62°F
weather icon Clear

In mirror image, Las Vegas NHL owner Bill Foley hires no-nonsense GM

Graham McPhee is a 17-year-old who was selected by the Edmonton Oilers in the fifth round of last month’s NHL Draft, meaning he one day could find himself playing in the Pacific Division.

Beginning with the 2017-18 season, the Las Vegas expansion franchise (nickname and logo and colors to be determined) also will be housed in the Pacific.

The team’s general manager is George McPhee, who had some advice upon being introduced Wednesday should the teams eventually meet with Graham wearing an Oilers sweater.

“Keep your head up, son,” George said.

It’s a miracle: Bill Foley found someone to run his team just as intense about winning as he is.


 

If you’re going to design a house, an object that embodies all your hopes and dreams for the future, it’s best to hire an experienced architect who thinks outside the box to find practical solutions when zoning issues arise or the entry draft talent pool isn’t as deep as you had hoped, a trained eye who understands how to build something from nothing.

Someone who, when lines need to be drawn, isn’t picking up a batch of sketch pens for the first time.

Foley smartly approached his most important hockey hire with the same mindset, identifying the 58-year-old McPhee and his impressive resume as the person best suited to generate the blueprint for how the city’s first major league professional franchise will look and play.

McPhee was one of seven who interviewed for the position and one of three finalists, a guy who spent a few days with Foley and others in Montana dissecting what it would take to realize the owner’s goal of bringing Las Vegas a Stanley Cup within eight years.

I’m guessing it wasn’t all golf and fishing.

I’m also certain neither of the other finalists had these sorts of credentials: McPhee spent 17 years as general manager of the Washington Capitals, longer than any other GM in franchise history. He has been a director of hockey operations for the Vancouver Canucks, a senior adviser with the New York Islanders and was the co-general manager for Canada’s gold medal team at the 2016 World Championship.

The Capitals won seven division titles, had eight seasons of 40 or more wins, produced a franchise-record 121-point season in 2009-10 and made the Stanley Cup Finals in 1998, all under McPhee’s watch.

“I was looking for a guy who was going to be dedicated, focused, with a take-no-prisoner attitude and committed to winning,” Foley said. “I found that person. I just felt for an expansion team, starting from ground zero, we should really get that experience and someone I felt really, really good about. That’s what we did.

“George has done it all and been through it all. Age-wise and communication-wise, George and I were closer than other guys we talked to. He’s the hockey guy, but I have some ideas on how we can accelerate the process, and he’ll listen.

“I think we’re going to have a great relationship. I felt confident we could both be honest and forthright with each other and always be transparent. That’s important. We all want to win, and he’s going to win for us, but I also want people I like and get along with.”

McPhee certainly isn’t Will Ferrell in “Elf.” Smiling doesn’t appear to be his favorite thing. He is an attorney, and I get the feeling you could become quite uncomfortable sitting across from him while being deposed.

But he was pleasant and forthcoming in a businesslike manner Wednesday at T-Mobile Arena, which is promising in the way you figure he realizes how much work lies ahead and wants to begin immediately.

His vast contacts no doubt should produce a pro and amateur scouting staff of top folks, and should McPhee’s drafting skills with early choices pay off as they did at times in Washington with such names as Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson and Marcus Johansson, Las Vegas will have as good a chance as any other expansion team to contend quickly.

But McPhee also missed on some mid- to late-round picks with the Capitals, and over time serious holes developed at forward and defense. Team chemistry suffered over coaching changes that led to the style of play (really fast) being altered (not so fast).

McPhee was fired in 2014, leaving a legacy of having built one of the most exciting and skilled teams in NHL history over a period of years and yet, for numerous reasons, somewhat discarding that formula in his final seasons.

Now, his slate is clean with an opportunity to draw the blueprints from scratch. He arrives with a used and successful batch of sketch pens.

“Historically, you take over a team and you have to dig it out from under some bad contracts and making changes on the staff,” McPhee said. “Here, you get to pick everyone in your organization, and I am looking forward to that. We’ll select hard-working, quality people. In some ways, this is what every GM would want to experience.

“I want to win now, too. We built some terrific teams in Washington and got that team down to the 5-yard line. I wish that I could have been there to see it through, but that’s life. I really wanted this job. I’m as confident as I have ever been that we can win the Stanley Cup.”

He wasn’t smiling.

Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be a heard on “Seat and Ed” on Fox Sports 1340 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. On Twitter: @edgraney.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Golden Knights Videos
Aliens Invade City National Arena for Competition
Aliens attended the City National Arena for a competition to see who was best dressed. The prize was out of this world.
Golden Knights rally to beat Kings in OT, 3-2
The Golden Knights were down 2-0 halfway through the third period, but two quick goals helped get the team back on track to beat the Kings 3-2 in overtime.
Golden Knights' Deryk Engelland Shares Advice with Rookies - Video
Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland has some advice for rookies: “Stick with what got you there.” The veteran NHL player also recalls his first goal as a pro.
Golden Knights Continue Preseason Success with Win Over Avalanche - Video
The Golden Knights prospects are continuing to prove they are worthy of a starting position, this time with a shutout 5-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche.
Golden Knights Head Coach Gerard Gallant Praises Prospects - Video
A day after the Golden Knights 6-2 preseason victory over the Arizona Coyotes, head coach Gerard Gallant discussed how impressed he is with the prospects, including defensemen Nicolas Hague and Dylan Coghlan.
Golden Knights On First Preseason Win - Video
The Golden Knights talk about their first preseason win including Max Pacioretty's hat trick and putting Malcolm Subban as the goaltender for tonight's game.
Golden Knights Zamboni Lessons 101 - Video
The Golden Knights preseason tips off on Sunday, Sept. 15 and you know what that mean, it's time to roll out the zamboni! Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a zamboni operator for the Golden Knights? Golden Edge host Cassie Soto finds out!
Allegiant Unveils Golden Knights Plane - Video
Allegiant air officially unveils its new Golden Knights airbus that will take to the skies soon.
Golden Knights Rookie Camp: 3 Takeaways - Video
Vegas Golden Knights rookies took to the ice on Friday morning for practice at City National Arena. While the rookies mainly participated in drills, it was good to see the prospects get ice time. Golden Knights beat writers David Schoen and Ben Gotz discuss their three takeaways from the practice.
Golden Knights Host Charity Golf Classic - Video
The Golden Knights held its 2019 Charity Golf Classic on Wednesday at TPC Summerlin. Before teeing off, Golden Knights players Ryan Reaves, Jonathan Marchassault and Alex Tuch said who they thought were the worst and best golfers on their team.
Ryan Reaves performs wedding ceremony
Reverand Reavo makes his debut for one time only at the Chapel of Flowers for a get married by Ryan Reaves contest.
Vegas Golden Knights President Kerry Bubolz on the Golden Edge Podcast
Review-Journal reporters Ben Gotz and David Schoen talk with Golden Knights president Kerry Bubolz about his experiences with LeBron James, the team's new initiatives, a possible MLS expansion team and more.
George McPhee Conference Call on Nikita Gusev trade - VIDEO
Golden Knights President of Operations George McPhee answers questions on a conference call about the teams most recent trade of Nikita Gusev to the New Jersey Devils.
Vegas Golden Knight's Deryk Engelland Happy to Re-Sign - Video
Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland is happy to stay in Las Vegas after signing a one-year deal with the team.
Golden Aces hold Tryouts For 2019-2020 Season - Video
The Golden Aces hold tryouts for the 2019-2020 season for the Golden Knights.
Golden Knight's owner Bill Foley's House for sale in The Ridges - Real Estate Millions
Vegas Golden Knights, Fleury Make Day for Critically Ill Teenager in ESPN “My Wish” - Video
A 13-year-old Las Vegas boy who has faced Hodgkin’s lymphoma is treated to a special day by the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights in a new ESPN “My Wish” Series feature debuting Wednesday, July 17, on SportsCenter. In the feature, Doron Coldwell spends a day with the team and even gets an opportunity to replace his favorite player, three-time Stanley Cup winner Marc-Andre Fleury, in the net.
Golden Knights Sell "Battle Worn Armor" To Season Ticket Holders - Video
The Golden Knights sell their "battle worn" apparel throughout both of the teams seasons including pucks, sticks, helmets and skates.
Summerlin 4th of July Parade - VIDEO
On July 4th Summerlin will be hosting the 25th annual Summerlin Council Patriotic Parade, an event that has grown massively over the years
Golden Knights McPhee talks on the first day of NHL free agency - VIDEO
Golden Knights incoming president of operations George McPhee addresses the media as free agency starts.
Golden Knights Trade Colin Miller as Development Camp ends - VIDEO
George McPhee speaks to the media following the end of the Golden Knights development camp.
Golden Knights Development Camp Day 4 - VIDEO
Nic Hague stands out at day 4 of Golden Knights development camp.
Golden Knights Hold First Scrimmage of Development Camp - Video
The first of three scrimmages was held at the 2019 Golden Knights Development Camp. Golden Edge host Cassie Soto and Golden Knights beat writers Adam Hill and David Schoen discuss what stood out to them.
Golden Knights George McPhee Discusses Erik Haula Trade - Video
A day after it was announced that Erik Haula had been traded to the Carolina Hurricanes, incoming President of Hockey Operations George McPhee spoke to the media discussing the move.
Golden Knights Trade Erik Haula - Video
The Golden Knights have traded Erik Haula to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for prospect Nicolas Roy. Golden Edge host Cassie Soto and Golden Knights beat writer Adam Hill discuss the trade.
Golden Knights Coaches Looking for Veterans to Step Up in Development Camp - Video
Day two of the 2019 Golden Knights Development Camp is in the books. Director of Player Development Wil Nichol says his staff is looking for the veterans of the camp to step up and be leaders to the younger guys, while at the same time doing their best to impress the coaching staff.
Golden Knights Draft Player with Strong Hockey Bloodlines - Video
The Golden Knights drafted Mason Primeau in the 5th round of the 2019 NHL Draft. Primeau is no stranger to professional hockey, both his dad (Wayne Primeau) and his uncle (Keith Primeau) played in the NHL.
Golden Knights Kelly McCrimmon Talks Development Camp - VIDEO
Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon talks about what he expects from everyone at development camp on their first day.
Golden Knights Dylan Coghlan On Veteran Experience - VIDEO
Golden Knights defenseman Dylan Coghlan talks about his veteran experience playing in Chicago and development camp.
Golden Knights President George McPhee talks about Williams Karlsson's 8 year deal
George McPhee presser highlights June 25, 2019.
Golden Knights Center William Karlsson speaks to media about 8 year contract
William Karlsson presser highlights June 25, 2019.
Golden Knights Development Camp at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada
For the third consecutive year, Vegas Golden Knights Development Camp participants participated in a special community event at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
THE LATEST