(Update: Gallant was fired the day after I wrote this. This article can be a retrospective of just how shocking it was that he was fired and maybe give important insight as to why he was fired in the first place)
“Wow the Golden Knights are Going to Be Bad”. That was the headline of article made by Deputy Editor Barry Petchesky for Deadspin the day after Golden Knights’ Expansion Draft. It goes without say that the Knights performed a little better than expectations deemed. I don’t think that Las Vegas journalists were necessarily ready to take on such a huge product. The team garnered a lot of national media attention due to its rapid success. The media was just as excited as the people of Las Vegas. Head coach Garrard Gallant has enjoyed two dominant season as head coach and has not been put under a microscope until this season in which the team has struggled quite a bit. On January 6th, 2020 hosts Sharp and Shapiro talked about a question that made Gallant so upset he left the press conference all together.
The controversial question at hand came from Las Vegas Review Journal writer David Shoen:
“You guys have struggled against teams that are kind of, I guess, above you in the standings/ playoff teams stuff like that. How important was it for you guys to get a win and make a statement against a team that obviously playing well right now?
Gallant cuts in:
We were negative tonight, were we? We’re in first place and I thought we’ve had a nice run the last 20 or so games. So, the whole league isn’t a good league anymore? Like, come on. We just win a big game. What are we 10-3-2 or whatever? Did we not play good enough tonight to win?
Gallant’s answer is not only all over the place it also doesn’t even answer the question. Shoen did not have any malicious intent. He was noting how important it was that the Knights win games against good teams and maybe get some incite as to the strategy changes that Gallant has implanted as the season has gone on. Those 15 games cannot be the parameter for overall success. This is not a league like football where you only have 16 games to prove your worth. The NHL season is a daunting 82 games and season long trends are much more important than a pocket of games. As of January 14th, 2020, the Knights are riding a three-game losing streak and are in 4th place in Pacific versus 1st place when that interview took place. I’m sure Gallant would not have answered the question the same way after the 3-0 loss the Columbus Blue Jackets on January 11th, 2020.
Shapiro gives his opinion:
“Okay so Gallant walks off. Let me be very clear on this one. As I like to call this guy, who writes articles for the Review Journal, Ed the “Ass Kisser” Graney. Here’s what I mean by that. He takes Shoen’s sides and says it’s a legitimate question and I agree with him on that. Here’s why it’s a legitimate question. The Vegas Golden Knights, right now, are 8-9-4 against playoff caliber teams and they are 3-6-1 against teams ahead of them in points. Completely legitimate question. Gallant is way off on this one.
Sharp later on adds:
“He got defensive because he relates to it, but he knows that it’s true and he is not happy about it. It’s simple in sports. If your record is 11-16 against playoff teams after 27 games which is a decent sample size and 3-6 against opponents that are probably going to be top 3 or 4 teams on each side of the conference there is a decent chance you are not going to go very far in the playoffs. He knows that and that’s why he responded that way.”
I can understand wanting to protect the team that you coach. It is hard to take criticism. That pressure must be amplified in front of a bunch of reporters as well. I think he probably had an exciting locker room conversation with his squad after the win and was not mentally prepared to take any form of criticism for it. When he heard the question, he clearly interpreted it as trying to be discredited for what the team had accomplished. There also has to be a truth when it comes to his insecurity with the team’s somewhat telling record. They are getting embarrassed by the top teams in the league. Games such as the 7-3 loss against Colorado, 4-2 loss against St. Louis Blues, and a 4-2 loss to the Dallas Stars is what’s concerning about this team’s play this season. As a coach, you have to be prepared to answer questions of this nature because they are unavoidable.
Sharp had this to say about Gallant’s relationship with the media:
“It is typical with Gallant. He is not great with the media nor does he enjoy interviews. Responding like that and basically embarrassing this interview with me is a problem.
Shapiro had this to say about Gallant:
“I’m just going to call it for what it is. He is a cry baby. It is not the media’s job to kiss his ass. It is not the media’s job kiss anybody’s ass. You report on the team and give your opinion. It doesn’t always mean that the media’s opinion is right, but this isn’t even an opinion. This is a fact.”
These kinds of instances don’t usually make it to the average fan of the Golden Knights. The team is particularly good at maintaining a certain image of Gallant. He is presented as a charming and inspirational kind of coach. I view him more as a silent and calculated person when I see him in games and practice. Is it important that a head coach is great with the media? Is it an essential part of a team’s success? Technically there is no answer, but I would tend to imagine that it’s not. We never get anything out of coach Belichick, and I would say the Patriots have been quite successful over the years. You could argue that being outspoken like Gallant is worse than being silent like Belichick, but the principal is still the same. Both guys are not great with the media. That is not to say that I personally believe Gallant is a hot head or anything but he has definitely shown his teeth from time to time. It is the media’s responsibility to ask important questions because it helps brings fans closer to the game. It helps to develop people’s relationships to their favorite teams. It gives the country incite to important issues with that league. I would say with that in mind, his decision to storm out of an interview is very inappropriate.
Sharp gives his thoughts on the Knight’s chances as of right now:
“You’re looking at a 5 or 7 game series, based on this record, they are not going to make it out of round one.
“Well I am not about to go that far.”
Is it really out of this world to think the Golden Knights aren’t a powerhouse anymore? A mediocre 14-10-3 record at home can attest to the fact that they aren’t as hard to beat as they used to. They lack talent at the defensive position which is probably the most important when the playoffs start. They have gotten off the to some of the slowest starts I have ever seen in games this year and those kinds of things matter so much in the post season. The trade deadline is going to be more important for the Knights than ever before. The Knights can’t ride the hype train anymore. Teams know who they are now. I don’t know the exact targets but expect a big-name defenseman to be highly linked to the Knights. Otherwise they don’t have a chance of making it past the first round in the playoffs and certainly not winning the Stanley Cup Finals.
JD has this to say about Vegas reporters defending Gallant and not having particularly strong opinions on matters involving the team:
“I think part of it is that they want to get their questions answered. They want to be able to get content. Remember, this is all about generating content for KTNV or the Las Vegas Review Journal. I think they are very happy that Las Vegas finally has professional sports and they are doing whatever they can to flash that. But, you know, the bottom line is that whenever you report like that and you are totally biased in one direction [talking about defending Gallant walking off], even when someone makes a mistake, you lose credibility to your readership, listenership, and your viewership. That doesn’t fly in major markets. I think that a lot of these reporters, they still think that Las Vegas is a small market, but the truth is that Las Vegas is growing.”
I don’t think there are many people who want to ask tough questions. The team is never pressured to answer questions regarding expensive ticket prices and the coaches definitely don’t feel as though they need to answer hard questions. It is the responsibility of all media members to continue asking real questions. Playing into the hands of professional teams creates bland content. Being overly positive is for the people who are official beat writers for the team and their announcers. Beyond that, media members have to have journalistic integrity to be recognized as legitimate. No one wants to hear how amazing the team is every week when that is not the reality. That is also not to say that journalists need to attack coaches and players for every nuanced mistake. There is a respectful medium that everyone interested in sports seek. With all that being said, I don’t see Gallant’s post game interviews ever making NHL news or even local Las Vegas news on a consistent basis.