6 Coaching Candidates for the Vegas Golden Knights

Image Credit: Joe Sargent/NHLI

In hindsight, it was the only move they could have made.

On May 16, the Vegas Golden Knights officially fired head coach Peter DeBoer after a disappointing 2021-22 campaign that saw the NHL’s 31st franchise miss the playoffs for the first time in their history.

While injuries certainly were part of the issue plaguing the team, there were a few reasons that pointed to DeBoer’s downfall. The post-All Star break saw the team struggle and fall from first in the Pacific Division to out of the postseason entirely, including a crucial stretch that saw the team win only once in their final six games. There were also thinly-veiled jabs thrown at starting goaltender Robin Lehner in this stretch, despite Lehner playing injured and even considering season-ending surgery. After the team missed the playoffs, GM Kelly McCrimmon pointed out that management would meet with DeBoer to discuss the future of the team. While details on such a meeting are minimal at the time of this article, DeBoer’s firing is likely an indication that the team sought a new direction.

While the ultimate reason behind DeBoer’s firing is unclear, something that may have played a role in the decision was the glut of candidates that the Knights now have available.

While the Knights will be looking for their third coach in just five seasons, this will be their first real coaching search; the team announced DeBoer’s hiring at the same time as the firing of inaugural coach Gerard Gallant. They will also be competing with the Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, and the Winnipeg Jets for their candidates, and that list doesn’t include any other team who may seek a change in direction after a disappointing postseason run. While Vegas faces a serious cap crunch for next season, most of their current core is still locked up for the foreseeable future, so any roster reconfiguration might not damage the chance of a potential Stanley Cup run too badly. This is a team and ownership group that clearly want to win now, which should attract some attention.

In no particular order, these are the six candidates who I would vouch for to take the job:

Barry Trotz, former New York Islanders head coach: Let’s get the obvious name out of the way first, shall we?

Trotz was a name no one was anticipating to lose his job, even after this season ended. The Islanders had injury issues like Vegas did, but also had to contend with a staggering 13-game road trip to start the year while preparing to open the new UBS Arena. Despite all of these issues, the Islanders still finished the season with a top-10 defense, a threshold that the team has crossed in all four years of Trotz’s tenure. This includes a top-ranked defense in the 2018-19 season, which is relevant because of the team’s Jennings Trophy-winning starting goaltender that year: Robin Lehner.

Outside of Lehner potentially vouching for the coach that oversaw his career year, there are other reasons the Knights should be circling Trotz. He has the championship pedigree from winning the Stanley Cup in 2018 which, ironically enough, came against Vegas. He will install a defense-first system that should assist a team like Vegas that doesn’t have a de facto starting goaltender. While he won’t be able to bring top assistant Lane Lambert, who took Trotz’s place as coach of the Islanders, there should be plenty of potential assistant coaches that can help fix what’s been an inconsistent offense and special teams unit.

With how aggressive Vegas has been in the past with their personnel decisions, it would make sense for McCrimmon and owner Bill Foley to send their best possible offer to the top coaching candidate on the market.

Claude Julien, Team Canada and former Boston Bruins head coach: I’m not typically a fan of hiring retreads, but Julien’s mentality and credentials would make him worth a look.

Julien’s NHL career has seen him serve as a head coach to the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens, two prestigious franchises in high-profile hockey markets. While his tenure in Montreal was hit-or-miss, his time in Boston was a success. The Bruins made it out of the First Round five of seven times the team made it to the postseason, including being Stanley Cup Champions in 2011 and Eastern Conference Champions in 2013. He would also win the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s best coach in the 2008-09 season.

Julien, much like Trotz, would implement a defensive-minded system that has allowed his teams to succeed in both the regular season and the playoffs. More importantly, however, is his current connection to Team Canada. In Canada’s current run at the World Championships, Vegas is represented by Logan Thompson, Nic Roy, and Zach Whitecloud, so they will have experience playing in Julien’s system. If Team Canada is successful and the Vegas contingent enjoy playing under Julien, that could go a long way towards putting him in good position to land the Knights job.

There will be plenty of former NHL head coaches that will be seeking a return behind the bench. If Vegas can’t land Trotz, Julien would be an excellent backup plan.

Jim Montgomery, St. Louis Blues assistant coach: Even among coaches with NHL experience, Montgomery’s addition here may come across as a bit unorthodox.

