The Vegas Golden Knights have fired head coach Peter DeBoer after they missed the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
General manager Kelly McCrimmon made the announcement Monday and thanked DeBoer for his work with the organization.
“Since joining the organization, Pete and his staff have guided us through some of the most unique and challenging circumstances we’ve witnessed since our franchise entered the NHL,” McCrimmon said. “After lengthy discussions over the last two weeks, we believe that a new coach will put us in the best position to succeed next season.”
Vegas failed to qualify for the playoffs after a barrage of injuries compounded by salary cap problems wreaked havoc on the lineup, most notably in goal. The Golden Knights at one point were first in the Pacific Division but after 82 games found themselves three points back of the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference despite acquiring centre Jack Eichel in a trade with Buffalo and other moves along the way designed to make them a perennial championship contender.
The organization having a short leash on head coaches is nothing new. DeBoer coached the Golden Knights for 2 1/2 seasons after being named in January 2020 to replace Gerard Gallant, who guided the team to the Stanley Cup final in their inaugural season in 2017-18 and back to the playoffs in 2019.
Under DeBoer, they reached the playoffs the previous two years and lost one round before the Stanley Cup final each time.
DeBoer, 53, is the fourth coach to lose his job since the regular season ended, joining Detroit’s Jeff Blashill, Philadelphia’s Mike Yeo and the New York Islanders’ Barry Trotz. The Islanders on Monday named longtime Trotz assistant Lane Lambert as his replacement.
Vegas joins the list of vacancies, which also includes Winnipeg and Chicago — teams that are not expected to bring back interim coaches.
DeBoer was coaching his fourth NHL team after stints with Florida, New Jersey and San Jose. He took
Islanders’ new voice
When the New York Islanders fired head coach Barry Trotz, general manager Lou Lamoriello believed the team needed a new voice.
That new voice is coming from inside the same coaches’ room.
The Islanders on Monday named Lane Lambert as Trotz’s replacement, giving his longtime assistant his first head coaching job in the NHL. It took just a week from the decision to move on from Trotz with one year left on his contract for the team to conclude that Lambert was the right choice to succeed him.
“There is without question a new voice,” Lamoriello said during a virtual news conference. “That new voice is here with Lane, and certainly Lane has different thoughts on different things.”
Trotz was fired last week after the Islanders missed the playoffs for the first time in his four seasons behind the bench, a disappointing turn of events chalked up significantly to opening with a 13-game road trip and getting hit with a string of coronavirus absences and injuries.
Lamoriello said a major reason for this move was a stretch in January when Lambert took over coaching duties from Trotz, who took a leave of absence to deal with a family matter, and showed impressive leadership.
Received Trotz’s blessing
“When he got the opportunity or was put in that role, he had no questions in his mind as far as his decision-making, no insecurities in the conversations I had with him, and the homework he did prior to making some of the decisions that were put upon him,” the 79-year-old executive said. “He was totally comfortable in his own skin to make decisions that had to be made no matter where we are and no matter what game it was.”
Lambert said he spoke twice with Trotz and received his blessing.
“I talked to Barry last week early on after he had received the news, and he told me that he was hoping that I would get the job,” Lambert said. “And then I just spoke to him not too long ago and he used the words that he was ‘thrilled.”‘
Lambert, 57, has worked on Trotz’s staff the past 11 years with Nashville, Washington and New York. He has a Stanley Cup ring from the Capitals’ title run in 2018, after which Trotz resigned amid a contract dispute and joined the Islanders.
Trotz was also replaced by an assistant then, when Todd Reirden was elevated to take over in Washington. He was fired after two seasons and two first-round playoff exits.
Fate of assistants unknown
Reirden, who is now on Mike Sullivan’s staff with the Pittsburgh Penguins, did not have a prior relationship with Trotz. Lambert began working under Trotz with the Nashville Predators in 2011 after four seasons as coach of their American Hockey League affiliate in Milwaukee and has been by his side since.
Assistants Jim Hiller and John Gruden and goaltending coach Piero Greco remain under contract, with Lamoriello and Lambert expected to make determinations on their status in the coming weeks.
Lambert, a native of Swift Current, Saskatchewan, played in 300 NHL regular-season and playoff games in the 1980s and many more in the minors and Europe after that. He went into coaching almost immediately after his playing days, becoming an assistant in 2002 with Moose Jaw of the Western Hockey League.
Lambert stayed in the junior league, coaching Prince George for two seasons before making the leap to the AHL. Next season will be his 22nd in coaching at any level and seventh as a head coach, though of course the first at the highest level of hockey.
“You work hard and good things happen,” he said. “I just worked hard and prepared for potentially one day having this opportunity.”
Point doubtful for Game 1 vs. Panthers
Tampa Bay Lightning centre Brayden Point is doubtful for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Florida Panthers after suffering an apparent lower-body injury Saturday night.
However, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper told reporters Monday that Point would be day-to-day after Tuesday’s opener.
Point crumpled to the ice in the first period in Game 7 against Toronto after his right leg gave way along the side boards. He writhed in pain, grabbing at his right hip ahead of the first intermission. He tried to return, coming off after a 25-second shift early in the second period, but couldn’t continue.
“He gave it a go,” Cooper said Saturday night. “He was not going to the [dressing] room. He was going to stay on the bench the whole time, but he couldn’t go.”
Cooper didn’t give an update on Point’s injury or status until Monday.
Point had two goals and four points in the series against the Maple Leafs. Point scored a league-high 28 goals combined in the previous two post-seasons, both resulting in Stanley Cup titles for the Lightning, who are attempting a three-peat.