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Vegas Golden Knights firing ‘rattled’ Pete DeBoer

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Peter DeBoer Vegas Golden Knights Dallas Stars

Three years into his tenure as Vegas Golden Knights head coach, Pete DeBoer felt pretty good about where he was at.

In his first two years since taking over for Gerard Gallant midseason in 2020, he led the Golden Knights to a 55-19-4 record with two trips to the third round of the playoffs.

Then, the 2021-22 season happened.

Vegas fell out of the playoff hunt to the tune of a 43-31-8 record while accruing a total of 505 man-games lost due to injury.

“I took the job in Vegas and thought I made an impact,” DeBoer, now the head coach of the Dallas Stars, said during his introductory press conference.  “We went to the Conference Final in the bubble, we went to the [Semifinal] and beat the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Colorado Avalanche last year, and I thought we were building on that.

“We were trying to reach our potential and then we had as disastrous of an injury-filled season as I’ve seen as a head coach that bled into everything we were trying to do.”

Those 505 man-games included Mark Stone, who missed two months with a back injury, and Jack Eichel, who was not ready to go until February after undergoing a rare disk replacement surgery in November following a messy situation in Buffalo.

Robin Lehner also went back and forth between playing games and spending time on injured reserve before he finally received season-ending shoulder surgery.

“Health is something you cannot control,” DeBoer said.

Vegas only had four players last season with at least 40 games played and 40 points — Alex Pietrangelo (80 games, 44 points), Shea Theodore (78 games, 52 points), Chandler Stephenson (79 games, 64 points), and Jonathan Marchessault (76 games, 66 points).

Meanwhile, star players Stone, Eichel, and Max Pacioretty each played a combined 110 out of 246 possible games.

And still, the Golden Knights found themselves three points behind the Nashville Predators for the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs.

The blame could be shifted to general manager Kelly McCrimmon’s botching of the Evgeni Dadonov deal and a lengthy delay to place Lehner on injured reserve following his shoulder injury to allow Vegas to pick up a veteran goaltender at the trade deadline, but management decided that they did not like what they saw out of DeBoer.

“We are in the results business,” McCrimmon said. “The decision is about next year. It is about starting with a fresh voice and a reenergized team. It is about a group of players with something to prove and that is the attitude we want to take into next season. This was part of that,”

After achieving success in the playoffs in his previous two seasons, DeBoer was caught off guard with the move after what was a disappointing 2021-22 campaign.

“Every time you lose a job, you have different reactions,” DeBoer said, “The Vegas one rattled me because I thought as a coaching staff we worked as hard as we could with the situation handed to us this year.

“I thought getting 94 points out of a team that lost 500-plus man games in injuries – I thought our coaching staff really worked hard to get that. I’m not going to lie to you, it rattled me for a little bit.”

In the end, it seemed like both sides benefitted from the break-up.

The Golden Knights ended up with a head coach with as good of a resume as anyone in Bruce Cassidy and DeBoer landed right back on his feet in Dallas — the team that took Vegas out of playoff contention with a shootout win on April 26.

Now, the veteran head coach looks to learn from his tenure in Sin City and lead the Stars moving forward.

“Every year in this league you learn more. I’ve grown as a coach, I understand now the importance of making relationships with players quickly, making sure your leadership group is involved in all of the important decisions with your team, there are always things you can do better.

“I think the Dallas Stars are getting a better coach than the coach that was in Vegas, a better coach than the coach that took San Jose to the Final, and a better coach than the coach that took New Jersey to the Final,” he said. “So [Dallas general manager Jim Nill] is getting me at the right time.”

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