Since beginning his head coaching career in 2010, Montgomery has had major success at every level he’s been in. He won championships with the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints in 2010 and 2012, as well as with the University of Denver Pioneers in 2017. That success would see the Dallas Stars select him as their head coach for the 2018-19 season. That year, the Stars would make it to the playoffs with the second-best defense in the league, advancing to the Second Round before being bounced by eventual champion St. Louis in a double-overtime Game 7. Midway through the next season, however, Montgomery was fired for “unprofessional conduct” that was later revealed to be alcohol abuse. Despite being coached in the interim by Rick Bowness, the Stars would once again have the second-best defense in the league and make it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, indicating that Montgomery’s style of play has a track record of postseason success.

Since then, Montgomery has started to rebuild his reputation with the St. Louis Blues, working under one of the NHL’s best coaches in Craig Berube. While any team that wants Montgomery will have to ensure that his personal demons have been conquered, he also stands as one of the more interesting propositions amongst all of the coaching candidates. Despite his short track record at the NHL level, the results have shown a strong defensive-minded coach who earns the trust of his players. That’s the kind of mentality a team like Vegas could use to push them over the hump.

Montgomery would be a calculated risk, that much is certain. However, he could be the risk that pays huge dividends for the Knights.

Derek Lalonde, Tampa Bay Lightning assistant coach: Now, we get into the candidates who have never held an NHL head coaching job before. What better way to start than the top lieutenant of the two-time defending champions?

While Lalonde has never been an NHL head coach, he’s had success at nearly every level he’s been a coach in. In previous stops in the USHL and ECHL, he won the award for best coach in both leagues. After a short stint in the AHL, Lalonde was hired by Steve Yzerman to serve as an assistant to Jon Cooper for the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning would win the President’s Trophy in his first season under Cooper and, more importantly, would win the Stanley Cup in the next two seasons. It bodes well for Lalonde’s chances to land a spot at the NHL level.

While Detroit would be an obvious landing spot due to his connection with Yzerman, there’s reason for Vegas to throw their hat in the ring. Lalonde’s experience in Tampa gives him experience with superstar-laden teams that are suffering from cap issues, which describes the Knights to a T right now. Bonus points would come if Lalonde could lure a potential assistant in Benoit Groulx, the current head coach of Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate in Syracuse who has overseen the development of many young players on the Lightning right now.

There’s nothing wrong with choosing to zig while the rest of the league zags. In a coaching world that favors those with experience, Vegas hiring Lalonde would be a breath of fresh air that the franchise needs right now.

Spencer Carbery, Toronto Maple Leafs assistant coach: Well, the Knights are built like the NHL equivalent of the Los Angeles Rams. Why not try and find their Sean McVay?

Carbery, who will only be 40 years old by the time next season begins, is already establishing himself as a name on the rise. He hit the ground running with the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays, building them up in his five years there and winning their coach of the year award in 2014. Even more impressive was his turnaround of the AHL’s Hershey Bears, taking them from one of the league’s bottom-feeders to one of its elite. It culminated in a coach of the year award in 2019 and a first-place finish for Hershey in 2021. This season, Toronto brought him up to breathe life into what was a middling power-play unit, and the results have been superb as Toronto put together the league’s best power play.

That last anecdote should be what draws Vegas’s attention over to Carbery. In DeBoer’s two full seasons as head coach in Vegas, the power play finished bottom-ten on both occasions. It looked far too predictable, the players seemed to lose confidence on the man advantage, and the team would go for long stretches without a power play goal. With the amount of offensive talent this team has, that should be considered unacceptable. Bringing in Carbery, who has experience working on the power play with some of the best offensive players in the league, should certainly see improvement in that area in order to not put so much pressure on defense and goaltending.

We’ve seen before in the sports world that hiring a young coach before his market value hits a premium pays off sometimes. Why shouldn’t Vegas embrace that mentality with Carbery?

Mike Vellucci, Pittsburgh Penguins assistant coach: Want a veteran coach without wading through the endless supply of retreads? Vellucci is your candidate of choice.

Vellucci served thirteen years as the head coach of the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers, most notably winning the league championship and Coach of the Year honors in 2007. After a stint as assistant GM in the Carolina Hurricanes organization, he would return behind the bench in 2017 for the Charlotte Checkers, Carolina’s AHL affiliate. He would eventually win the Calder Cup and the Coach of the Year award in the 2018-19 season against Vegas’s then-affiliate Chicago Wolves. Pittsburgh would call him up to serve on Mike Sullivan’s staff the following season, working with the forwards and penalty kill unit. This season saw a marked improvement on the latter, going from a bottom-five unit in 2020-21 to the third-best penalty kill this year. That kind of turnaround will get noticed by the league, especially with Vegas.

