At the start of these NHL conference finals, there are many intriguing storylines to kick things off. One consists of a western conference finals rematch from the 2020 bubble. To make things even more interesting, we spotlight Pete DeBoer.
The coach was on the losing end of a Dallas Stars vs. Vegas Golden Knights matchup three years ago when Dallas won the series 4-1 in the best of seven. Now DeBoer is in his debut season with Dallas and looking to make it a special one with his old team currently standing in the way.
Vegas was the favorite heading into their second conference finals in their first three years of existence. They were on a roll, winning the Pacific division and finishing first among the Stars, Colorado Avalanche, and the St. Louis Blues during their round-robin.
After dispatching the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 and the Vancouver Canucks in seven games, the Golden Knights were on a roll. Until they ran into Anton Khudobin and the Stars. Falling three games short of reaching the finals as Dallas took the series 4-1.
Tenure with the Golden Knights
In his time in Vegas, DeBoer played three seasons from 2020-2022. He led the Golden Knights to two straight conference finals appearances. He was losing to his current team in Dallas and falling 4-2 vs. the Montreal Canadians the following season in 2021.
DeBoer’s fate was sealed as head coach for Vegas after a shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. Eliminating the Golden Knights for postseason contention and the barrage of injuries Vegas faced that year. A team feeling like it needed to make some changes, DeBoer was relieved of his coaching duties shortly after the season ended.
On to Dallas
Following a seven-game first-round defeat to the Calgary Flames in the first round, the Stars sought a new coach to help maximize their offensive potential. Despite the brilliance of Jake Oettinger, Dallas was overmatched, far from being a team who could compete for the Stanley Cup.
After Rock Bowness resigned, the Stars’ general manager hired DeBoer. Having an impressive resume, Dallas opted for an experienced coach to take over during the off-season. Having already taken the New Jersey Devils and the San Jose Sharks to the Stanley Cup finals (2012 and 2016, respectively), the veteran coach is hoping to finally be able to hoist the silver holy grail this summer.
The Revenge Factor
On May 16th, 2022, DeBoer was fired by the Golden Knights after missing the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. That season also came after two straight conference finals appearances, and all it took was one season of not finishing in the top eight out west and a barrage of injuries.
Fast forward to May 2023, when DeBoer meets his old team in the western conference finals. DeBoer let it be known that the upcoming series with Vegas is on his mind, at least a little bit.
Currently, DeBoer’s team is down in the series 1-0. But trailing after one game hasn’t been a problem for the Stars yet.
“There’s no hiding from the fact that it means a little more, obviously,” DeBoer said. “That would be for anybody in this situation. It happens all the time in the world; you move on from a job, and you go to the next job, except now we’re playing in the conference finals.”
Photo: Tony Gutierrez/AP