The Vegas Golden Knights shocked the NHL world today when they announced the rather abrupt firing of head coach Gerard Gallant:
NEWS— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) January 15, 2020
The Golden Knights have made the following coaching changes:
Gerard Gallant & Mike Kelly have been relieved of their coaching duties
Peter DeBoer has been named head coachhttps://t.co/rQsULKgYzR
That makes Vegas the seventh team to make a coaching change this season, joining the Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames, New Jersey Devils, Dallas Stars, San Jose Sharks, and Nashville Predators. It’s also the 14th coaching hire since last off-season. To put things in perspective, Craig Berube of the St. Louis Blues is now the 17th most tenured coach in the NHL.
What’s particularly odd about this decision is that Vegas isn’t exactly struggling. They’re currently tied for both Wild Card spots in terms of points (though have two extra games played) and are only three points back on the Arizona Coyotes for first in the Pacific Division. Vegas General Manager Kelly McCrimmon’s announcement of the coaching change indicates he feels the team is underachieving, but the underlying numbers indicating their problems are mostly goaltending:
Vegas' 5-on-5 rankings:— Adam Gretz (@AGretz) January 15, 2020
Expected goals%: 2nd
Scoring Chance%: 2nd
High Danger Scoring Chance%: 2nd
Save percentage: 25th
Regardless, Gallant now finds himself out of a job, though that may not be for long. While head coaches fired mid-season typically aren’t rehired until the following off-season — see Joel Quenneville last year — that hasn’t strictly been the case this season. Gallant’s replacement, Peter DeBoer, was fired by the Sharks only a month ago. Nashville also hired John Hynes about a month after he was fired by New Jersey.
Given his overwhelming success in Vegas — which, again, makes the coaching change a head-scratcher — Gallant could very well find a new NHL team in the coming weeks. Which brings us to the title of today’s article: should the Dallas Stars hire Gerard Gallant as their next head coach?
As we all know by now, the Stars fired former head coach Jim Montgomery roughly a month ago on December 10. Rick Bowness has since taken over the head coaching duties, but only on an “interim” basis. Throw in conspiracy theories that Dallas GM Jim Nill wanted to hired Gallant instead of Ken Hitchcok back in 2017 only to be overruled by ownership, and it’s easy for Stars fans to connect the dots.
First of all, let’s preface this by pointing out that the Stars have been rather successful under Rick Bowness. The team holds a 10-4-1 record since the coaching change, including a six-game winning streak that started with the 2020 NHL Winter Classic. They currently sit in second place in the Western Conference, behind only the St. Louis Blues — the reigning Stanley Cup champions.
Furthermore, the Stars seem to be improving in a few areas, most notably the power play. The Stars are 8-for-17 with the man-advantage in 2020, and have scored power play goals in six consecutive games. Credit should go primarily to new assistant coach Derek Laxdal for that success, but the point is that Dallas has been looking good so far under Bowness.
On the other hand, you don’t have to peek too closely to see some cracks lying underneath. Dallas is criminally underutilizing some of its top offensive forwards like Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov, while prioritizing playing time for defensive-minded players like Radek Faksa and Blake Comeau. The team has also been bailed out several times by Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin, the league’s best goaltending duo:
Ben Bishop is now tied for second in NHL SV% at .930. The only goalie with a better save SV% is Anton Khudobin at .932.— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) January 15, 2020
The classic counterargument to that point is that the Stars play very good defense, which minimizes scoring opportunities and makes life easier for the goaltenders. Counter-counter point: the Stars won last night despite getting outshot 43-30, and that wasn’t even the best goaltending performance of the season so far.
Add in Bowness’ less-than-stellar track record as a head coach (though it’s worth noting that the Stars are easily the best team he’s coached), and there’s reason to be concerned about Bowness in the long-term, recent success aside. Contrast him with Gallant, who took an expansion franchise to the Stanley Cup Final in their first season and were arguably robbed of a series win last season, and it’s not hard to draw the conclusion that Gallant would be an upgrade.
But even if Nill reaches the same conclusion, there’s another problem to think about. Bowness is the Stars’ fourth head coach in as many seasons — are they really prepared to hire a fifth? The Stars’ players adjusted rather smoothly to Bowness as he was an assistant coach who’s running a similar system, but Gallant would no doubt come in and completely flip the script.
In fact, trying to avoid that exact scenario is one of the many reasons why Nill decided upon Bowness as his interim head coach instead of one of the other assistants in Dallas:
“Rick has been here for two years, like Todd (Nelson), but John (Stevens)has only been here for a couple months,” Nill added. “That probably went into it more than anything, I think any of those three (could have been the interim coach), but it came down to experience and overall familiarity with the team.”
In addition, with that many coaching changes over a relatively short span, you run the risk of coming across to potential free agents and other employees as a relatively unstable organization — horse-related comments aside. Furthermore, during his press conference announcing Montgomery’s firing, Nill told reporters that the current coaching staff would be in place until the end of the season. Gallant would certainly make him pause, but that doesn’t mean he’ll change his tune.
So where does that leave us? In short, Gerard Gallant has proven to be an excellent head coach, and given his sudden availability, the Stars should absolutely consider hiring him to be their next coach before he’s snatched up by another team. But ultimately, it’s hard to envision this actually happening. Dallas is currently succeeding under Rick Bowness, and while he may not be the best candidate for the job next year, it might be in their best interest to not rock the boat this season.
Of course, that’s just my take. What do you think?
Should the Dallas Stars Hire Gerard Gallant?
This poll is closed
Yes, as soon as possible
Yes, but only in the offseason