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When It Came To Choosing Mike Kelly, There Was Never Any Doubt

Gerard Gallant had his eye on his former assistant coach since the day he began looking to fill his staff

by Dan Marrazza @GoldenKnights /

Ever since Gerard Gallant was hired as the first head coach in Golden Knights history on April 13, he's been a popular man.

Just as George McPhee has received nonstop attention since he was hired as general manager last summer, Gallant's phone has been blowing up almost since the second as he was introduced in his new job.

With an NHL franchise starting from scratch in a city like Las Vegas and needing to staff an entire hockey team, both Gallant and McPhee have been front and center because of the tremendous interest there's been in working for the Golden Knights.

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Everyone knows there are availabilities, after all.

When it came to selecting Mike Kelly as the first assistant coach in team history, however, there was never really much question.

Gallant's longtime assistant coach with both the Florida Panthers and QMJHL's Saint John Sea Dogs, Kelly was a frontrunner from the get-go.

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"He knows what I need," Gallant said of Kelly. "You probably don't want your coaches to all be the same type of guys. I'm an emotional guy, I can get rowdy on the bench. Mike's a calm guy that can settle things down there. He's a technical guy on the bench. He has his role, I have my role.

"We feed off each other. Mike knows when we need a little pat or a little kick. We work well together."

As Kelly detailed, he and Gallant have been hoping for a reunion almost since the moment they were simultaneously relieved of their duties by the Florida Panthers last November.

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"We talked about it in the cab," Kelly said. "With us, we got on the same page very quickly in Saint John. We had known each other, but didn't really know each other that well prior to us working together in Saint John. It was almost instantaneous. As soon as you get a feel for someone, you know that you have a respect for them and they have a respect for you. It becomes easier."

So what is it about Gallant and Kelly's relationship that allows them to work so well together?

As both been described, their combination is has a little yin and yang to it.


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Where Gallant is the super intense leader of the bench, Kelly is the calming influence.

Where the head coach may have more in a say in overall game plan, his assistant has an uncanny ability to develop one-on-one relationships and connect with players.

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Which although neither trait is more important than the other, both are needed for it to be a successful combination behind the bench.

"Mike's calm. I get wound up sometimes. There's a time where you have to say 'let's back off, let's leave the players alone, let's leave the linesmen and referees along. He'll remind me with stuff like that. From knowing each other and working with each other the last couple years, he reads off my really well and I read off of him."

"You can't have two people doing the same thing," Kelly added. "We just read off one another."

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