Las Vegas took another important step in it’s journey to taking the ice as the league’s 31st franchise in 2017-18 by hiring George McPhee who spent 17 seasons as GM of the Washington Capitals. McPhee’s contract was not renewed after Washington went 38-30-14 and failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2013-14.
But Las Vegas is a welcomed challenge and a fresh slate for McPhee.
“Our mission here is clear,” McPhee said during an introductory press conference on Wednesday. “We’re going to build an organization and a team that people in Nevada and Las Vegas will be very, very proud of, and we’re going to do it quickly, and we’re aiming at the Stanley Cup. That simple.”
Las Vegas owner Bill Foley called the search for the right GM an “exhaustive” process. Foley and special adviser Murray Craven interviewed seven candidates and narrowed their list to a select few before making their final decision, which was McPhee.
“I just felt like we had a relationship almost from the first telephone conversation that I knew that I felt confident that we could both be honest and forthright with each other and always transparent, and that’s really important,” Foley said. “We all want to win and he is going to win for us, but I like to have people that I really get along with and that I can communicate with. We had great candidates. They were all good. I just felt there was a little something extra with George.”
“[Foley] started talking about everything that Las Vegas has to offer and all the great things they’ve done, and about eight minutes into it I was hooked,” McPhee said. “I was really inspired by Bill and told my son that that’s the kind of guy I want to work for.”
As for the search for Las Vegas’ first head coach, McPhee said he is in no rush to make that move.
“We don’t have to do anything there right away,” he said. “We can take our time with that.”
In fact, McPhee plans to dedicate his time scouting professional players for the expansion draft and amateurs for the 2017 NHL Draft.
“We have an opportunity here that other expansion teams haven’t had to put a good team on the ice a lot quicker than in the past, and I’m going to do everything I can to make them good real fast,” he said. “It’s as simple as that. There’s no magic to it. You have to find elite players in the draft. You look at any good teams in this league [and] their best players are their draft picks. So we’ll get a nice squad together from the expansion draft, but our elite players will come through drafting.
“We’ll sign some free agents and that will help, but it always comes down to drafting.”
Foley said that picking a team name is next on his to-do list.
“It needs to be a name that people hear the name and say, ‘These guys are tough. These guys are going to win. These guys are dedicated,'” Foley said. “So it needs to have that kind of momentum, that sort of philosophy behind the name. … So, we’re working our way through it. I’ve got my GM. Now, I need to get my name. That’s the next step.”
It may be a while before we see Las Vegas take center ice, but they are moving along in their journey to their NHL debut.