Updated May 4, 2022 - 8:42 am
Golden Knights coach Pete DeBoer will meet with management this week to discuss the team’s season.
And within a multitude of opinions sure to transpire over such a sit-down regarding a team that for the first time fell short of a playoff berth, one factor shouldn’t be questioned.
When he leaves the room, DeBoer should still be the Knights’ coach.
He shouldn’t be going anywhere except to prepare for next season.
“I want to be back,” said DeBoer, who has one year remaining on his contract. “I’m excited about the potential of this team. Everybody gets evaluated. We never got the chance to do what I thought we were capable of.”
Five hundred man-games lost — 500.
Bled into it
I don’t know why DeBoer and his players have gone out of their way to suggest the tidal wave of injuries that ultimately drowned the Knights shouldn’t be used as an excuse (reason) for not making the postseason. It’s the truth.
Most everything that occurred on and off the ice pointed directly to those man-games lost and, specifically, which players were sidelined. Most everything. Not all of it.
How the team played. How it lacked chemistry. How it missed veteran leadership. How it was so poor at specific areas, such as special teams. (Even though the latter has been a problem for some time.)
Injuries bled into all of it, DeBoer correctly surmised.
Like a never-ending fountain of red.
It doesn’t for a second mean the Knights couldn’t have been better at all phases. Or that they couldn’t have found a few extra points to qualify by not losing down the stretch to some dreadful teams. Or at least found someone who could score in a shootout. Or that the system didn’t always translate to those results for which it was intended.
Or that what was a hot mess of a goalie situation — can DeBoer coexist with Robin Lehner next season? — didn’t negatively affect the room. Or that DeBoer and his staff are immune to a major level of responsibility for all of it. Hardly.
There isn’t a member of management, coaches or players who shouldn’t take a long look in the mirror when they’re sitting on a couch watching playoff hockey.
“I thought Pete did a great job early to keep us relevant,” general manager Kelly McCrimmon said. “Pete is an intelligent coach who does a real good job. There are things after any year you want to talk about, and we will have those discussions. I like talking about a season with a coach. Pete is a real good coach. He and his staff had a tough hand to play.
“I’m very disappointed we didn’t make the playoffs. I believe we could have and should have.”
Look. Change is coming somewhere. It always does at season’s end. It does for whichever team lifts the Stanley Cup. The Knights still have salary cap issues to address. Some popular names could be moved or not re-signed. That’s part of things.
But to change coaches for the second time in five years (come on — really?) given the injury situation would be wrong and extremely shortsighted. DeBoer and his staff can do better. So can McCrimmon and president of hockey operations George McPhee. Management has certainly played a major part in this.
So can everyone, really.
They need to get healthy and run it back.
Didn’t come close
They all want to be fast and physical, rolling out four solid lines and pressuring opponents into mistakes. They all have that vision of an identity once known but not forgotten.
Couldn’t be that this season. Didn’t come close. Many reasons why.
None more prevalent than 500 man-games lost.
“I think we worked our ass off every day as a coaching staff — to deal with the adversity, to come with a positive attitude, to keep the team competitive, to look for solutions,” DeBoer said. “We’re going to keep working at this until we get it right, and I’m confident we will. We’re not that far off.
“The worst thing you can do is overreact and change everything without a true picture of what you had. I’m not sure we had a true picture of what our strengths and weaknesses were. We never got to that point. That’s not absolving responsibility. That’s just the facts.”
And for it, there should be no question about his future.
He should walk out as he walks in.
Coach of the Golden Knights.
Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.