Vegas Golden Knights: Expect DeBoer’s fingertips on off-season plans

Vegas Golden Knights, Peter DeBoer. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Vegas Golden Knights, Peter DeBoer. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

Peter DeBoer is very much the chosen one for the Vegas Golden Knights, so expect that fact to be reflected in the organization’s off-season dealings.

Ripples were sent throughout the hockey world when the Vegas Golden Knights ruthlessly fired Head Coach Gerard Gallant on Jan. 15, despite the fact that the team were very much in playoff contention.

A baffling decision was made even more shocking when Peter DeBoer, the architect of the Golden Knights’ downfall in the playoffs the year before while behind the bench for the loathed San Jose Sharks, was announced as Gallant’s successor.

However, fast forward to now and there appears to be some method to the madness.

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For starters, Gallant went a stellar 15-5-2 during his 22 games behind the bench for the Knights, leading them to the top of the Pacific Division prior to the NHL and the rest of the sporting world going on lockdown due to COVID-19.

Furthermore, the Golden Knights really began to play at the peak of their powers under DeBoer, settling into a groove and playing some of their best hockey of the year.

Little tweaks here and there, including a scheme to help with the transition game and getting the puck out of the zone, also hugely benefited Vegas and they looked primed to make a lot of noise during the postseason.

Of course, there is hope that the Golden Knights will still get the opportunity to fulfill their destiny and battle for the Stanley Cup at some point this year.

But, no matter what happens during the remainder of 2019-20, DeBoer is going to be a key factor throughout the off-season.

One of the most vital factors behind Gallant’s firing and DeBoer’s subsequent hiring was that it was the first major decision made by General Manager Kelly McCrimmon, who assumed that mantle after George McPhee took on a loftier President of Hockey Operations role.

I don’t think we will ever know the true reasons behind Gallant’s stunning firing, but it was clear at the time that McCrimmon obviously felt a fresh voice in that locker room.

And it was also clear that DeBoer was McCrimmon’s choice and McCrimmon’s man, whereas Gallant wasn’t.

So, while we can’t know for sure if there was any tension that existed between Gallant and McCrimmon, we do know that the latter was hot enough on DeBoer to make the decision to bring him in immediately after disposing of Gallant.

As such, it won’t be surprising if DeBoer has a big say in how the Golden Knights navigate the off-season.

After all, it appears certain that DeBoer and McCrimmon will work together in lockstep and they seem to share the same ethos and philosophies.

Vegas Golden Knights head coach Peter DeBoer looks on during the first period of their game against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on January 21, 2020. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Vegas Golden Knights head coach Peter DeBoer looks on during the first period of their game against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on January 21, 2020. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

DeBoer likes to construct his team from the blueline out, and McCrimmon seems to be cut from the same cloth.

DeBoer likes his teams to suppress shots, and we saw evidence of that prior to the lockdown, while he is also elite when it comes to getting the best out of rosters that possess a perfect mix of veterans and high-end prospects.

The Golden Knights tick that box but they still need to improve in certain areas, so it is feasible to predict that DeBoer will have some say in how Vegas approach the 2020 NHL Entry Draft and free agency.

For instance, Brenden Dillon, who played under DeBoer with the Sharks, was a reported Trade Deadline target for the Knights before being dealt to the Washington Capitals.

But, a pending UFA this summer, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Golden Knights made another run at the sandpaper defenseman given both his relationship with DeBoer and the gritty role he plays on the blueline.

Next. Elliott could be a smart pickup. dark

McCrimmon and DeBoer are likely to work in tandem at the Draft too, and it will be interesting to see if there is a direct coloration between how DeBoer wants his team to play and the players the Knights select.

There is no doubt, however, that Peter DeBoer is on exactly the same page as Kelly McCrimmon and that close working relationship between Head Coach and General Manager should be reflected in how the Vegas Golden Knights navigate the off-season.