It took all but two minutes for Gerard Gallant to be asked the all-important question to define the Vegas Golden Knights’ first season.
“What’s the plan to win the Cup, coach?” said one Las Vegas TV reporter.
It’s a light-hearted question on the first day of training camp for the NHL’s newest franchise. Rather than brush it off, Gallant took the question in stride and relayed that answer to how he’s going to approach this season with the Golden Knights.
“One day at a time,” he said with a chuckle.
In reality, the Golden Knights won’t have a lot of one-day-at-a-time moments to evaluate this roster, play seven exhibition games and compile lines before early October. Vegas will be in Rogers Arena on Sunday for its first preseason game against the Vancouver Canucks, and it’ll be the first time the veterans chosen from the expansion draft will play in an NHL regulation game.
Gallant said the team’s prospects, fresh off two scrimmages against the Los Angeles Kings in El Segundo, California, will get a lot of run during the early portion of preseason and eventually ease the veterans in. The powers that be are expected to go full-speed ahead between now and the Oct. 6 opener against the Dallas Stars.
That, coupled with the uncertainty of what’s actually going to transpire over the next few weeks, is why Gallant will keep expectations simple between now and April.
“My expectations are for my players to come to the rink every day and get better,” Gallant said. “I like my players to be good people. I like my players to come to the rink and get better. It’s not about winning 40 games, 30 games, 20 games, whatever it is. We’re trying to get better every day and compete every night.”
Gallant is inheriting a roster with many interchangeable parts, mixed with some overcrowding in some spots (mainly on the blue line). That’s why he won’t be focusing extensively on lines and pairings. That time will come in the final few games before the regular season.
Any decisions on the team will come from the decision making of Gallant and his staff, general manager George McPhee said.
“My job as a manager is to get all the players and coaches together and let the coaches take over,” he added. “It’s their room.”
For now, it’s still a transition period for the Golden Knights. Gallant admitted he still needs to meet with the rest of his players and figure out what kind of team he has. He needs to know which players are going to be the right guys for what could be a long season.
“We’re going to have some tough weeks,” Gallant said. “We’ve just got to fight through them and stick together as a group. If we’re going to have success, everyone who plays is going to have to put out their best effort.”
The first step to determining that effort will be Friday when the Golden Knights, as a whole, practice for the first time.
Other notes from Thursday
- Golden Knights forward James Neal will be out for at least the next 2-4 weeks while continuing to rehab from his broken right hand he suffered in last season’s Western Conference Finals, McPhee said. Don’t expect Neal, the player taken from the Nashville Predators, to be rushed back. Projected to be one of Vegas’ top offensive weapons this year, Neal told the Review-Journal that everything’s “running smoothly. I’m just looking forward to getting that first practice out of the way.”
- There’s still no status on David Clarkson or Mikhail Grabovski as they continue to stay on the long-term injured reserve list. Grabovski’s agent, Gary Greenstin, told NHL.com that the former New York Islander was at City National Arena for his physical and has the desire to play this year. “I don’t expect them to play, but that’s up to the doctors,” McPhee said.
- McPhee has received calls from teams inquiring about their influx of defensemen, but those talks are going to be put on hold until after training camp. McPhee wants to evaluate the guys the Golden Knights currently have and then will resume talks in about three weeks. Vegas currently has 11 defensemen under contract, per CapFriendly.