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Foley says Golden Knights already have ‘six or seven’ coaching candidates

The next big announcement from the Golden Knights will likely be their coach and coaching staff, and George McPhee is looking for someone who meets the requirements for Vegas’ first coach.

The Vegas Golden Knights have their name and logo in place, a front office staff that has been built from the ground up and a building and market that’s ready to see its first professional sports team hit the ice. It’s still going to be a while before the club names its first coach, though.

With the season under way and the five-month naming process done and over with, many would expect the next step — preceding the expansion draft and possibly even before team’s jerseys are unveiled — would be finding a bench boss for the club. And while the organization does seem set in having the coaching hire as the next big announcement, the Golden Knights aren’t about to hire anyone without exploring their options. 

Much like the talk about potential expansion draft picks, those coaching options can change throughout a season, and because of that the franchise appears more than willing to wait to select its first coach.

“Our timeline is more towards the end of the season,” Golden Knights owner Bill Foley told Sportsnet’s David Amber following the name and logo announcement. “(GM George McPhee) has a list of six or seven primary candidates. A number of them are currently employed, so we’ll just see how the season ends and who’s available or who we have permission to talk to and who’s not under contract. So the coach, and the coaching staff, will really be more of a March, April timeframe, as opposed to an immediate timeframe. 

That sure sounds like a few of the options are from the current stable of coaches in the big league or among the select few NHL-ready coaches currently plying their trade in the AHL or elsewhere. When asked by Sportsnet’s Daren Millard, McPhee said he was “open-minded” about hiring someone with no NHL experience if it was believed that coach was best for the job, but he said he’s leaning more towards someone whose been around the league before.

“Ideally it would be a guy with experience, but we’ll see,” McPhee told Millard. “(Assistant GM) Kelly McCrimmon and I met the other day. We’ve kept independent lists, but we finally got together and compared those lists and talked about the things we wanted in a coach, the important traits and abilities and experience.”

Vegas’ interest in having a coach with NHL experience could potentially trim down the list of potential hires, and it does make it possible that a coach such as Travis Green or Sheldon Keefe, both of whom are highly touted AHL bench bosses, could be cut out of the running. Both have been talked about as potential coaching hires when vacancies have popped up over the past few seasons, however.

If NHL experience is at a premium, though, the list of assistant coaches who’ve been running the bench before could very well jump up the list. 

Chicago Blackhawks assistant Kevin Dineen, for instance, was reportedly a potential hire for the Flames this off-season before Calgary went with Glen Gulutzan, and Marc Crawford, a longtime NHL coach, has only just returned from the Swiss league as an assistant with the Ottawa Senators. He could be an interesting, veteran choice as coach. Same goes for Paul MacLean, the former Senators coach and current Anaheim Ducks assistant, or Davis Payne, who formerly coach the St. Louis Blues before landing an assistant gig with the Los Angeles Kings.

As for current coaches in tough spots, it’d be interesting to know whether Jack Capuano, the current Islanders coach, would be on the Golden Knights’ list given New York’s struggles. There was a time before the season when Boston’s Claude Julien may have topped the list of candidates, but the Bruins are still considered a potential playoff team, so there’s no reason right now to think that Julien will be getting the axe.

Who Vegas hires is impossible to predict right now, but the Golden Knights certainly have a watchful eye on several teams — both NHL and AHL — this season.

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