What the heck does Cirque du Soleil have in common with hockey?
As we found out this week, one thing these two seemingly opposite disciplines have in common is Jay Mellette, who was hired by the Golden Knights as the team's director of sports performance and head athletic trainer.
What we find out today is how Mellette's hire fits into Golden Knights general manager George McPhee's larger plan.
"He's going to be a big part of the build out of our staff," McPhee said of Mellette. "We wanted someone who was familiar with the talent in Las Vegas in medicine and sports performance. He's looked after 500 athletes here in this marketplace and used a lot of different people. He's well-versed in the process and knows the top people in the marketplace to send our athletes to or to hire.
"Now that Jay's on board, we're starting to build out our medical team and sports performance department. I think, going forward, we're in pretty good shape."
As McPhee detailed further, Mellette's hiring fits two other purposes that are part of the team's bigger picture.
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1. We Will Look To Hire Local Talent
When putting together the team's hockey operations staff, McPhee focused on tabbing individuals with notable experience in pro hockey, especially at the NHL level.
And despite the distinguished presence of the ECHL's Wranglers and IHL's Thunder, Vegas never having had an NHL team didn't provide many opportunities to add local hockey operations staff with NHL experience.
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But in an attempt to further distinguish the Golden Knights as Vegas' team, McPhee indicated that it's reasonable to expect the team to add additional medical/training staff with indigenous ties to the region.
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That by choosing Mellette to lead the department, McPhee chose someone with intimate knowledge of the local medical community who'll be able to identify the proper talent for us to attempt to add.
McPhee detailed how senior vice president Murray Craven help identified Mellette as the best man for this position.
"First off, Murray was going to Jay for advice on who might be the right person in Las Vegas to head our medical department and our sports performance department," McPhee said.
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"After meeting with Jay a few times, Murray was like: 'gee, what about Jay?" Maybe Jay himself will be the right guy. Murray thought he would be the right person because he was so talented, intelligent and experienced and hardworking and passionate. And Murray was absolutely right.
"Within 10 minutes of our interview, it felt like Jay was our guy."
2. Diversity Is A Key
The Golden Knights have an eclectic staff.
There are hockey lifers such as David Conte, who spent more than three decades as the brains behind the New Jersey Devils' scouting department. By hockey standards, Conte is old school.
At the same time, Vegas has Tom Poraszka, whose claim to fame was founding his own website, General Fanager, which used advanced metrics to evaluate talent. And Raphael Pouliot, a 25-year-old scout who never played pro hockey. Or Vaclav Nedomansky, who at 72 was the first Eastern European to defect from behind the Iron Curtain to play pro hockey in North America four decades ago.
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By adding Mellette into the fold, Vegas increased its diversity even further.
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McPhee was asked if his hires are specifically designed to acquire diversity, or if in an attempt to hire the best individuals possible for specific jobs, he just so happened to wind up with an interesting mix of staff.
"It's been a little of both, to be quite frank," he said. "We didn't want a bunch of clones. We wanted intelligent people. The profile that was important to us is that they be talented and successful and low ego.
"Once we got through that, nothing else mattered. Where they grew up, where they played, where they scouted, coached or managed. Or their age. None of that mattered.
"The dynamic in our meetings has been wonderful. Really rich discussion that we can go deep on in some areas, and lots of opinions. That's what we wanted. Open meetings, comfortable meetings for people to speak their minds, but to do it respectfully. And all of the different opinions really matter and get it to the right place."
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Besides opening the door for more medical personnel to be added, Mellette's hiring has also freed up McPhee's staff to focus even more attention on scouting in coming weeks.
"We've gotten a lot of big items taken care of with our staff," McPhee said. "What we really need to focus on now is the expansion draft and the entry draft.
"It's been a focal point all along. But we've had to do other things to build out our staff and take care of items that are time consuming. But about 80 percent of that work is now complete. It's strictly about watching games and watching players.
"We just conducted both an amateur scouting meeting, which was for about four days. We just completed our pro scouting meetings for another three days. So we are very comfortable with the process and where we are with our staff. We've had four scouts at the prospects game in Quebec City."