The Las Vegas Golden Knights capped off an incredible season by taking home four of the 13 trophies at the NHL Awards ceremony on Wednesday at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Coach Gerard Gallant won the Jack Adams Award, and General Manager George McPhee was awarded General Manager of the Year. Players William Karlsson won the Lady Byng, and teammate Deryk Engelland captured the Messier Leadership Award.
The awards capped off a most improbable season that saw the first-year expansion team reach the Stanley Cup Finals before losing to the Washington Capitals. The team broke several records along the way, including most wins by an expansion team, and highest finish by a first-year squad.
“It’s been an exceptional run, obviously,” Gallant told the media a day after losing in the finals. “From back in October to today, it’s been unbelievable. For us to be playing until June 7th was an incredible story.”
Gallant Had It Coming
It was quite a turnabout for Gallant, who was fired by the Florida Panthers 22 games into the 2016 season and then hired by the Golden Knights less than a year later. Receiving the award was expected, as he garnered all but six of the 108 first-place votes.
Leading the group of players that called themselves the Golden Misfits was remarkable enough, but doing so with out its star goalie for two months was even more impressive. Gallant cobbled together three other net minders that were also injured during Marc-Andre Fleury’s absence.
While Gallant was humble about the honor, quickly giving credit to his assistant coaches, General Manager George McPhee praised him to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“It’s amazing how many of our players developed under him this year,” McPhee said. “We all want to win games, and yet he’s still throwing guys out there who maybe haven’t had such a good night, but he’s still coming back with them. Not many coaches have that sort of patience and trust and guts at this level. You either have the quality or you don’t. He does.”
GM McPhee Gets Due Credit
Long credited as a mastermind of the Golden Knight’s impressive roster, McPhee received validation for his work in getting General Manager of the Year. It was true that the expansion draft had softened its rules so more quality players were available, but McPhee was a wizard in getting players no one wanted, and seeing something others didn’t.
McPhee was also fired, ironically building the Washington Capitals into the team that would eventually win the Stanley Cup over his new team.
Karlsson, Engelland Receive Player Honors
When Karlsson won the Lady Byng, the award handed out to the most gentlemanly player in the NHL, he reiterated his desire to stay in Las Vegas. A restricted free agent, who scored a career-high 42 goals this year, he is looking for a long-term deal.
“I just know that I want to stay here and hopefully they want the same thing,” Karlsson said. “I like it here in Vegas. I like the organization and the city around it. This is where I want to be and we will see what happens.”
Engelland, who won the Messier Leadership Award, got his contract extension earlier in the season and was a resident of Las Vegas before the team was announced. He gave a passionate speech at the team’s inaugural home game honoring the 58 people killed in the worst mass shooting in US history.