The Vegas Golden Knights fired coach Gerard Gallant on Wednesday morning, which came as a pretty big surprise (though I’ll get to that). He led the expansion franchise to a Stanley Cup Final in their first year and another playoff appearance in their second year. He was replaced by Peter DeBoer, who had been fired by San Jose earlier in the season.
One thing I will say is that while I do not agree with the firing, it’s pretty obvious to see why this happened. The Pacific Division is mostly terrible top to bottom and that team, as of Wednesday, is on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. Yes, the division is tight and in a week they could be at the top of the division, but here’s the issue: they aren’t banking points. We’ve seen teams with great fancy stats as Vegas has this year not make the playoffs before. Montreal last year was fourth in xGF% and missed. The year before, Carolina was sixth in xGF% and missed. This year, Los Angeles is fifth in xGF% and will assuredly miss the playoffs. At some point, teams need to put points on the board or run the risk of missing the postseason. The standings don’t care how good your team is if they don’t actually win hockey games. Yes, of course this is a PDO-fueled firing, but this is a results-driven business. Yes, I am surprised they fired him, because it’s not something I would do, but I’m also not in charge of a billion-dollar franchise whose success is determined in some significant portion by luck.
This also comes on the heels of perhaps the most spectacular single-game collapse by any playoff team in the last quarter-century. Yes, I’m still adamant that it is largely the fault of the officials and the league that Vegas was bounced in the first round last year, but at the end of the day, Gallant was the guy behind the bench for that collapse. Someone has to take responsibility for that, and while the players should certainly shoulder a lot of the blame, Gallant was the guy behind the bench, and you can’t fire the team. (That Gallant kept rolling out Deryk Engelland shift after shift as they were getting annihilated on that PK is one thing I haven’t seen discussed but is absolutely worth of discussion. That is completely on him.)
Had the penalty kill turned out differently in that first-round last season, or the team not had a month where they had regulation losses to Anaheim, Buffalo, Los Angeles, and a decimated Columbus team, maybe we aren’t talking about Gallant’s firing. But at the end of the day, the early success of this franchise set a bar with the current roster that missing the playoffs is unacceptable. Gallant’s own success was the mechanism of his down