Maple Leafs 23.8% First round exit
Penguins 23.1% Cup Champions
Capitals 23.1% Second round exit
Oilers 22.9% Second round exit
Lightning 22.8% Missed playoffs
Bruins 21.7% First round exit
Blues 21.3% Second round exit
Wild 21.0% First round exit
Rangers 20.3% Second round exit

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Golden Knights Hire Two Assistant Coaches

Before George McPhee fills up the bench with players at the Expansion Draft, Gerard Gallant has begun bringing on a few of the people who will stand behind the bench and coach the Golden Knights.

First, the obvious one, Mike Kelly. Kelly who was an assistant with Gallant in Florida, as well as in Saint John in the QMJHL, has been hired to the same position with the Golden Knights. Kelly had been Gallant’s top assistant the three seasons Gerard was with the Panthers and was always expected to have a place in Vegas once Gallant was hired.

I am very excited to be working with Mike again. We enjoyed success in both Florida and Saint John and I am eager to bring that success to the Golden Knights. Mike is a great guy with a wealth of hockey knowledge and I couldn’t be happier with the decision to bring him to Las Vegas. -Gerard Gallant, Head Coach in Press Release

The next assistant hung up his skates to take a shot at coaching. It’s Ryan Craig, who was most recently the captain of the Cleveland Monsters of the AHL. Craig’s playing career spanned 14 years in the NHL and AHL. Prior to going pro, Craig played for the Brandon Wheat Kings for six seasons from 1997-2003. Vegas Assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon drafted Craig in Brandon.

Craig played 71 games this season with the Monsters before deciding to take on the assistant coaching job in Vegas.

He is well-respected in the hockey community and has been a tremendous leader throughout his playing career, both on and off the ice. I am confident that the leadership characteristics he exuded as a player will translate well behind the bench in his new role as an assistant coach. -Gallant in Press Release

Most NHL teams have either two or three assistant coaches in addition to their head coach and goalie coach, so it’s possible one more assistant is added in the coming days. The Golden Knights goalie coach, Dave Prior, was hired eight months before Gallant.

McPhee Ready To Hire Assistants When Gallant Returns At End Of the Month

The next step in the hockey operations process is filling out the Golden Knights coaching staff. Most NHL teams have between three and five coaches in addition to their head coach. The Golden Knights currently have Gerard Gallant as the boss, prior to his signing, the team added Dave Prior as a goalie coach and Wil Nichol as the Director of Player Development.

Now it’s time for Gallant to add a few assistants of his own, and according to George McPhee it won’t be long before he does so.

He’s over at the World Championships with Team Canada at the moment, look forward seeing him at the end of the month and filling out his staff. –George McPhee in interview with TSN 690

The leading candidate for a position is Mike Kelly, Gallant’s former top assistant with both the Florida Panthers and Saint John Sea Dogs.

Dave Barr and Scott Allen were also assistants with the Panthers when Gallant was released. Barr was retained to run the power play for interim head coach Tom Rowe, but was fired when Rowe was demoted in April. Both are possibilities to resurface with the Golden Knights.

Mike Kitchen (Blackhawks), Newell Brown (Coyotes), Doug Lidster (Canucks), Perry Pearn (Canucks), and James Patrick (Stars) are among some of the assistants that were fired from their positions at the conclusion of the season.

It wouldn’t be surprising if the Golden Knights coaching staff wasn’t completely filled until after the Expansion Draft, but McPhee sounds like he’s ready to start bringing coaches on board as soon as Gallant returns from Germany/France and the IIHF Worlds.

Mike Kitchen, VGK Assistant Extraordinaire?

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

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