Weeks after the Golden Knights missed the playoffs despite going all-in, Peter DeBoer is no longer their head coach. The Golden Knights “relieved DeBoer of his duties” on Monday.
Probably the most interesting part of a canned quote from general manager Kelly McCrimmon was “…after much discussion over the past two weeks, we believe that a new coach will put us in the best position to be successful next season. “
Golden Knights fire DeBoer after missing playoffs; The race ended with the Lehner Rift
Again, most pressing, Peter DeBoer couldn’t get through an injury-filled season to at least get the Golden Knights to the playoffs.
While some NHL teams have been hit harder by volume injuries, the Golden Knights have suffered significant losses with Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty and others. They also traded for Jack Eichel during the season, realizing he was still recovering from neck surgery.
NHL Top 5, Ranking Points Lost Due to Injured Players and Health Protocols (Lost-ps Metric, Point Shares Lost Due to Injured Players)
1 VEG 40.6 points lost
2 MTL 32.9
3 CBJ 32.3
4 BUF 30.2
5 PIT 27.4https://t.co/lRequqYI1r
— Man-Games Lost NHL (@ManGamesLostNHL) May 2, 2022
Eventually, this injury bug bit Robin Lehner.
This is where things got stranger and uglier for DeBoer and the Golden Knights. Towards the end of the season, it appeared that Lehner was unhappy with the reviews of his performance, as he was playing injured.
— Lindsay 🌸 (@LindsMAF29) April 24, 2022
This ultimately led to a weird back-and-forth between Lehner and DeBoer in the media. In the end, the big goalkeeper was closed for the rest of the season.
It’s unclear how much of DeBoer’s rough handling of Lehner factored into the Golden Knights’ firing. Personally, I felt like it made an obscure decision almost inevitable.
A lot of success under DeBoer
Memorably, the Golden Knights signed DeBoer mid-season in early 2020 despite Gerard Gallant’s incredible success. The move helped shape Vegas’ image as a fierce franchise in the run-up to the Stanley Cup. Success was not always a high enough standard.
At present, we still do not know if this instinctive reaction was the right one.
Take a look at DeBoer’s yearly results as head coach of the Golden Knights:
Rest of 2019-20: 15-5-2 (0.727 point percentage), won two playoffs.
2020-21: 40-14-2 (0.732 point percentage), won two playoffs.
2021-22: 43-32-8 (0.573 point percentage), missed playoffs.
A less responsive team might give another chance. After all, the Golden Knights barely missed the playoffs with all those injuries.
But if there is a more responsive NHL franchise than the Golden Knights, the list is short.
It will be fascinating to see A) who the Golden Knights hire as their next head coach and B) if DeBoer gets another top NHL gig. DeBoer had his ups and downs with four different coaching stints, but interestingly he only coached a team for five seasons or less.
Big test for Vegas management to come – assuming they’re still in charge
Over the years, the Golden Knights have been ruthless in dropping popular and productive players to try and become even better. They did not accept the stumbles of their coaches. So far, the top of their front office has been shielded from such substantive decisions.
As a reminder, they didn’t fire George McPhee; he was basically high, while Kelly McCrimmon went up to GM.
There is no doubt that this front office has been a resounding success. Really, they probably set the bar unfairly high for Ron Francis and the Seattle Kraken.
Yet they made their mistakes. For all of the Golden Knights’ successes, they’ve relied primarily on free agents and trades, rather than internal development. When it comes to choosing which perspectives to develop and which to trade, there have been mistakes. Notably, the Golden Knights opted to trade current Canadiens star Nick Suzuki instead of top draft Cody Glass in the Max Pacioretty trade.
For every splash move that was hugely successful (Pacioretty, Stone), there were moves that were either puffs or yet to be determined.
So far, Lehner hasn’t been the upgrade from Fleury they were hoping for.
More discreetly but just as alarming, it is possible that Alex Pietrangelo’s investment is fragile. Consider his underlying numbers via Evolving Hockey:
In a sweaty attempt to take a Stanley Cup to the desert, Golden Knights management began racking up bets that got them into trouble.
[Other coaching news: Islanders name longtime Trotz assistant Lambert as head coach]
Of course, there were logistical reasons why Evgenii Dadonov’s trade did not take place. But it’s up to Vegas management to rely so heavily on LTIR and other maneuvers to barely stay technically within the salary cap.
It’s the kind of thing that could get a general manager fired, at least if a franchise wants to show that everyone faces such an extreme responsibility. This does not happen.
At least, until now. If you’re like me, you raised your eyebrows at former player Deryk Engelland representing the Golden Knights in the 2022 NHL Draft Lottery.
Deryk Engelland represents the Knights in the draft lottery.
Adjust your ratings accordingly.
— Ben Gotz (@BenSGotz) May 10, 2022
Assuming the Golden Knights give McCrimmon + McPhee another chance, they have their work cut out for them this offseason.
Right now, the Golden Knights are already projected by Cap Friendly to scratch the ceiling of the salary cap. And that’s assuming they allow free agents like Reilly Smith to walk.
Will a revised Dadonov swap take place? With a tight salary cap situation, how will the Golden Knights improve?
Oh, and of course: who should be the next head coach? For a team that loves collecting big names, perhaps the knee-jerk answer is Barry Trotz. But would Trotz’s overall defensive style mesh well with the roster at hand?
And, once again: should McCrimmon and McPhee make that call? Even those who question DeBoer’s coaching would admit that the Golden Knights’ failed season wasn’t just his fault.