In 2020-21, Vegas had the league’s best penalty kill, but the team saw that statistic drop below the top twenty this year. While injuries to key penalty killers played a role in that drop, Vegas firing DeBoer likely indicates that management doesn’t plan to accept that as an excuse in any facet. Vellucci was also responsible for the development of current Knight Nic Roy, who might be an advocate for his former coach to take the role in Vegas.

Vellucci’s success at the AHL and NHL levels should appeal to plenty of teams who want an outside-of-the-box candidate. He’ll be on Vegas’s radar in some capacity.


A Nerd’s Thoughts on the Jack Eichel Trade

Image Credit: Jack Eichel/Twitter

The Jack Eichel trade rumors are finally finished, and the team that was connected to them for the longest time finally got their target.

On Thursday, after months of speculation and standoffish behavior between player and team, the Buffalo Sabres traded their former captain and three-time All Star and a conditional third round pick in 2023 to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs, and conditional first and second-round picks in 2022 and 2023, respectively (the condition being that, should Vegas’s pick fall in the top 10, the picks would defer to the following year.)

For the Sabres, it ends a near eight-month-long saga revolving around Eichel. Since suffering a neck injury in early March that effectively ended his 2020-21 season, the two sides became embroiled in a feud regarding the type of surgery Eichel would receive. Eichel went with an independent specialist’s recommendation of artificial disk replacement; Buffalo preferred Eichel to undergo fusion surgery. It is mildly concerning that an organization would tell an individual how they should take care of their body, but I can at least understand Buffalo’s concern when the only notable athlete to undergo artificial disk replacement is Tiger Woods. The current collective bargaining agreement for the NHL also gives teams ultimate authority over decisions such as this, so it wasn’t as if the Sabres were violating any rules. Either way, it seemed that the two sides were effectively headed for a split, and the trade carousel was in full rotation.

There were plenty of teams that wanted in on the action. Calgary had sent their own offer that, according to Kevin Weekes, included Matthew Tkachuk, a first-round pick, and two or three prospects (a deal that I personally would have ran with.) Minnesota and Anaheim were both linked to Eichel at points, with both teams having the need to justify the move and the future assets necessary to pull it off. Even the Carolina Hurricanes, despite being the last undefeated team in the league, did their due diligence on the feasibility of an Eichel trade. Ultimately, however, it was the Golden Knights that came away from the Eichel sweepstakes with the center in tow.

While a lot of hockey fans are prematurely declaring Buffalo the winners of this trade, it’s hard for me to see this as anything but a win-win at the moment. Buffalo gets two or three valuable assets to center their next rebuild around, while Vegas gets the franchise center they’ve needed for a long time. It was an issue that teams like Dallas and Montreal exposed in upset playoff wins over Vegas, so the need was definitely there. Top-line centers like Eichel rarely hit the trade market to begin with; it’s even rarer when those centers are still in or just approaching their prime. They had to give up a couple of pieces to get their guy, but the risk is definitely worth taking.

Vegas did win the day…but I have to ask what it cost in the end. There’s three things that have to be discussed in the context of this trade: health, timing, and financial ramifications.

Health is the most obvious red flag that sticks out. Like I stated earlier, the only notable athlete to undergo artificial disk replacement is Tiger Woods; for the NHL, this is unprecedented territory. Perhaps it was this lack of a baseline expectation that made Buffalo hesitant on Eichel’s request which, while still a little questionable morally, isn’t entirely wrong. Eichel, his camp, and the Golden Knights have all likely done their due diligence to ensure this was the right path to take, but there’s no guarantee that Eichel will be the same player after the surgery. Even if he does and is able to follow the earliest timetable, Eichel wouldn’t be able to play his first game as a Golden Knight until after the Olympic break, putting him at roughly a year between games. Given that Vegas paid a premium to get Eichel in a Knights uniform, they’ll need to hope that the surgery is a success.

