Earlier today, in a move that has the hockey world scratching their collective heads, the Vegas Golden Knights fired Head Coach Gerard Gallant, replacing him with Peter DeBoer.
The Pacific Division is a picture of parity this season. Although Vegas is just outside of a wild card spot, they are a mere three points back of the division-leading Arizona Coyotes. When a team is in the playoff race, as Vegas is, it’s rare to see a coaching change.
And it’s not a case of the Golden Knights being outplayed in games either. Just a couple of days ago Sean Tierney from Charting Hockey commented on how unlucky Vegas had been during their current four-game losing streak.
Seriously … what the?!
The Vegas Golden Knights captivated the hockey world in their inaugural season of 2017-18, unexpectedly making the playoffs. They would go all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals before losing to the Washington Capitals. Gallant was nominated for and received the Jack Adams award (Best Head Coach) in June, 2018.
In a league where there is tenuous job security at best, even Gallant’s firing comes as a surprise. However, one thing that does not change in the NHL is that if you are fired as a coach, chances are you will swiftly find another job. That’s certainly the case with Peter DeBoer, fired just over a month ago by San Jose after an underwhelming start to the season. Evidently, when General Managers are looking for a coaching replacement, the ‘middle-aged white guy who recently got fired for underperforming’ is always the right answer.
The two coaches have a bit of a head-to-head history, facing each other in the first round of the playoffs last year. I don’t think either person is on the other’s Christmas card list.
Interestingly, less than two weeks ago the NHL announced that Gerard Gallant would coach the Pacific Division for the upcoming All-Star game on January 25th. Gallant’s dismissal would be the first time I am aware of that a coach has been fired in between being announced as a coach for the All-Star Game and the event itself. It will be interesting to see what the NHL does here, do they still allow him to coach or do they replace Gallant with another Pacific Division head coach?
What’s Next for the Golden Knights and Gallant?
I would expect the Golden Knights to make the playoffs this season. But I would be surprised if they made it past the second round. Peter DeBoer arguably hasn’t performed above expectations since leading the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals almost a decade ago. I don’t expect that trend to change. As soon as Vegas meets a Central Division opponent in the playoffs, they’re done.
As for Gallant, he will only be unemployed for as long as he chooses. Ron Francis would love for him to join him in Seattle to repeat as expansion team whisperer.
Another option could be the Montreal Canadiens. If GM Marc Bergevin manages to convince ownership that the Head Coach should take the fall for his ineptitude yet again, Gallant could be an option. However, Gallant, despite his French surname, does not actually speak French. This may make him less attractive than less qualified Francophile coaches.
Finally, the Jets find themselves in a similar spot to Vegas, with the caveat that they have poor underlying numbers. Expect them to tumble down the standings and make a coaching change in the next month. If Gallant is interested, he would be welcomed in Winnipeg.
Thanks for reading, for more of our content follow CanStrayan on Twitter here, Hockey Embassy on Twitter here, and like and follow us on Facebook here. Don’t forget to like and subscribe if you want to keep up with the latest from Hockey Embassy.