Jacob Walters The Hockey Writers
Vegas Golden Knights Hire DeBoer – If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Hire ‘Em
On Wednesday morning, Gerard Gallant was fired as head coach of the Vegas Golden Knights, and was replaced by Peter DeBoer. Also out of the mix was assistant Mike Kelly. This was just another head coach being fired in a topsy-turvy NHL season, which has seen teams like the Dallas Stars and Calgary Flames, among others, fire their head coaches. As for Gallant, he finishes his Vegas tenure with a record of 118-75-20, leading the Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season.
Is It Surprising?
Yes, but actually no. Gallant was a good coach who was able to make adjustments on the fly. Gallant was also a player’s coach. But Vegas has been underwhelming despite being around the top of the Pacific Division for most of the season. Even Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon has been vocal about Vegas’s issues this season.
“You’ve seen consistency issues,” said McCrimmon. “We are like a lot of teams–had real high hopes for the year, still have real high hopes for the year. We’re in a unique position where we’re right in the mix, so this isn’t a case where the bottom fell out and we were left with no choice. It was a situation more where proactively it was our belief that this was going to be the best thing for our organization.”
Gallant has also been criticized for not utilizing his players properly during his Vegas tenure. Vegas’ recent slide hasn’t inspired any confidence in Gallant, either, especially with teams like Vancouver and Arizona on the rise. Therefore, Vegas is going with DeBoer for now.
So Who Is Pete DeBoer?
DeBoer is the former head coach of the San Jose Sharks, who knocked out the Golden Knights in the first round of the playoffs last season. DeBoer has been around the league for quite some time, previously coaching the Florida Panthers and New Jersey Devils in addition to the Sharks.
He has a career record of 415-329-111 and has led both the Devils and Sharks to the Stanley Cup Final. On a side note, DeBoer was one of the coaches fired earlier in the season after San Jose’s 15-16-2 start.
What Should Golden Knights Fans Expect From DeBoer?
If there’s one thing DeBoer brings to the table, it’s veteran experience. DeBoer has been known around the league as a coach who’s able to coach veterans and younger players effectively at the same time. His tenure with New Jersey was marked by the rise of Zach Parise and being able to work well with Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias. The same can be said during his time with San Jose, where he made Joel Ward into a solid skater.
DeBoer even brought in Evander Kane and has gotten some use from him after Kane’s past melodramas. DeBoer has also been able to adjust his team to counteract its weaknesses. A perfect example is with bringing Martin Jones to the forefront to address San Jose’s goaltending woes during his tenure. Another thing to take away from DeBoer’s tenures in San Jose and New Jersey is his admiration for playing a constricting defensive style. DeBoer’s teams are also big on puck control and not giving opponents a chance to create anything on the other end.
So What Are The Downsides Of DeBoer’s Coaching?
DeBoer has been criticized for leaning too much on certain players at times. This is especially true when he tried to lean on a motley crew consisting of Elias, Michael Ryder, Jaromir Jagr, and Ryan Clowe at the end of his Devils tenure. DeBoer also is not a coach that can utilize a roster lacking in talent. Granted, there are weaknesses that he would address such as the aforementioned goaltending problem in San Jose.
It’s also not DeBoer’s fault that both Florida and New Jersey either didn’t provide enough talent or gutted their team of talent. DeBoer has often been a victim of shoddy ownership. But DeBoer will look like a deer in the headlights when faced with a weakened team. There have even been players expressing their disdain for DeBoer as a coach, which may come into play during DeBoer’s tenure as the head coach of the Golden Knights.
So What Will DeBoer’s Tenure With Vegas Be Like?
Fortunately for DeBoer, Vegas has a predominately veteran team. With wings like Reilly Smith and Max Pacioretty, expect DeBoer to get more out of his veteran group. This will also ring true for players like Jonathan Marchessault and Mark Stone. Keep in mind that the Golden Knights have a shooting percentage of 8.9 percent, 0.7 percent below the league average. Therefore, getting more scoring opportunities will be key. This is especially true with all the offensive talent the Golden Knights have.
Also expect DeBoer to try and get Paul Stastny going, as Stastny has struggled all season in Vegas. Stastny only has 21 points, with a plus/minus of minus-eight this season. As mentioned earlier, expect the Golden Knights to try and control the puck more as well. They will also try and suffocate opponents defensively. That will mean putting the pressure on opponents in the defensive zone. This is especially crucial with the Golden Knights’ current four-game slide, during which Vegas has allowed an average of four goals a game.
What Else Should We Know About This Move?
Keep in mind that there have been teams in recent history to make coaching changes in the middle of the season and win the Stanley Cup in the same season.
Some examples include the 2015-16 Pittsburgh Penguins and last season’s St. Louis Blues.
Vegas is taking a gamble on this sort of move and is hoping to come out a winner.
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