It brings us to the second part of my hesitance about calling the trade a success: the timing of it all. While the Knights basically replaced one key injured player in Tuch for another in Eichel, that’s the tip of the iceberg with the injury problems plaguing Vegas. Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and William Karlsson are all out with long-term injuries. Nolan Patrick and Zach Whitecloud are also currently on the injured list. Shea Theodore, Alec Martinez, Brayden McNabb, and Mattias Janmark have all missed time early in the season. These aren’t insignificant pieces; many of these are players who play major minutes in key situations. The sheer amount of injuries are part of the explanation behind Vegas’s mediocre .500 start to the season, and the organization is counting on their depth players to keep the ship afloat until reinforcements arrive.

Even if Eichel returns fully healthy and the team is able to be at full strength, the Knights still have to contend against the third and most important ramification of all: the salary cap. There’s no current need to fret about it, as the Knights currently have $16 million tied up in injured reserve. The likely staggered returns of their players will keep them alright for now, possibly requiring a couple of minor moves to balance the books. When everyone comes back, however? Vegas is looking straight into a $7 million overage. Unless Vegas pulls a Tampa Bay and keeps Eichel or any other major player on LTIR until the playoffs (hello, instant playoff villain role), they’ll have to find a way to shed salary and possibly be the odd contending team that has to sell at the deadline.

The expiring contracts for this season such as Reilly Smith, McNabb, and Janmark are all but playing their final years in Vegas, so trading them for future assets to get something out of them would be a start. In order to re-sign any key restricted free agents like Nic Hague or Nicolas Roy, however, more cap-cutting might be in store. Chandler Stephenson has been a great fit for Vegas and has cemented himself as an NHL-caliber player, but is his $2.75 million AAV worth it for a third-line center role? What about Evgenii Dadonov, who would be in the mix to take Smith’s spot next to Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson (Marchessault, whose contract expires after the 2022-23 season, might also be a name worth considering.) Laurent Brossoit could also be a name worth floating around for $2.3 million in savings, especially if Logan Thompson continues to play well in the AHL. If a team wanted to be bold and take full advantage, they could contact Vegas about Shea Theodore and try to land a legitimate top-four defenseman for a bargain price and catch the Knights in a situation where they have no leverage.

See the problem? Even if the initial package looks like a bargain, the fallout from this deal will shake up the roster even further. If the Knights want to at least be cap-compliant, let alone avoid the cap-manipulating tactics they had to pull last season, they will have to sacrifice three or four NHL-caliber assets in exchange for adding Eichel to their core for the foreseeable future.

Situations like this have been the double-edged sword that has defined Vegas GM Kelly McCrimmon’s run at the helm of the NHL’s 31st franchise. Throughout his time in Sin City, McCrimmon has never been afraid to go big-game hunting, and his roster resembles an NBA-caliber super team at this stage. It’s a tactic that works great in NHL 22 with the salary cap off, but real-world hockey management means no one can play this fast and this loose with the cap without sacrifices. The decisions to bring in Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone were great at establishing Vegas as a legitimate player, but such moves played a role in sending out the likes of Paul Stastny and Nate Schmidt. Signing Alex Pietrangelo last offseason and extending trade deadline acquisitions such as Alec Martinez and Robin Lehner were huge moves, but it forced Vegas to sell the cornerstone of their franchise in Marc-Andre Fleury for literally nothing. With Eichel in tow, Vegas now has to endure its most aggressive cost-cutting venture yet.

For all the franchise-altering moves McCrimmon has made, the Eichel deal will be, in my honest opinion, what ultimately defines his tenure as the Golden Knights GM. If everything checks out and the Las Vegas Strip becomes home to a Stanley Cup parade in the near future, McCrimmon will be the subject of universal praise for his handling of the situation and arguably revolutionize the way Cup contenders are built, for better or worse. If not, he becomes this generation’s version of Peter Chiarelli, dooming Vegas to a long-term salary cap hell like Chiarelli did to Boston and Edmonton. The pressure for McCrimmon and the Golden Knights to complete owner Bill Foley’s “Cup in six” timeline is at an all-time high. Now it’s time to deliver.

Postseason Postmortem: Vegas Golden Knights

Credit: Paul Chaisson/The Canadian Press

The coroner is in…let’s just get this over with.

The skinny: If there was ever an NHL team that could be described as having a whirlwind existence, the Golden Knights are that team. After a phenomenal inaugural season that saw them demolish several expansion team records and make a spirited run to the Stanley Cup final, the weight of expectation has hung largely on the Knights ever since. Their reaction has been, frankly, a mixed bag of tricks. The second season saw a few key players take a step back, ending with a crushing first-round exit that saw the Knights blow a 3-1 series lead to the San Jose Sharks. Last season, despite a midseason coaching change that brought in Peter DeBoer from that same Sharks team, the Knights rolled to the end of the postseason and won the round robin in the playoff bubble to secure the top seed in the Western Conference. Unfortunately, their run would come to an end at the hands of the Dallas Stars.

