LAS VEGAS (ASSOCIATED PRESS/FOX5) -- The Vegas Golden Knights announced Wednesday that coach Gerard Gallant was relieved of coaching duties.
The Golden Knights made the announcement via Twitter. Assistant coach Mike Kelley was also fired.
General Manager Kelly McCrimmon said he would address the move at a press conference Wednesday morning in Ottawa.
"In order for our team to reach its full potential, we determined a coaching change was necessary. Our team is capable of more than we have demonstrated this season," said McCrimmon in a press release. "We would like to thank Gerard and Mike for their service to the Vegas Golden Knights."
Peter DeBoer, fired last month by the San Jose Sharks, was named the new head coach.
"In Peter DeBoer, we have a proven, experienced head coach who we believe can help us achieve our ultimate goal," McCrimmon said. "We are excited to welcome Peter and his family to the Vegas Golden Knights organization."
Gallant won the Jack Adams Award as NHL coach of the year for his role in helping the Golden Knights reach the 2018 Stanley Cup Final, where they lost in five games to Washington. They also made the playoffs last season before losing in seven games in the first round to DeBoer’s Sharks.
Before some rough patches this season, Gallant was on a honeymoon since being hired in April 2017 to coach the league’s 31st team.
He helped president of hockey operations George McPhee and McCrimmon during the Golden Knights’ successful expansion draft and instilled a workmanlike attitude that helped a ragtag group of players come together during a magical inaugural season. Vegas won eight of its first nine games and put together a stirring run through the playoffs to land in the final against the Capitals.
McCrimmon said the decision was made over the past several weeks. Assistant coach Mike Kelly, who came to Vegas with Gallant from the Florida Panthers, was also fired.
“I think our team has more to give, and that was what into the decision,” McCrimmon said.
This is the seventh coaching change in the NHL this season and the fifth for performance reasons. Vegas is the third team to change coaches after facing the Sabres, a loss that didn’t sit well among players.
“It’s tougher, especially when you’re losing to teams you know that you’re better than,” Golden Knights winger Mark Stone said Tuesday night. “We’re a better hockey team. Just have to find ways to put the puck in the net, and we’ve kind of gotten stale last bunch of games.”
Most fans FOX5 spoke with expressed disappointment and confusion.
"He's been there from the start," Remedy's bartender Parker Griensewic said. "He brought a lot of victories. The first year we went all the way to the Stanley Cup and not many teams can say that." The VGK-friendly bar hosts watch parties and offers specials on game days.
Meanwhile, some fans brought up the rivalry between the Knights and the Sharks.
"Hopefully he doesn't bring bad blood over to [the Knights]," fan Waylon Ukpong said.
The Golden Knights are 8-6-1 in their last 15 but are only three points out of first place in the Pacific Division. Gallant was set to coach the Pacific team at All-Star Weekend later this month after Vegas led the division at the halfway mark.
Things haven’t gone well since then. The power play is 5 of 25 over the past 12 games, and the team gave up two power play goals to the Sabres, who are ranked 21st in the league.
“They’re still doing the same type of things, whether it’s unlucky or bad opportunities,” Gallant said after the loss. “It’s just not working right now.”
DeBoer was fired by the Sharks in December amid their disappointing season. DeBoer, who Gallant once called a “clown,” is the permanent replacement with no interim designation.
DeBoer is the second coach to be fired this season and join a new team; John Hynes went from New Jersey to Nashville. He is now with his fourth team as head coach after stints with New Jersey, Florida and San Jose.
“His teams are always very well prepared, very well coached,” McCrimmon said of DeBoer. “He’s an intelligent guy. Teams have always been very strong special teams. He’s been to the Stanley Cup Final with two different teams. He enjoyed a lot of success in the National Hockey League as a coach and I think with this opportunity he’ll continue to do that.”
Vegas is 24-19-6 and next plays Thursday night at Ottawa with DeBoer expected to be behind the bench.