Of all the narratives swirling around the bombshell decision by the Vegas Golden Knights to part company with Head Coach Gerard Gallant, and subsequently hire Peter DeBoer, perhaps the most signficant is the almighty gamble taken by the front office.
In a week that has seen baseball engulfed further by the sign-stealing scandal, the Vegas Golden Knights decided that they wanted some of the headlines after pulling the trigger on what was, quite frankly, a stunning move.
No one saw this coming and it has left fans and those of us who cover the team with far more questions than answers.
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Just why has a respected figure in Gallant lost his job?
What attracted the front office to Peter DeBoer?
Is this a panic move?
And it is the last question I really want to focus on because, after taking some to digest the news and listening to General Manager Kelly McCrimmon, I fully believe that this was a panic move.
Let’s be cliche for a minute and throw in a good old gambling anecdote here.
Kelly McCrimmon is at the Blackjack table and, after a rough night, the pressure is on and he decides to throw all his chips in the middle of the table and go for broke.
That’s what this earth-shattering decision feels like.
We all know the Vegas Golden Knights are built to win right now, a belief within the organization that has been made clear by the front office making a string of aggressive moves to trade for the likes of Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty.
After all, Owner Bill Foley has hardly kept it quiet that he wants his team to win a championship within five years of their existence.
We are now into Year 3.
President of Hockey Operations George McPhee and General Manager Kelly McCrimmon clearly feel that this team should be a contender this year, and they clearly felt they have provided all the ingredients to make a Stanley Cup winner.
Therefore, after watching this team lurch from one inconsistent streak to the next and seeing this group of talented players drop a fourth straight loss in Buffalo on Tuesday, McCrimmon and McPhee decided to take action.
They pressed the panic button and they made the only change they felt they could make.
Now, before we go on, let’s be clear that sports is business and this is just the price of doing business.
At the end of the day, every coach gets hired to eventually get fired and it is just a damn shame that a fine good coach and an even better man has lost his job today.
However, the front office clearly feel that a fresh voice in that locker room was needed and they have hired a winner in Peter DeBoer.
Okay, so DeBoer hasn’t got a championship on his resume but he’s taken both the New Jersey Devils and the San Jose Sharks to the Stanley Cup Final, while he has a career record of 415-329-111.
DeBoer also has an inside knowledge of the Pacific Division and he crafted the Sharks into a contender year in and year out.
He walks into a rather unique situation in that this Vegas team has an abundance of riches and, while they have been punching below their weight this year, the underlying numbers suggest that they are on the cusp of unlocking their true potential.
Look at some of the below-the-hood-numbers. The Knights rank 2nd in expected-goals percentage in the NHL (54.8), 2nd best share of scoring chances (55.4) and the third best Corsi (53.6) in the entire league.
Those stats alone suggest that more winning was just around the corner, but the front office decided to take actions into their own hands in order to try and jumpstart that.
It will now be up to DeBoer to try and get Marc-Andre Fleury back to his best, work out what to do with a less than stellar blueline and try to squeeze some scoring outside of the top six forward unit.
If DeBoer can get the best out of this group of players, including any shiny new toys he may be gifted with at the Trade Deadline, then there is no doubt that the Golden Knights have the potential to make a deep postseason run.
After all, DeBoer led San Jose to the Western Conference Final last year and he’s certainly well equipped to help transform a contender into a winner.
However, the timescale is short.
DeBoer has just 33 games of the regular season remaining to win this group over and get them playing his style of hockey, which can be described as a defensive brand of hockey.
If he can’t and the Vegas Golden Knights somehow fail to make the postseason or suffer another early exit, then this high-risk gamble would have backfired spectacularly and there could be more jobs up for grabs come the off-season.
Let’s hope that isn’t the case and Peter DeBoer is the man to deliver this team, this front office, this ownership and this city a Stanley Cup.