Kelly McCrimmon is the front office equivalent of a franchise center. When a team finds one, it should do whatever it can to keep it. George McPhee understands this and the prospect of losing his partner in all things Vegas Golden Knights over title, money and the perception of power just didn't make sense.
McPhee and Golden Knights owner Bill Foley didn't want to stand in McCrimmon's way but they also didn't want to lose him.
With a few tweaks, effective September 1, McCrimmon becomes the Golden Knights General Manager and McPhee remains President of Hockey Operations. They were already co-GMs in many ways. Now it's official.
McCrimmon will represent the Golden Knights at the league's General Managers Meetings and be the primary point of contact for other NHL GMs. McPhee will continue to be responsible for all hockey operations decisions and oversee the club's hockey operations team.
This works in many ways because of the personalities involved. McPhee is collaborative and never capricious. McCrimmon, for his part, is about influence more than he's about power. Winning the Stanley Cup tops both of their priority lists. External credit isn't on either list.
They lead by example and are rarely in the media. Certainly when someone needs to stand up and be counted they are both willing to do so. But so much of their leadership comes in the way they carry themselves and operate within the confines of VGK HQ. They may both be near the top of the flowchart but they are definitely within it. They're part of the team and never above it.
McPhee and McCrimmon tackled the expansion draft as partners and gradually cut up the duties of running the Golden Knights in the same manner. In title, McPhee has had the last word and still does. But he never uses it. Vegas has been operated by a two-headed monster and that will continue.
McCrimmon is a unique executive in that he has such a diverse background. Player, coach, GM, owner and bus driver are all on his resume.
The 58-year-old was raised on a farm in Plenty, Sask., played collegiate hockey at the University of Michigan and completed his MBA at Queen's University. He played a portion of his junior career with the Brandon Wheat Kings before moving into coaching, management and eventually ownership of one of Canada's most respected junior hockey franchises.
The bus driver line on the resume is perhaps the most telling when it comes to distilling who and what Kelly McCrimmon is as a person and a professional.
McCrimmon was early in his career as a hockey executive. He'd bought a piece of the WHL's Wheat Kings and he was the team's GM and head coach. The Wheat Kings were the most eastern located franchise in the WHL and the bus rides spanned as far as Seattle to the west. Budgets were tight so rather than employing a second bus driver, McCrimmon got his commercial license and spared the primary driver when required. Commitment to the cause has always been a strength with McCrimmon, and that continues to this day. He's been negotiating and operating a business for decades, he's coached at a high level and sees the game as both a manager, scout and coach. He's diverse and accomplished. Vegas would have been derelict had they not made a major push to keep him.
McPhee and McCrimmon function well together and have developed a work flow which allows them to focus on the areas where they have strengths. Think of them as a pair of intersecting circles. There is both overlap and autonomy. Big decisions have never been made by a singular voice in Vegas. McPhee has preached team from the beginning. More importantly he's walked behind his talk.
Thursday's announcement furthers the culture developing in Vegas with an aim on winning. Foley provided the resources to keep McCrimmon with the team, McPhee was willing to cede a portion of his title and McCrimmon was comfortable enough in his own skin to stay where he is and be part of a team.
It's a win for everyone.