Can the Golden Knights' new coach take them where they want to go?

Posted Thursday, 23 January 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

The fan reaction to the Golden Knights’ coaching change was a combination of shock and disgust. Not only did the team fire a beloved coach in Gerard Gallant, it replaced him with former public enemy No. 1 in Peter DeBoer. If you asked a casual Golden Knights follower to name another coach in the league at the beginning of the season, he or she probably would have said DeBoer—and not for a good reason. He’s same guy who coached the San Jose Sharks as recently as December, the same guy who accused Gallant of “chirping” at players during last year’s playoffs, the same guy Gallant called a “clown.” Few could have guessed DeBoer would be coaching the Golden Knights some seven months later. And it’s not just fans who felt that way. The move also stunned Golden Knights players, who left a 4-2 loss January 14 in Buffalo with Gallant as their coach and discovered the next morning that DeBoer had replaced him. “We had that hatred for the team that he coached,” forward Mark Stone said of DeBoer. “It was weird. Ten months ago, we probably wouldn’t have said a nice thing about him. We don’t say anything nice about the San Jose Sharks in our locker room.” Like it or not, it’s DeBoer’s team now. Vegas management feels like the Golden Knights haven’t reached their full potential, and are looking to DeBoer to get them there. Those changes started right away. The first glimpse of the new coaching approach related to player usage. In DeBoer’s second game as head coach, January 18 at Montreal, his team went down 3-0 in the first period. In that instance a coach has two choices: Pack it up and call it a night or go for it. DeBoer chose the latter, particularly with his deployment of defensemen—and it helped the Knights rally to tie it up and earn a hard-fought point on the road. Shea Theodore logged 28 minutes, 43 seconds of ice time in that game, a career-high by nearly two minutes, and Nate Schmidt played more than he had in any game this season but one. Meanwhile Deryk Engelland played his second-fewest minutes of the season. In other words, DeBoer opted to go with his offense from the blue line, a throwback to his time in San Jose. “That’s the Brent Burns/Erik Karlsson rule,” DeBoer said. “[Theodore is] an elite defenseman. I thought he was excellent … and we don’t come back in that game without him.” With the Sharks, DeBoer relied heavily on Burns and Karlsson, who ranked seventh and 12th, respectively, in the NHL last season in average ice time. Neither Theodore nor Schmidt has a Norris Trophy on his résumé like those San Jose stars, but they have a similar scoring touch. And to put that nose for the net to better use, DeBoer has implemented a new practice drill that had defensemen taking a greater role in breakouts and joining the rush. DeBoer’s use of his top forwards seems more peculiar thus far. In his first game with Vegas, in which the Golden Knights scored early and ran away with a victory at Ottawa, nearly every regular scoring threat played under his season average in ice time. When the Knights needed a comeback in game two, he played those forwards more, but not an eye-popping amount of time like the defensemen. “We can’t wear people out,” DeBoer explained. “One of the strengths of this team is its depth, and that’s going to be something we’re going to look for every night.” VGK fans won’t get a full look at DeBoer’s system until the team returns from the all-star break and its bye week January 31 at Carolina, but the coach has given us some clues as to what the Golden Knights will look like going forward, in terms of lines and ice time. It’s too early to draw definitive conclusions, but so far DeBoer hasn’t messed with the team’s lines and has instead shifted toward a style that conserves forwards and leans on defensemen. “He’s got a lot of systems in place, and it’s just about executing,” Theodore said. “It’s going to be a bit of process, but I think we have a smart enough group to do it.” Meanwhile, DeBoer has done what he can to endear himself to his new team on a personal level. He accepted an olive branch offer of 7Five Brewing Co. beer from brand co-founder Ryan Reaves, and a funny video of him puffing the smelling salts with the players circulated after the first game. “I needed to clear my head,” he joked. “So they suggested I take a puff to clear things. I was all right with that.” Vegas fans—some of whom remain loyal to Gallant and unsure about DeBoer—won’t get their first in-person look at the new coach until his T-Mobile Arena debut February 8. But success cures all, so if the Golden Knights come home on a roll after this long road trip, lingering doubts should subside—especially if the Golden Knights not only make the playoffs but make a long postseason run. “I’ve taken two teams to Stanley Cup Finals [and] went to a Western Conference final last year,” DeBoer said in his introductory press conference. “I feel I know what buttons to push to have success that time of year. If we can get in, everybody starts fresh and no one remembers where you were sitting in January.” This story appeared in Las Vegas Weekly.

