The Vegas Golden Knights fired head coach Gerard Gallant Wednesday morning, but the move is a gross overreaction to a small sample of recent circumstances.
In a tightly packed Pacific Division, any winning or losing streak for the teams competing will alter the picture, and the Vegas Golden Knights lost their fourth game in row on Tuesday night. On Wednesday morning, head coach Gerard Gallant was fired, and immediately replaced by former San Jose Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer.
Literally just a week ago, the Golden Knights were tied with the Arizona Coyotes for first place in the Pacific. But four games without a point has dropped them three points behind Arizona entering Wednesday, into a tie with the Vancouver Canucks. The Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames have 55 points. Vegas is currently tied for the second wild card spot in the West purely by points, but they would be out of the playoffs if they started today.
In a statement announcing Gallant’s firing, general manager Kelly McCrimmon cited a coaching change being necessary for the team to reach its full potential. While it’s true that the Golden Knights have underachieved so far this season, with the goaltending pair of Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcom Subban fostering the fifth-worst even strength save percentage in the league (.911, via Natural Stat Trick) as the lead reason. But the team is top-five in the league in puck possession, expected goals, scoring chance percentage and high-danger scoring chance rate.
With a 118-75-20 record over parts of three seasons in Vegas, including a Stanley Cup Final appearance in the franchise’s first season and a Game 7 first-round playoff loss last year, Gallant should land on his feet somewhere fairly quickly. His ties to the Detroit Red Wings as a player, and thus general manager Steve Yzerman, makes that job a natural fit.
But he should not be unemployed right now. Unless DeBoer’s hiring sparks better play between the pipes for Vegas, dismissing Gallant will be known as a short-sighted decision by a general manager in his first season on the job. There’s no doubt McCrimmon has put his own job on the line with this decision.
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