Peter DeBoer said he learned a lot about the Vegas Golden Knights during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and that knowledge will help the coach this season and beyond.
"I'll be a better coach because one, I know the group better," DeBoer told the Golden Knights website for a Q&A published Thursday. "It takes some time to get to know the group. I think you know them from coaching on the other side or across the bench, but there's certain things that you don't know on a day-to-day basis."
DeBoer was hired Jan. 15 after Gerard Gallant was fired. Vegas was 15-5-2 in 22 games with DeBoer as coach before the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
The Golden Knights earned the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference by going 3-0-0 in the round-robin portion of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers in Edmonton, the West hub city for the postseason. They defeated the Chicago Blackhawks in five games in the best-of-7 first round and Vancouver Canucks in seven games in the second round. Vegas lost to the Dallas Stars in five games in the conference final.
"For us, the bubble experience was something that was really unique," DeBoer said. "It gave me an unbelievable opportunity to get to know our players. I didn't get a lot of time to spend with them when I came in. In mid-January, we were on the road for 10 games, had a few home games and then we got shut down. It was a real opportunity for me to get to know these guys intimately. It was a two-month road trip.
"I'm really glad we got to do it and I'm really hopeful that that will bear fruit. The fact that I know them better, they know me better, the road we went on, the wins and losses, the good and the bad -- it's on all of us as a group to take that and make sure that we build on it for next year."
The Golden Knights, who lost in five games to the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup Final during their inaugural season in 2017-18 and have finished first in the Pacific Division in two of their three seasons since entering the NHL, signed defenseman Alex Pietrangelo to a seven-year, $61.6 million contract on Oct. 12. They also signed goalie Robin Lehner to a five-year, $25 million contract Oct. 3, giving them an enviable tandem with Marc-Andre Fleury.
"The thing people have to remember is, and I think I've said it before, I've really been handed the keys to a Porsche and I do feel that," DeBoer said. "I think this is a really good team with a chance to legitimately contend for the Stanley Cup both this year and going forward. But people have to remember there's other Porsches on the road too. For us it's about hopefully finishing first next year, instead of fourth, out of 31 teams."