The Vegas Golden Knights have fired coach Peter DeBoer after failing to make the playoffs for the first time in their short history.
"The decision was made based on next year, the decision was not based on last year," General manager Kelly McCrimmon said during a news conference to discuss the firing. "I'm not going to be critical of Pete or point out specifics as to why this decision was made. I've got a lot of respect for Pete as a man, I've got a lot of respect for him as a coach. These decisions are made for the future.''
McCrimmon said he met with DeBoer numerous times, and had further discussions with president of hockey operations George McPhee, and eventually owner Bill Foley.
"I really felt as the season wound down you can feel the fatigue that had gathered over time,'' McCrimmon said. "We've got a 4 1/2-month offseason, which is going to be extremely important for our group. We missed the playoffs, which is humbling for a team no matter what the reasons were for how that happened. And I think what it's gonna give us is an opportunity in the fall to be incredibly rested, rehabbed, recharged, excited. When we went through it, I felt that we could enhance that by having a new voice leading our team into next season."
DeBoer was the second coach hired by Vegas, in 2019-20, after coach Gerard Gallant was behind the bench for the team's first two seasons in the NHL. DeBoer had a record of 98-50-12 in his three seasons in Vegas, leading the Golden Knights to the conference finals in 2020 and the playoffs' penultimate round in 2021 but failing to make the Stanley Cup Final in both seasons.
This season, the Golden Knights struggled through injuries and salary cap-related lineup challenges to finish with a 43-31-8 (94 points) record, missing the playoff cut by four points. They had a late-season stretch that saw the Knights get one win in six critical games, including a shootout loss at the Dallas Stars that acted as a de facto playoff game.
Vegas made the Stanley Cup Final in its first season in the NHL, losing to the Washington Capitals in 2018. Foley has been aggressively adding veteran talent since then in hopes of winning that elusive championship. The Knights have one of the NHL's highest-salaried teams, with a cap number that ballooned even larger when they made a blockbuster trade for Buffalo Sabres star Jack Eichel during the season.
Foley told the Las Vegas Journal-Review recently that the team had "lost a little personality" in the past few years because of the roster moves necessitated by the salary cap.
"Our goal is to get back to this identity of never giving up, never giving in and being a team. I believe we did move away from that identity somewhat with all the changes that have been made and the constant machinations," he said. "I'd say we're going to be a team now that we're 'Ready, aim, fire,' not 'Ready, fire, aim.' We're going to be careful. That's a big priority for me, and I'm going to be involved in it."
Vegas fired its coach at a time when several high-profile coaches are seeking new jobs. The New York Islanders fired Barry Trotz -- the coach who beat the Knights in the Stanley Cup Final -- last week. If he ends up in Las Vegas, it would look like something of a pattern: DeBoer was hired after his San Jose Sharks defeated Vegas in the Western Conference playoffs.
Other coaches seeking gigs include Claude Julien, who won a Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins; Paul Maurice (775) and Alain Vigneault (772), who are seventh and eighth in career wins, respectively; Mike Babcock, who last coached the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2019-20 and has faced accusations of mental abuse of players; and Joel Quenneville, who resigned from the Florida Panthers after just seven games this season after a report detailed his role in the mishandling of allegations that a player was sexually abused by an assistant coach with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010.
Quenneville would have to ask NHL commissioner Gary Bettman for permission to return to the league, and he hadn't done so as of last week.
McCrimmon said he and McPhee will begin the process of hiring a new coach immediately and wouldn't pigeonhole themselves into a category when it comes to a replacement.
"There's good coaches that have varying backgrounds,'' McCrimmon said. "We've had two good coaches; one guy's a former player, one guy wasn't. Both guys were effective at delivering the message. We'll identify the people that we are interested in, and I don't know if that'll be eight days, 10 days, six days, I don't know that. I'm sure we'll look at a lot of names. There's gonna be people that reach out to us, and we may include them as the people that we're interested in, and there's gonna be some real good people that reach out that we might not be interested in. But to speak to a specific candidate, it's just not the right time to have that discussion.''
The Associated Press contributed to this report.