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Gerard (Turk) Gallant reflects on Golden Knights’ record-setting inaugural season in NHL

Summerside native and head coach Gerard (Turk) Gallant has guided the Vegas Golden Knights to a record-setting season for a National Hockey League expansion team. Jeff Bottari/Vegas Golden Knights
Summerside native and head coach Gerard (Turk) Gallant has guided the Vegas Golden Knights to a record-setting season for a National Hockey League expansion team. Jeff Bottari/Vegas Golden Knights - Submitted

It has been a season to remember for the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Golden Knights shattered the record for most wins by a National Hockey League expansion franchise, and is now two games into its opening-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Kings.

“It’s obviously very positive, everything that has gone on this year, winning the Pacific Division,” reflected Golden Knights head coach and Summerside native Gerard (Turk) Gallant in a phone interview with the Journal Pioneer. “It has been an outstanding year for our team and our organization.

“Everything has been perfect, and we obviously hope the playoffs go as well as the regular season.”

The Golden Knights compiled a record of 51-24-7 (won-lost-overtime losses) en route to finishing third overall in the very tough Western Conference, behind only the Nashville Predators (53-18-11) and Winnipeg Jets (52-20-10). Gallant admitted the Golden Knights have exceeded expectations in Year 1.

“I would say so, everybody, including coaching staff, players, management,” reaffirmed Gallant, who is the favourite to win the Jack Adams Award as NHL coach of the year. “To be truthful, it’s an expansion team, but the expansion rules were real good to us, and we got a lot of good hockey players.

“After the first 10 games of the regular season, we knew we had a real good hockey team. It wasn’t like the old-time expansion teams. We got a lot of good talent, a lot of good players and we earned a lot of these wins this year. It was a lot of fun.”

“After the first 10 games of the regular season, we knew we had a real good hockey team. It wasn’t like the old-time expansion teams. We got a lot of good talent, a lot of good players and we earned a lot of these wins this year. It was a lot of fun.”
-Gerard (Turk) Gallant

Fast start

While the Golden Knights got off to an 8-1 start to the regular season, including three overtime wins, most people expected the first-year team to come back to reality. However, that never happened.

Was there a point in the season that Gallant and Co. look back on as a turning point that convinced the organization they may have something special on the go?

“Definitely,” answered Gallant, who reached the milestone of 200 career coaching wins in the NHL earlier this season. “There was a weekend we had back-to-back road games in Nashville and then in Dallas.

“That was probably halfway through the season, and we went in both those buildings and we got two wins in both of those games.”


A look at Vegas Golden Knights’ numbers:

  • Set an NHL record for wins – 51 – by an expansion franchise.
  • Previous record of wins by an NHL expansion team was 33 – shared by Anaheim and Florida in 1993-94. Golden Knights earned their 34th win in their 50th contest in the 82-game schedule.
  • William Karlsson was top point-getter in regular season – 78 points.
  • Karlsson led way in goals – 43 – while David Peron contributed a team-leading 50 assists.
  • Erik Haula scored 19 power-play goals.
  • Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault and James Neal all scored six power-play goals.
  • Only lost three games in a row once during regular season during a stretch from Feb. 26 to March 2.

The Golden Knights were also without No. 1 goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury for those two games, but Malcolm Subban made a career-high 41 saves and Reilly Smith scored the only goal in a six-round shootout in a 4-3 shootout win over Nashville on Dec. 8. The following night, the Golden Knights scored three goals in 3:37 to take a 4-1 lead en route to a 5-3 win over Dallas. Those two wins improved the Golden Knights to 19-9-1.

“That was the time we said, ‘We have a good hockey team here,’” said Gallant, who was hired by the Golden Knights on April 13, 2017. “We said if we play that same way with that same intensity and talent level, we can beat anyone.

“That was the perfect weekend for us. That was probably the weekend where we said, ‘You know what, we’ll see what happens here, but we like our chances.’”

Gallant, who enjoyed a very solid playing career, has been lauded for is his willingness to play four lines regularly, and trust his players.

“The biggest thing with our team is we have a lot of fun, and we come to work every day,” said Gallant, 54. “We don’t play our best game every night, but we have a chance to win every night. It’s a solid team effort.

“One night it’s the goaltending, the next night it’s the defence scoring some big goals and we have a lot of depth through our forward crew. Everybody chips in with our hockey team, it’s not one line or one goalie, it’s a group effort every night and every time we win.”

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#JerseysForHumboldt

Vegas Golden Knights head coach Gerard (Turk) Gallant was one of countless individuals who participated in #JerseysForHumboldt. Everyone was encouraged to wear a jersey on Thursday in honour of the victims in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash on April 6. Gallant wore a home Golden Knights’ jersey to his media conference, with the No. 18 and Broncos across the name bar.

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