P.E.I. duo set to coach expansion Golden Knights

Golden Knights GM George McPhee tells Hockey Central @ Noon that the club is looking to move one of their defenceman on a crowded blueline, and is now returning trade calls.

When Gerard Gallant and Mike Kelly were both out of a job during the 2008-09 NHL season, they would meet up once a week for breakfast in their native province of Prince Edward Island.

Different job opportunities were discussed, and they quickly got in touch when an opening with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Saint John Sea Dogs came up.

"I called Turk (Gallant) and I said, ‘Are you going to send your resume in?’, and he said ‘I already did,"’ Kelly said. "So I sent mine in and we both got interviews on the same day so we both drove over together. He was interviewed first, I was interviewed second."

Gallant served as the head coach and Kelly as the general manager and associate coach for the Sea Dogs. Along with star players such as Jonathan Huberdeau, the Sea Dogs went on to win four straight QMJHL titles, including a Memorial Cup in 2011.

Fast forward to this season and the duo are still working together, this time with the expansion Vegas Golden Knights. Gallant will serve as the head coach, and Kelly an assistant.

Gallant, from Summerside, left Saint John following the 2011 season to join the Montreal Canadiens as an assistant coach while Kelly, from Kinkora, stayed in Saint John.

The duo reunited in 2014 after Gallant was hired by the Florida Panthers to be their head coach. It didn’t take long for Gallant to bring Kelly aboard.

Despite being a finalist for the 2016 Jack Adams Award as NHL coach of the year after Florida won the Atlantic Division, Gallant and Kelly were fired last year after an 11-10-1 start.

"When I got the opportunity to be the head coach with the Florida Panthers, I knew I was going to take Mike along with me right away," Gallant said. "We went there, enjoyed Florida together, I thought we did a good job there.

"And then when we both got fired in Florida at the same time, the Vegas job popped up and it was a good opportunity to bring Mike along with me. I’m happy to have him. It was sort of a no-brainer to take him with me."

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The Golden Knights face a tough task this season as the NHL’s 31st franchise. Vegas started from scratch, using June’s expansion draft to select a player from each of the league’s other teams to fill its roster.

Being a part of an expansion franchise is nothing new to Gallant, who served as an assistant and later as a head coach with the Columbus Blue Jackets when they first joined the NHL in 2000-01.

Gallant says that the prior experience with expansion franchises is "probably going to help down the road."

"When you’re an expansion team, everything is brand new," he said. "I’m sure I’m going to see a lot of the same stuff we saw in Columbus. Those first few years are very exciting. I think we’re going to build a very exciting team down in Vegas for sure."

The Golden Knights, who will be led by goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and forward James Neal, begin their regular season with two road games on Oct. 6 and 7 against Dallas and Arizona before playing their home opener at T-Mobile Arena on Oct. 10 against the Coyotes.

Rounding out Gallant’s assistants in Vegas are Ryan McGill and Ryan Craig.

Although it’s common for coaches to bring familiar faces with them wherever they go, having two coaches from P.E.I. who have worked together for so long is unique.

"When you sit down and think about it, it sure is (a neat coincidence)," Kelly said. "And not a lot of thought or planning was put into it, it just happened and it clicks.

"I’m very fortunate that it’s worked out the way it has and I hope to take full advantage of it in terms of making the most of it."

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