All of Las Vegas was shocked on the morning of January 15th, 2020. I am not talking about the Golden Knights announcing the increase of ticket prices either. The team told media that they were firing head coach Gerard Gallant and the hiring Peter DeBoer as his replacement. Needless to say, no one in the Las Vegas media saw this coming. There was never any indication that Knights were going to make this move and now everyone is scrambling to find the answers. DeBoer is going to make his debut with the team on January 16th, 2020 against the Ottawa Senators.
Shapiro opens things up:
“My initial reaction, was what? I know that they have been on a little bit of a skid on the road. They haven’t been playing their best hockey. Year 1 year 2 were beyond extremely successful. They are still a playoff team this year. They are still a winning hockey team. It leads me to believe a couple things. This is speculation. Nobody within the Vegas Golden Knights media knows exactly why this happened. My opinion of it this: I believe there is some friction. There had to be something going on within the Knights organization with Gerard Gallant. This isn’t just about wins and losses.
My initial reaction was shock as well. That was the last thing I expected to hear relating to the Golden Knights. I thought a big trade for a star defenseman was much more likely to happen rather than Gallant being fired. I agree that there has to be something more than results that caused the Knights management to make this drastic decision. Something was going on behind the scenes that we were unaware of. Gallant is not someone who would take to the media and tell everyone about the drama. It’s just not the kind of coach he is. This is kind of reminiscent of the way he was fired from the Florida Panthers without all the theatrics in which he had to hail his own cab after his bags were taken off the bus. Just like with the Panthers, Gallant was let go after a disappointing road loss. For the Knights, the road loss came against the painfully average Buffalo Sabers that marked the team’s 4th loss in a row.
Shapiro later went on to say:
“If this guy DeBoer is not able to win immediately and I mean immediately. Like this road trip. I’m telling you right now. The Las Vegas Knights management, they are going to get hammered. Absolutely hammered and rightfully so. My question is this: Why couldn’t you have waited a couple of days to do this during the break? Why do you decide to do this on a road trip and you’re not even in town?
I think it actually isn’t the worst time to fire a coach. Bringing in a new head coach amidst a losing streak alleviates any pressure to win so I would disagree with Shapiro on this point. The bottom line is that the Knights haven’t been very good this year and management wanted to fire up the players. A new head coach means that everyone will have to prove themselves all over again and there is no pressure greater than only having 3 games to prove yourself before the All-Star break. The last thing the team wants is a new head coach that underperforms at home when all the fans basically had to take out a loan to be there. This gives DeBoer the most time possible to prepare this team for the 5 game home stand that starts on February 13th. The city of Las Vegas, in my opinion, will not start to panic until then.
Sharp gives him opinion on the firing:
“Here’s my thoughts on this. The reason that they fired him on this particular timing, on this road trip, they don’t have a lot of experience. Bill Foley doesn’t have a lot of experience owning a hockey team. I think this is kind of a rookie move firing him right now in the middle of a road trip. I agree with that, but does it shock me that he was fired? No because he treats the media very poorly. I think that if he treats the media poorly, he probably had problems with the powers that be on the Knights as well.
I can understand why people think the timing is awkward. They had this planned more than I think people give it credit for. I think this date had been predetermined for at least a week. That means that DeBoer has been game planning for the January 16th, 2020 game against the terrible Ottawa Senators for quite some time. That game is the one you want if you are a new coach. Even better, the Knights face the Montreal Canadians just two days later. That gives DeBoer the most time possible to prepare for road games against Boston, Carolina, Nashville, and Tampa Bay in that order. If he can secure two wins in that stretch of games the move looks a lot better than most people’s initial reactions seem to be.
Chris Wynn weighs in:
“This is unreal to be quite honest with you Bryan and JD. JD I absolutely respect and understand what you are trying to say. There has to be much more to this than just about Gerard Gallant with the media. Gerard Gallant record wise. This has to be something with Gerard Gallant and upper management. It has to be something with George McFee and Gallant. There is utterly no reason whatsoever you would let a coach go two and half season into an expansion franchise.”
The idea that Gallant was coaching a masterclass this season is definitely an overstatement. The team has barely been above .500 at home and has looked embarrassing against the top teams in the NHL. The Golden Knights fans don’t want to see this team get bounced in the first round of the playoffs. Personally, I think that is exactly what would have happened if they kept Gallant for the rest of the season. Not all of the blame can be put on Gallant for their subpar performances. The top line players have not played as well as they have been in the past. Players like Jonathan Marchessault and Mark Stone have been complacent with their new contracts. That could also be attributed to the way they have been coached. If DeBoer can get the most out of those two players, then other teams will start to take the Knights seriously again. The other point is that the Knights are not your average expansion with no expectations. This is a team that is less than two years removed from a Stanley Cup Finals appearance. That has to be the baseline of desired performance especially when this roster is better than the one that made it there. If management felt that the roster wasn’t being utilized correctly then they have the right to make a coaching change.
JD brings up a very important point:
“He (DeBoer) is actually one of the only coaches who has made the Stanley Cup Finals with two different teams in his first year of coaching that team.”
This is probably the main reason that the Knights went with DeBoer. Historical trends can be important and if anyone can bring this team back to Stanley Cup Finals mid-way through the season then it is him. I would hope they did more of a due diligence than that, but we will never really know. You would hope his coaching style and personality also played a big factor in the decision. On the same note, I don’t know what other coach you could hire that you feel comfortable with other than DeBoer. No one on the market has this kind of experience.
JD gives an important retrospective:
“Let’s be honest, he gets fired and DeBoer gets announced as the new head coach within 15 minutes. Obviously, this was in the works so is it a shock that Gerard Gallant responded to that reporter the way that he did and walked out of the meeting?”
This is biggest insight we will get when it comes to the real reason behind Gallant being fired so suddenly. His track record against winning teams this season has not been great and when David Shoen asked Gallant about it, I think he hit a soft spot. Golden Knights management must have been hammering him all season and I think that really annoyed him. At that point, I think it’s fully possible he knew he was going to get fired already. They might have told him his last game was going to be against the Buffalo Sabers either way. We may never know.