Other articles published by Las Vegas Sun

Posted Thursday, 27 February 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

UNLV is still riding high after a big win over previously undefeated San Diego State on Saturday, and the Rebels hope the momentum will carry over to tonight when they face off against Boise State in a key late-season Mountain West battle. Can UNLV...

Posted Thursday, 27 February 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

The NFL and its players have moved closer to a new collective bargaining agreement and the next decade of labor peace that would come with it. If the process is at first-and-goal now, though, there's still work to be done to get into the end zone. With a ...

Posted Thursday, 27 February 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

The last time the Golden Knights met the Edmonton Oilers, it was back in November. Vegas was having a putrid month and lost 4-2. Things have changed since then. The Golden Knights are riding a six-game winning streak, currently the NHL's longest, and...

Vegas Play of the Day: Virginia at Virginia Tech Posted Wednesday, 26 February 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

The sixth season of the annual Play of the Day betting competition between the Sun's sports staff is now underway, effective July 1. Bankrolls start at $10,000 for each of the four participants, with the objective to increase it as much as possible over...

Posted Wednesday, 26 February 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

The Las Vegas Lights soccer franchise is always eager to try wacky promotions. They, after all, have llamas on the field for the pregame festivities. The Lights announced today that they will host a “Midnight Match” July 11 against Orange County FC,...

Posted Wednesday, 26 February 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

With 18 games left in the regular season, the Vegas Golden Knights sit in better position than they have all year. Justin Emerson and Case Keefer come to a mutual agreement on that opinion on the latest Vegas Golden Podcast, presented by the Credit One...

Police: Man fatally shoots brother during argument Posted Wednesday, 26 February 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

A man fatally shot his brother during an argument Tuesday morning at an apartment complex in the west valley, according to Metro Police. The shooting was reported about 9:35 a.m. in the 9100 block of West Flamingo Road, near Fort Apache Road, police...

Posted Wednesday, 26 February 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

In a future that isn’t that far off, Robin Lehner will be handed the reins of an NHL team and told to go. He’ll be the No. 1 guy, the unquestioned starting goalie.  He’s earned it after two seasons of splitting the net with Thomas Greiss and Corey ...

Posted Wednesday, 26 February 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

Here’s what you’ll find in this week’s episode of the Sun on the Strip: Recapping Sarah McLachlan's performance at Encore Theater and getting ready for this week's shows from Harry Connick Jr. Morrissey is coming to the Colosseum...

Control your own health care Posted Wednesday, 26 February 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

It scares me, the number of people willing to give up their freedoms and put their fate in the hands of career politicians to exert more and more control over their lives. Some people who have no concept of how the real world works. Bernie Sanders has...

Posted Wednesday, 26 February 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

The big winners of last week’s Nevada caucuses were Sen. Bernie Sanders, Latino and younger voters, and Las Vegas. The biggest losers, besides the candidates not finishing with delegates, were caucuses as a voting system and centrist-Democratic...

Posted Wednesday, 26 February 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

Although the dust hasn’t completely settled from this year’s Nevada caucuses, the state emerged from the weekend having avoided the disastrous problems that played out in Iowa. Now, to ensure we never have to dodge a bullet like that again, we should ...

Posted Wednesday, 26 February 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

Durango High basketball coach Chad Beeten saw a play on game film that concerned him. He quickly asked for it to be replayed. The Trailblazers were preparing for today’s class 4A state quarterfinals against Reed of Northern Nevada, starting the process ...

Rule of law has been damaged Posted Wednesday, 26 February 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

The rule of law within the federal government is broken. The attorney general is “fixing” criminal law cases for the president. William Barr has attempted to lessen sentences for both Roger Stone and Michael Flynn. He has interceded in cases before...

Infighting hurts eventual nominee Posted Wednesday, 26 February 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

Defeating President Donald Trump should be the objective in November. Defeating Germany was the United States’ objective in Europe during World War II. The U.S. forces did not succeed by giving bombs to Germany to drop on England and our other allies....