This year felt like more of the same. They struggled against Minnesota, but managed to overcome the adversity and pull out the Game 7 victory. They then rolled through the Colorado Avalanche in surprising fashion, winning four straight after dropping the first two in Denver. A series against Montreal was supposed to be a strong chance to visit their second Cup Final in four years. Instead, the Knights fell in a shocking upset for the second straight year. How did it happen this time? Well, history does tend to repeat itself…

Offense: Last season, Vegas went out of the playoffs due to an offense that shut down at the worst possible time and couldn’t get anything going. This year, unfortunately, provided more of the same. They only managed two goals and 13 points from their top-six forwards. For context, that goal output was doubled by the Canadiens’ Cole Caufield and outproduced by the line of Caufield, Tyler Toffoli, and Nick Suzuki (seller’s remorse much?) Captain Mark Stone was held without a point the entire series. The worst performance, however, came on the power play, where the Knights went scoreless in 15 attempts. After two straight postseasons marred by offensive struggles, it’s fair to wonder if it’s time for Vegas to make some changes about how they manage the puck on the opposing end of the ice.

Marc-Andre Fleury: It’s hard to speak ill of Fleury for his performance. The Vezina Trophy winner for the first time in his career, Fleury was a key piece to the deep run the Knights went on this postseason. Unfortunately, Montreal didn’t make life easy for the Flower, finishing the series with a middling .904 save percentage. Most notable in all of this was Game 3, when Fleury made a rare mistake that saw the Canadiens tie the game late and essentially cost Vegas the game. It resulted in the return of the goalie rotation (to be fair, Robin Lehner bounced back nicely in relief) and, when Fleury returned to the ice in Game 5, the mojo that’s defined Fleury’s time in Vegas just wasn’t there. A storybook season brought to an unfortunate end.

Coaching: In the sense that the Knights are a roller coaster kind of team, Peter DeBoer is a roller coaster kind of coach. He’ll have stretches of dominant play throughout the regular season and postseason, but it can be balanced out by, in this instance, being outcoached by an interim to the interim head coach. Sure, part of the Knights’ struggles can be attested to Carey Price channeling the ghost of Ken Dryden past, but the offense for Vegas felt way too predictable far too often. The Canadiens, with their savvy veteran talent and smart coaching, were able to implement a system that frustrated the Knights and left them unable to do anything. It was the same trap that DeBoer caught Colorado’s Jared Bednar in the previous round, and it was also the same trap that he got caught in last postseason against Dallas. DeBoer deserves at least one more go, but he needs to prove that he can make good on these deep playoff runs.

The crystal ball: Remember the “Cup in six” decree handed out by owner Bill Foley when the team was announced? In an ironic twist of fate, Foley might just have been referring to the team’s first Cup window. It puts Vegas at two more years before divisional foes like Los Angeles and Anaheim can start providing threats to their likely divisional supremacy, so they’ll have to act fast to make good on this window. The good news is the roster doesn’t have many holes (outside of the unrestricted free agency of Alec Martinez), so they don’t have to break the bank too badly. Their exemption from the Seattle Expansion Draft also puts them in position to make a move or two, giving them leverage over teams fearful of losing a valuable piece for nothing. It may require an expiring contract or two being moved out for cap purposes (Brayden McNabb and Ryan Reaves stand out as two options), but those will likely be far cries from the last two summers of bloodletting.

The only question now is this: what happens to the goaltending rotation of Fleury and Lehner? Both played incredibly well last season and meshed very well together, but the simple fact is that Vegas has $12 million invested in two players that sees only one play every game. The gamble paid off and it did make sense in order for both to handle the rigors of a condensed schedule, but what happens now with the Knights at a crossroads in their young existence? The asking price for Fleury will likely be much better than it was a season ago, but will fans potentially turn on the team for trading the face of the franchise after a career year? Meanwhile, if the team trades Lehner just one season into a five-year contract extension, what does that say to potential free agents about Vegas’s management? They could also choose to keep both, but doing so would immediately strike Vegas out of many of the top free agents in this class. It’ll be a delicate balancing act this season but, if Vegas can be trusted with one thing, it’s that they know how to put on a show.

