16 teams? 20 teams? 24 teams? They’ve all been floated as the NHL tries to figure out how they’ll return to action when the pandemic finally subsides.
For the Golden Knights, because they sat atop the Pacific Division when the league was paused, the smaller the tournament, the better. But, there’s one major hurdle even teams atop their divisions believe needs to be cleared.
Whatever the answer is, whoever’s team goes on that Cup, there has to be enough integrity to the process and the decision on how we’re going to do it so that team isn’t going to have an asterisk beside it in the history books. –Pete DeBoer on ESPN on Ice
In other words, whatever the format ends up being, there has be enough teams in the playoffs to make it feel like the winner truly is the best team in the league. No matter how tight the schedule gets, there won’t be any consideration of a four-team, or even eight-team, tournament when hockey starts back up.
Which leads us to the two most likely scenarios. The first is to stick with the normal 16-team playoff format the league has used for years. Everything remains the same and if you weren’t in the playoffs when the league halted, tough break. Everyone in the playoff picture, like Vegas, believe this is the best plan, but the five or six teams on the outside have different thoughts.
This scenario, as well as pretty much any other one with greater than 16 teams, gives the Golden Knights a bye in the first round. That’s something that sounds great, but in the eyes of Pete DeBoer isn’t.
The one downfall of being an NHL player is that it’s not a lifelong job. The average American retires around 65, but for the average pro hockey player it’s 33. While it’s a highly desirable job, earning high salaries, and entertaining millions, there’s still plenty of life after hockey.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie was asked which current player he thought could become a good NHL GM, and his answer was not surprising.
Sidney Crosby is a hockey junkie. He loves the game. He loves to talk about the game, he follows things closely. He has a great awareness of what’s going on. I don’t know if he’ll go into management but it won’t surprise me. If he did go in, he would be all in. He’s got a real passion for the game and that reflects in knowledge and a thirst for knowledge about all things hockey.-Bob McKenzie, TSN
So it got us thinking, which current/former Golden Knight would make a good NHL general manager?
Jason’s candidates: Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny, Shea Theodore
Ken’s candidates: David Perron, Nate Schmidt, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare
There are many elements that go into being a successful general manager, the biggest one is accepting the harsh reality of the business side of hockey. The Islanders Lou Lamoriello is a great example of being a stone-cold executive, even Vegas’ George McPhee has an icy side. Maybe it’s education, or it comes with experience. Pacioretty felt the chill up in Montreal where he was constantly made the scapegoat. From the fans, media, to team executives, #67 had a lot on his plate. However, he still managed to score 226 goals for the Canadiens. Pacioretty accepted his high-profile role as an American captain in Montreal, and professionally handled his daily responsibilities, no matter how combative they were. In the end, he was traded by the organization he gave it all for, and it didn’t phase him. By then, he had already been schooled about the dirty business.
After one year at his local high school, Pacioretty moved on to a hockey prep school, then to the USHL, and lastly the University of Michigan before becoming an NHL player. Since the age of 15, the Connecticut native was heavily recruited and scouted, so he’s well aware of that process.
As captain, Pacioretty needed to work the room and find balance with all of his teammates. Even loud, overbearing teammates like PK Subban. Being captain allowed him insight on how the team was built. What the front office was doing right and what went wrong. With several failed seasons in Montreal, I’m sure the 31-year-old veteran took note of the poor decisions made by the organization.
His experience early on with the recruitment stage, witnessing of building up and tearing down rosters, adding in his tough skin and Pacioretty has the resume to become a future general manager. (written by Jason)
Man, I miss David Perron. Perron is one of the most intriguing players both on and off the ice.
His hockey mind is always on full display when he’s playing as he just seems to have a knack for finding holes in the offensive zone where he can hold onto the puck for a little longer than anyone else who has ever worn a VGK jersey. He sees the game at a different speed than most and I’d have to think that would translate well into scouting as well as team construction.
Off the ice is where he really made me believe he has what it takes to be a GM though. He’s one of the few players in Golden Knights history who really cared about stats and even advanced stats. He’d talk about Corsi, zone starts, through-percentage, and many other pieces of data that proved he’s a true hockey junkie.
The intelligence he displayed in breaking down complex game situations as well as his understanding of the salary cap and the business end of hockey has me believing he would be not only the most likely to become a GM, but also the best future GM of any current or former Golden Knight. (written by Ken)
It feels like ages ago now, but just six months ago the Golden Knights kicked off the third season in franchise history. It began with a pair of hotly contested games against the hated San Jose Sharks, each resulting in Vegas wins. From there, the Golden Knights ripped off wins in six of their first nine games before hitting the skids a bit dropping 12 of the next 17.
It all added up to a paltry 11-11-4 start. In those first 25 games, the Golden Knights were without Alex Tuch for 17, Nate Schmidt for 12, Malcolm Subban for nine, and Cody Eakin for four. Plus, Valentin Zykov was suspended for 20.
According to George McPhee though, those weren’t the only ailments plaguing his team early in the season.
We started the season a little slow. We had three players that were injured. The hidden injuries, we had three guys that were hurt late in the summer in training and missed a lot of training time. They were really behind when we got going. It was pretty obvious. -McPhee to GoldenKnights.com
My first thought was, “who’s he talking about?”
