The next major step for the Vegas Golden Knights is sifting through the potential coaching candidates and finding a bench boss they believe capable of leading the expansion team, and two former coaches who are now holding down secondary positions are reportedly in the running.
According to the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch, Golden Knights GM George McPhee has started to create a list of candidates who could fill the position and be the first coach for the expansion franchise, and among the bench bosses on the list are former Philadelphia Flyers coach Craig Berube and current Montreal Canadiens associate coach Kirk Muller.
Both would fit the bill in regards to what the organization is looking for in a coach. In speaking with Sportsnet’s Darren Millard in late November, McPhee said that while he was open to the idea of bringing in a fresh face such as a top AHL, NCAA or major junior coach, he was looking for someone with experience coaching in the NHL.
“(Assistant GM) Kelly McCrimmon and I met the other day,” McPhee told Millard. “We’ve kept independent lists, but we finally got together and compared those lists and talked about the things we wanted in a coach, the important traits and abilities and experience.”
If experience is of paramount importance, that could very well keep up-and-coming coaches such as Travis Green and Sheldon Keefe out of the running, and it would make it all the more understandable why Berube and Muller find their way into the running.
Berube, 51, was an assistant with the Philadelphia Flyers for six seasons before becoming the coach in 2013-14, but he remained in the position for only two seasons before being let go. After remaining out of a gig for the duration of the 2015-16 season, Berube found his way back behind the bench with the AHLs Chicago Wolves to 2016-17. Through 28 games, the Wolves are 13-10-5, good for eighth in the Western Conference.
As for Muller, 50, his candidacy for the job might be seen as a bit odd. Muller was hired just this past summer by the Canadiens after leaving his position in St. Louis, and in order to be hired by the Golden Knights on their expected timeline, he’d likely have to leave his position with the Canadiens mid-season.
Like Berube, Muller has experience behind an NHL bench, serving two and a half seasons behind the Carolina Hurricanes’ bench. He managed an 80-80-27 record over that time, ending up with the Blues by the start of the 2014-15 campaign.
Among the other coaches who have reportedly been or could potentially find themselves in the mix for the job are recently fired Florida Panthers coach Gerard Gallant, Chicago Blackhawks assistant Kevin Dineen, Ottawa Senators assistant Marc Crawford, Anaheim Ducks assistant Paul McLean and Los Angeles Kings assistant Davis Payne.
Vegas owner Bill Foley said he doesn’t expect the team to have named its coach until March or April. An April hiring would seem to be the most likely scenario, as it would come shortly after the season ends and still give the coach enough time to have input in terms of the expansion draft in June.
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