The Golden Knights Have Entered Bizarro World

It’s been a little over a day since I woke up to this news and I still have no clue how to properly react to it. Anyone who knows me has probably been waiting on this one for a while, so let’s just get into it.

On January 15, 2020, the Vegas Golden Knights decided on the most shocking move of both the season and of their short history. Gerard Gallant, the coach who guided the team to the Stanley Cup Final its inaugural season and led them to unprecedented success for expansion teams, became the seventh coach fired this season. It’s easily the biggest shock firing in recent memory, perhaps more shocking than Chicago sacking Joel Quenneville in the middle of last season.

Backlash across the hockey world was immediate. Vegas fans were confused and convinced that rookie GM Kelly McCrimmon pushed the panic button. Hockey pundits bashed the move considerably, although not as much as Gallant’s previous ouster from the Florida Panthers (at least Vegas didn’t force him to leave the arena via taxi.) Rivals licked their lips and relished at the thought of the new kid on the block having his first major slip-up.

I have to admit that I am like-minded with these people. Sure, Gallant had a penchant for being stubborn at times and trying a little too hard to outsmart his competition, but solid coaches like him don’t just fall off of trees. What he did for a sink-or-swim franchise in its infancy was nothing short of phenomenal. He was going to be the coach of the Pacific Division at the All-Star Game, an honor that has been passed on to Arizona coach Rick Tocchet. Even with Vegas going on a four-game losing streak and falling from first in the division to barely hanging in the playoff race, several other teams have endured similar rough patches without sacking their coaches. It’s a bad look for Vegas, and it stands to be the first real PR nightmare the team has to face.

Maybe this is speculation on my end, but there has to be more to this story than McCrimmon let on in his press conference to announce the move. For this, let’s look at the other coach Vegas got rid of. Honestly, assistant coach Mike Kelly’s fate felt more like writing on the wall. With special teams failing over the last few weeks and the inconsistent play from last season coming back with a vengeance, Kelly had one foot out the door. Vegas did need a shake-up, and with the team not performing up to standard, someone had to take the fall. Of course, guess who Kelly coached under back in Florida? Gerard Gallant. I have to guess that Gallant and Kelly became a package deal, where if one goes, the other heads out with them. With the goodwill from the inaugural season running out and recent struggles pushing the team to the edge of the playoff picture, McCrimmon had no choice but to cut bait. It probably ended up a lot less heinous than it sounds here, but it’s a plausible premise, at the very least.

No matter the rationale behind Gallant’s firing, there is no question he’ll end up landing an NHL job again. Maybe he tries his luck with another expansion team in Seattle (on an unrelated note, please let the team name be Kraken.) Perhaps he rejoins a former team in the Detroit Red Wings and serve as the right hand of Steve Yzerman. Maybe he goes a different route and fills a job opening somewhere else. When and where Gallant is heard from next is unclear, but it’s safe to say he’s going to get another crack at the NHL.

And as if the situation couldn’t get any more exasperated for Vegas fans, it proceeded to do just that. Who will be replacing Gallant in Vegas? None other than Peter DeBoer, the same coach who helped the rival San Jose Sharks rally back from a 3-1 series deficit and 3-0 Game 7 score to send the Golden Knights out of the playoffs. The same coach that Gallant himself called a clown just nine months earlier.

It’s one of those rare cases where the hire is even more surprising than the firing. And if social media is any indication, Vegas fans are not exactly pleased with DeBoer becoming the new bench boss.

As for me, on the odd chance DeBoer is reading this, I wish to say a few things to him here. One, welcome to Vegas. Hope you have some success here. Two, apologies if your new job comes across as a bit thankless for the first week or so. They’ll come around eventually. Three, nothing will endear you more to the Vegas fans than stringing some victories together and helping this team play closer to its potential. Could you imagine winning the Stanley Cup as coach of the same team you eliminated in controversial and heartbreaking fashion the previous year? Your face turn in the eyes of the Vegas faithful will be more than complete.

While the jury is still out on this whole saga, there is one thing to realize out of this: Vegas is no longer the new guy. They’ve taken their first true lumps as a franchise, something that all teams must have. The baby bird has left the nest, and now, all Vegas can do is hope there isn’t a predator waiting to snatch it up.

The Golden Knights got the shock to the system they needed. Now they hope they didn’t short-circuit the whole thing.