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Golden Knights Coaching Candidates With The Most To Gain/Lose

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On Wednesday we highlighted several Golden Knights players that will have the most to gain and the most to lose under a new coach. Let’s reverse that and examine the same for potential head coaches.

Most To Lose

In reality no coach really loses accepting a position with the Golden Knights. The new skipper will have a roster filled with known veteran players impatiently waiting for another Cup run. However, there isn’t much room for error. There will be immediate pressure on Vegas’ next coach no matter who it is.

Barry Trotz

History would be made if Trotz led the Golden Knights to their first Stanley Cup. The 23-year veteran would be one of four coaches to win a Stanley Cup with two different franchises. Which would cement him as one of the elite coaches in NHL history. Also, Trotz will be known as the guy that was able to clean up the mess in Vegas. So, how does Trotz have anything to lose?

Trotz will have his pick of the litter. More than a handful of NHL organizations are hoping he accepts their offer. Some have weaker rosters than Vegas but have less red tape. Trotz has shown interest in having an influence on team management. Will the Cup winning coach want to deal with an already crowded Vegas front office? There’s a potential power struggle situation if Trotz wants to shop for his own groceries. Also, it’s unlikely he will sit idly by when the front office is performing their annual cap gymnastics. It’s just speculation but Trotz may have a fundamental difference chasing a Stanley Cup when his lineup is over the salary cap. That’s not how you get in the conversation with Scotty Bowman.

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New VGK Coach, New VGK PP

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No matter who becomes the next coach of the Golden Knights they will have to address Vegas’ underachieving power play. Clearly, the man advantage was one of the reasons the organization missed the playoffs, and why Pete DeBoer was fired. It’s a cold world when your team struggles to net pucks 5-on-4. So, regardless of how it looked over the past two and half seasons the new staff will be tasked with fixing it by opening night.

Trotz has got a lot of interest there’s mo question to that. Additional to Philadelphia his list includes Winnipeg, it’s also believed to include Vegas and Detroit. There could be more. -Elliotte Friedman on Hockey Night In Canada

Last season the average power play efficiency was 20.61% with teams scoring on average 49 PP goals. The Golden Knights were below the cut line and totaled ten fewer goals than the league mean. Vegas ended up 25th out of 32 clubs and missed the postseason like all but one team below them (LAK). Had the Golden Knights performed to just the league’s average we’re probably breaking down a second round series or grieving a first round exit.

Most suspect the front office will hire a coach and staff that has had special teams success. Realistically, any candidate that performs above average would net Vegas an extra ten goals. However, there is a lot of expectations and pressure for the next staff. The power play has been under a microscope for some time now and it will continue to be scrutinized. Putting in simple terms, power play success could be a quick way to win over the fanbase.

Currently, the Florida Panthers are the perfect example of how an inept power play can severely damage a team’s pursuit of the Cup. One of the league’s best man-advantage units in the regular season is coming up empty in the second round. In ten power play opportunities the Panthers have one goal to show for it. Tonight, they’re facing elimination. A few conversions may have changed the trajectory of the Sunshine State series.

No one is expecting the Golden Knights to lead the league in power play goals next season but fans are simply asking for an improvement. Letting go of Pete DeBoer was a sign the organization desired an upgrade. Maybe it’ll be a simple strategy change or new offensive weapons. All the Golden Knights need is more production from their special teams to go along with VGK’s history of solid 5-on-5 play. If not, history will most definitely repeat itself.

Understanding Ownership’s Role In DeBoer Firing

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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

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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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PETE DEBOER FIRED BY GOLDEN KNIGHTS

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The Golden Knights announced today Pete DeBoer has been relieved of his duties as head coach of the team.

After lengthy discussions over the last two weeks, we believe that a new coach will put us in the best position to succeed next season. -Kelly McCrimmon in press release

DeBoer led the Golden Knights to a regular season record of 98-50-12 in his two and a half seasons behind the bench. He won four playoff series and compiled a record of 22-17 in the postseason.

GM Kelly McCrimmon is expected to meet with the media to discuss the decision at 1 PM today.

 

Vegas Doesn’t Do Much Of What Makes A Team Hardest To Defend

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Brayden McNabb is among the best defense-first defensemen in the NHL, and certainly one of the best on the Golden Knights. He’s played more than 600 regular season and playoff games in the NHL, so it’s fair to say he’s seen just about every type of player, offensive system, and situation a defenseman can face.

Following the season, I asked McNabb a question that generated an answer I found telling, even if he didn’t mean it to be taken the way I’m about to take it.

The question was simple, “what makes a team hardest to play against for you as a defenseman?”

If they play fast. If they are putting the puck in and forechecking us and you are getting slammed into the boards every time they do that I don’t care who you ask no one really likes that. Teams that move around in the O-zone, make it difficult by making you make hard reads and making it confusing. -McNabb

It all makes perfect sense and nothing in his answer should be surprising to anyone.

But it made me think…

Do the Golden Knights do any of it?

“Play fast.” At times, sure, I’d argue that the Golden Knights played a fast brand of hockey this season, specifically in transition. When they were turning pucks over in the neutral zone or defensive zone, they sprung into the attack quickly and would often demolish teams on the rush.

In the offensive zone though, fast is not a word most would use to describe the VGK offensive style. They were much more methodical, placing a high preference on puck possession as opposed to quick passing.

Next is forechecking with physicality. This was rarely a part of the Golden Knights’ game this season at all. Vegas was not a heavy dump and chase type team and when they were forced to do it, throwing bodies was not exactly the preferred method of retrieval. Instead, Vegas would send the first player into the zone trying to force the puck along the boards to where the second forechecker would usually be. They’d then try to turn the puck over and hit their third forward coming through the center of the ice, or recycle the puck to eventually generate shots from the point.

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

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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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VGK’s Collective Failure Began In Early January

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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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Golden Knights 2021-22 Locker Cleanout Press Conference Audio

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The Golden Knights conducted their season-end media availability today at City National Arena. This is the complete unedited audio of every press conference.

0:00 – 31:47 – Pete DeBoer

31:47 – 1:07:24 – Kelly McCrimmon

1:07:24 – 1:23:10 – Alec Martinez

1:23:10 – 1:39:20 – Max Pacioretty

1:39:20 – 1:48:27 – Shea Theodore

1:48:27 – 2:01:44 – Jack Eichel

2:01:44 – 2:13:20 – Zach Whitecloud

2:13:20 – 2:26:48 – Mark Stone

2:26:48 – 2:38:01 – Jonathan Marchessault

2:38:01 – 2:47:46 – William Karlsson

2:47:46 – 2:57:56 – Brayden McNabb

VGK’s Frustration Visibly Noticeable To Opponents

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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.

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