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Vegas Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant speaks during a news conference on June 6, 2018, in Las Vegas
Gerard Gallant of the Vegas Golden Knights speaks during a news conference at T-Mobile Arena on April 1, 2019 in Las Vegas.
Files: Former San Jose Sharks coach Peter DeBoer
The best advice anybody can live by if they’re headed for Vegas is that you’ve got to know when to hold them and know when to fold them.
In the case of Vegas Golden Knights’ general manager Kelly McCrimmon, he decided Wednesday morning it was time to throw in the towel on coach Gerard Gallant. So less than 24 hours after the Knights lost their fourth straight in a 4-2 decision to the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday, Gallant was sent packing and replaced by former San Jose coach Peter DeBoer.
While McCrimmon was short on specifics, it sure sounds like he didn’t like the hand Gallant was dealing in the dressing room and so after 30 months or so with the NHL’s expansion team he’s finished. DeBoer, let go last month by the Sharks, was expected to arrive in Ottawa Wednesday night and will make his debut behind the bench against the Senators Thursday at the Canadian Tire Centre.
Assistant coach Mike Kelly was also fired with Gallant, who only weeks ago was named the head coach of the Pacific Division all-star team at the festivities set for Jan. 24-25 in St. Louis.
“Sometimes you have a feeling that something isn’t the way you need it to be or want it to be,” said McCrimmon in a hastily-called news conference at the Canadian Tire Centre before the club went on the ice. “We feel we’ve underperformed a little bit and certainly not to pile it on the feet of Mike and Gerard.
“But sometimes you feel a change is needed. That’s what went into the decision and like anything we do, we try to do what we genuinely believe is in the best interests of the Golden Knights’ organization and we believe that’s the case.”
The Knights are on the outside of the NHL’s playoff picture looking in but they’re tied in points with the Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets for the final wildcard spot, however, both teams have two games in hand. McCrimmon felt if this move was made now it would give the organization time to get back on track before it’s too late and the team is in a free-fall.
The Knights head into this game with a 4-6-0 record in their last 10 games.
“It wasn’t a specific block of games or a specific game. It’s hard to put into words unless you’ve done these jobs but it’s more just the feeling you have that a change might be needed,” he said. “I wish I could be more specific than that but that’s really how we felt.
“We thought about this a lot but it was certainly wasn’t something we did in haste or in the recent four games, it was a decision that was arrived at over time.”
Many will tell you Gallant has done a spectacular job with the Knights and that’s why this decision was so surprising. He has 213-118-75 record since arriving in Vegas and even captured the Jack Adams award after the club’s inaugural season in 2017-18 when the club went to the Stanley Cup final. The Knights lost in Round 1 last spring.
So, why did they turn to DeBoer?
“Peter’s a really good coach and he’s had a lot of success in the NHL,” McCrimmon added. “With him working most recently in the Pacific Division, we’ve had a chance to watch his teams play and that his teams are very well prepared and very well coached.
“We think he’ll do a very good job for us and he’s very respected coach in the industry.”‘
McCrimmon said they didn’t reach out to DeBoer until the last 24 hours.
“It came together very quickly and that’s why the announcement today,” McCrimmon said.
The Knights have been up and down which is why they’re frustrated with where they stand at the moment. They felt if they let it slip any further they’d be on the outside looking in without at least giving themselves the opportunity to get back on track.
“You’ve seen consistency issues and I can’t be more clear that’s not necessarily at the feet of the two guys that were relieved today,” said McCrimmon. “I think our team has more to give and that’s what went into the decision.”
The Knights management likes what DeBoer can bring to the table .
“He’s always been a coach that has a lot of respect from his players,” McCrimmon said. “He relates well with players and he’s an intelligent guy. His teams have always been strong on special teams and he’s been to the Stanley Cup final with two different teams (San Jose and New Jersey). He’s enjoyed a lot of success in the NHL as a coach.
“With this opportunity, I think he’ll continue to do that.”
In the end the Knights felt they couldn’t gamble any longer with Gallant behind the bench and nobody will find out until down the road if this bold move is going to pay dividends.
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