Golden Knights’ Gerard Gallant is heavy favourite for Jack Adams Award
If Las Vegas Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant doesn’t win the Jack Adams Award for best coach in the NHL this year it would be more than a minor flesh wound.
And while it wouldn’t be as funny as Monty Python’s skit of the brave knight defending his station, it will certainly leave many people upset.
Steve Carp, the Vegas Golden Knights reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, said he would expect an investigation to happen if Gallant doesn’t win the award to be presented Wednesday at the NHL Awards in Vegas.
The scribe may have a point.
The Jack Adams is awarded by the NHL Broadcasters’ Association and it appears the process is subjective. The NHL notes the judges decide by poll who contributed the most to his team’s success. If either of the other candidates — Bruce Cassidy of the Boston Bruins or Jared Bednar of the Colorado Avalanche — win, someone should call the FBI.
Never has an expansion team done what the Golden Knights did in its inaugural year.
“When you look at the whole body of work, how does he not win it?” he asked. “There should be an investigation if he is not the winner tomorrow night.”
During the year, Gallant was able to get the most out of his players and forward William Karlsson was a perfect example.
Karlsson had a total of six goals with 25 assists when he played for the Columbus Blue Jackets for the 2017-2018 season. After being picked by Vegas in the June 2017 expansion draft, his production exploded, finishing the year with 43 goals and a total of 78 points, while playing only one more game than in Columbus.
“He let the players be themselves, there wasn’t anything magical about it,” Carp said. “There was some trial and error, had different guys playing on different lines.”
He also mentioned Karlsson’s improvement as a player.
“William Karlsson was on the fourth line and struggling in the pre-season, but became the team’s leading scorer at the end of the season and played on the top line,” Carp said.
Gallant has a laid back style when it comes to coaching the Golden Knights this year, keeping any problems with the team behind closed doors to reduce distractions.
“He is definitely a players’ coach, he certainly set the tone,” Carp said. “[The team would] come to the rink relaxed, be ready to have fun, but work hard.
“He never over-worked them and he never really called them out when they were having bad nights. Everything really stayed inside the room,” he said.
It seemed the new team in Vegas was more like the Island of Misfit Toys. But it wasn’t only the players feeling that way. They were discards from other teams. But so was Gallant, who was unceremoniously dumped as head coach from the Florida Panthers the season prior, Carp said.
“He was very motivated after being fired in Florida, just like when players are motivated when they are traded or exposed in an expansion draft like his team was,” he said.
“He had something to prove and he was quickly able to get the players’ trust by allowing them to be themselves, not over coaching them, being fair but firm, and I think all those factors contributed to really good chemistry in the locker room and on the ice,” Carp said.
“These guys played hard for their coach and I think [we] saw the result,” he said.
Nobody predicted the Golden Knights would make the playoffs, let alone lead the Pacific Division with a record of 52 wins, 24 loses and seven overtime loses. Gallant took it game by game and it ended up paying off huge for the team.
“He didn’t talk ever about competing for a Stanley Cup, or making the playoffs — his focus was always on the next game,” Carp said. Narrowing his focus was a “huge part of [the team’s success] because his players bought into it and never got caught being ahead too far down the road.”
With the success the team had in reaching the Stanley Cup finals and winning their division, it’s
hard not to argue Gallant was a “perfect fit for the job.” Things weren’t always easy during the run, but Gallant didn’t lose hope and believed in his players.
“Nobody could have predicted the success the team had, least of all Gallant,” Carp said. “His whole thing was, let’s show up tonight and give a good effort. If we get a couple points out of it, so be it.”
“Believe me, there were many distractions with guys going back to playing against their former teams, most of all Fleury in Pittsburgh. I think he has the right temperament to coach this team and he did a wonderful job.”