6 Golden Knights’ Head Coaching Candidates

We might be getting a (slightly) better idea of who the Vegas Golden Knights are considering for their next head coach, but they certainly don’t appear to be in any hurry to anoint the new bench boss. With the New York Islanders tabbing Lane Lambert, the Montreal Canadiens taking the interim tag off of Martin St. Louis and the Boston Bruins axing Bruce Cassidy, Vegas still holds one of the six vacant coaching posts around the league (four others are held by interim head coaches).

It’s been about four weeks since the Golden Knights opted to part ways with Pete DeBoer and find a new leader to navigate what appears to be something of a reset. These unique circumstances – a Cup-caliber roster coming off of a wildly disappointing season with limited flexibility – demand a specific fit, which means added scrutiny to any list of candidates.

George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon are keeping a tight lid on the whole process, and rightfully so. But between rumors and logical speculation, we can probably build a reasonable and somewhat informed group of potential candidates. With that in mind, here’s a look at some possibilities and why they may or may not be who the Golden Knights are seeking.

Paul Maurice

Why He Might Fit: Amidst all the “sky is falling” negativity surrounding Vegas right now, it bears remembering that this team is actually pretty good. Paul Maurice’s calm, cool demeanor would go a long way toward reinforcing that. The 55-year-old has a quarter-century of NHL coaching experience under his belt, so there really isn’t a whole lot he hasn’t seen. Could his steady presence have helped the club last year when the wheels came off late in the season?

Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice
Former Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice (THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods)

Why He Might Not Fit: That calm influence hasn’t helped his teams a ton. Only nine of those 24 seasons have resulted in playoff appearances, while three have seen Maurice get fired mid-way through the campaign, including last year’s disappointing campaign with the Winnipeg Jets, which also saw a talented roster underachieve amid reports of internal strife.

Rick Tocchet

Why He Might Fit: Rick Tocchet, a Turner Sports analyst from this season, has reportedly become a trendy name amidst head coaching circles within the past few weeks, and with good reason. The former long-time tough guy engineered the Arizona Coyotes’ only postseason run of the past 10 years (upsetting the Nashville Predators in the qualifying round before falling to the Colorado Avalanche) and carries widespread respect across the league.

Rick Tocchet Arizona Coyotes
Rick Tocchet, then with the Arizona Coyotes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Why He Might Not Fit: That playoff-bound season in the desert represents one of just two years of Tocchet’s career behind the bench in which he finished with more wins than losses. On the whole, the Toronto native has gone 178-200-60 over six seasons as an NHL head coach. The Golden Knights might be looking for more of a winning pedigree than that.

Barry Trotz

Why He Might Fit: There is little doubt that Barry Trotz is the ‘A’ name on a pretty impressive class of available coaching candidates this summer. Stanley Cup winner? Check. Jack Adams recipient? Double-check. As recently as the 2020-21 season, Trotz led the New York Islanders to within one game of the Stanley Cup Final, pushing the Tampa Bay Lightning as hard as anyone did over their consecutive Cup runs (from ‘Why Barry Trotz would be a good fit as Golden Knights coach,’ The Athletic, 6/07/22).

Barry Trotz
Barry Trotz (Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)

Why He Might Not Fit: You know who had a worse 2021-22 season than the Golden Knights? That would be Trotz’s Islanders, who appeared to quit on their coach at times, even if the second half did produce an encouraging bounce back. Still, it’s hard to get too worked up over one bad season amidst a pretty strong overall body of work, so there doesn’t seem to be much to worry about with regard to the third-winningest coach of all time.

Joel Quenneville

Why He Might Fit: Joel Quenneville’s name is making the rounds less than eight months removed from his forced resignation as head coach of the Florida Panthers based on revelations about his inactivity in the face of Kyle Beach’s sexual assault allegations while coaching the Chicago Blackhawks. If Quenneville has truly grown from his mistakes and is deemed ready to return to NHL duty, Vegas could do worse than the league’s second-winningest coach of all time and one who helped shape the reigning Presidents’ Trophy-winning Panthers.

Joel Quenneville Florida Panthers
Joel Quenneville, then with the Florida Panthers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Why He Might Not Fit: Everyone makes mistakes, and at some point, Quenneville should probably get the opportunity to pursue NHL employment again. But less than one year later? The Golden Knights will need to find some really good reasons to look past the moral failings of the 63-year-old, especially given how many top-tier coaches are available.

You May Also Like

Ryan Craig

Why He Might Fit: It seems highly unlikely that the club will look to fill the head coaching role internally, but there has to be something that the front office sees in Ryan Craig that they like. The only Vegas original behind the bench, Craig has now survived two different coaching regimes and remains with the organization. Perhaps he’s being groomed for a promotion?

Ryan Craig (left) during his time with the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters (Photo Credit: Elaine Shircliff)

Why He Might Not Fit: Easily the least recognizable name on this list, Craig would probably represent a letdown for Golden Knights fans amidst many ‘bigger’ names available. His hiring would also raise questions about whether promoting from within can really precipitate change, as well as why the announcement didn’t coincide with DeBoer’s firing in the first place.

Bruce Cassidy

Why He Might Fit: A surprising late entry to this list after being relieved of his duties by the Boston Bruins earlier this week, Bruce Cassidy instantly became an intriguing candidate. A tough-minded coach with a proven track record of success, he could fit a win-now team like Vegas well. Cassidy might also earn points for his connection to McPhee, having been hired by the current Golden Knights president for his first head coaching gig with the Washington Capitals.

Bruce Cassidy, head coach of the Boston Bruins
Former Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Why He Might Not Fit: Cassidy ultimately lost his job in Boston because he failed to get the Bruins over the hump come playoff time, a charge that sounds an awful lot like the criticisms levied against DeBoer – before this past season, anyway. It also remains to be seen how far down the negotiating rabbit hole Vegas has gone with pre-existing candidates and whether they are prepared to consider newly available options.

While these are some of the most obvious names to connect to the Golden Knights’ coaching job, this is by no means a comprehensive list. Smart hockey minds, like former Dallas Stars head coach Jim Montgomery and Toronto Maple Leafs’ assistant Spencer Carbery, could be in line for a shot, while usual suspects like Claude Julien and Mike Babcock may resurface. Amidst an important decision for Vegas, there are certainly options available.

Sign up for our regular 'Golden Knights Newsletter' for all the latest.