Shea Theodore’s bout with cancer could certainly fall under that category, but it’s hard to call that one “hidden.” Tuch, Schmidt, Eakin, Subban, and Whitecloud were all hurt on the ice during regular or preseason games, so he can’t be talking about them. Then there was the William Karlsson “can’t take draws” injury that seemed to occur in a preseason game, but once again, that shouldn’t have gotten in the way of the summer training.
“Three guys hurt late in the summer in training.”
The first, most obvious, candidate would be Ryan Reaves. He missed a majority of training camp, not hitting the ice for the first time until September 24th.
The next best guess is Paul Stastny who was absent for the first four preseason games but played in the final three and didn’t miss any of the 71 games played thus far.
Finally, there are Mark Stone and Deryk Engelland. Both participated in training camp, but neither saw preseason action until the third preseason game. That’s not horribly unusual, but when looking for “hidden” injuries the only names missing from the first two preseason games have to be considered.
Statistically, Stone was dominant out of the gates this season putting up 18 points in his first 15 games. The other three, not so much. Reaves tallied just three points in his first 20, Engelland had just two in 20, and Stastny had nine points in his first 20.
Or maybe it’s someone else I’m not even considering. But the point of this isn’t to out the guys who were potentially injured though, it’s to ask why that is an acceptable excuse?
**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**
Let me give you a scenario and see if you could live with it.
The NHL decides it is safe for its players to resume playing, but not necessarily O.K. for fans to enter arenas to watch. Instead, the league opts to essentially turn their sport into a television studio event, like a soap opera.
You can watch, but there’s no studio audience as would be the case with, say, a game show. You can’t come inside. You can’t interact with the players. No signs asking for pucks. No dancing for the video board above center ice. No music to groove to.
How about this? The NHL hosts regional playoffs at neutral site cities. The Eastern Conference’s first and second rounds are played in Ottawa, the Western Conference plays in Minneapolis-St. Paul. But you still wouldn’t be able to attend.
Would you take either of those options? Or would you insist that no hockey be played until everyone could once again partake of the entire experience and be allowed inside their home team’s building?
I know what my answer would be. Give me the studio version of the NHL, including the playoffs. As long as every team’s game is shown for free in some fashion, I’m in.
Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly gave a frank assessment of the situation the other day when he told NHL.com the league is monitoring the coronavirus situation on a daily basis with medical and health officials and it will not resume the season until it is safe for the players, coaches, and officials to participate. Even the medical and science experts can’t predict when things will take a turn for the better.
Social distancing doesn’t exist on the ice. Players are engaged in a contact sport. This isn’t like a Public Service Announcement I saw the other day in which New York Rangers legend and Hall of Famer Rod Gilbert told New Yorkers to keep a hockey stick’s length from each other as a way to properly socially distance themselves from each other. Frankly, I thought Gilbert should have borrowed Zdeno Chara’s stick for the PSA. It would have been a more effective visual.
Nonetheless, that’s not realistic in any kind of hockey game. Even a group of Mites playing are going to make contact with each other. So the NHL is absolutely right to make sure it’s safe for the players to compete against each other before it resumes its season.
The fans are a different story. You can play hockey games without people in the stands. And that’s why the NHL might want to rethink the idea of going right back into its arenas while the coronavirus is impacting the country.
Thursday, radio host Brian Blessing and I talked on his show Vegas Hockey Hotline about the idea of playing games in practice facilities until it’s safe to let people inside the arenas. Many teams have very nice places to practice, with the Golden Knights’ City National Arena arguably the NHL’s best. There are places to set up television cameras, the Knights already have their locker room. The visiting team’s quarters could be UNLV’s locker room. It would be spartan by NHL standards but when the Knights went to the other team’s place, they would deal with it too.
As for the rink itself, it reminds me of the scene in the movie Hoosiers when Gene Hackman took out the tape measure at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis and told his team, “You’ll find these are the exact same measurements as our gym back home.” The ice at CNA is the exact same size as T-Mobile Arena — 200 by 85 feet. And if it means playing in July, the quality of the ice stands a better chance of holding up in a smaller building with fewer people inside it.
Being stuck at home isn’t ideal but it does open up time to basically do just about anything. Some are working on loose handrails, others are taking up painting, Netflix binging, but in my case going through boxes and boxes of NHL common cards.
About six months ago my young son starting getting into hockey and baseball cards. It started with a Golden Knights team set, then grew to a few packs at Target, to eventually pulling singles from the local card shop. On one visit my four-year-old became overly excited when he pulled a random Roberto Luongo card. Valued at .65 cents, it’s become one of his favorite cards. No idea why, but it doesn’t matter.
With time in hand, the boy and I decided to do some inventory. Two full seasons and a paused one later, we found the Golden Knights are well represented in the hockey card world. From common cards like Nick Holden, Jon Merrill or William Carrier, to specially autographed and game-worn jersey inserts from your favorite stars.
According to Trading Card Database, there are a total of 3,811 separate Golden Knights hockey cards. Most are common cards you find in most packs, but there are plenty of insert cards available.
Autographed or signature inserts include; Shea Theodore, Reilly Smith, William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, Alex Tuch, Cody Glass, Zach Whitecloud, Nic Roy. Not shocking, the most valuable auto-cards are Upper Deck’s Marc-Andre Fleury autographed, VGK jersey cards. Most range $175-$200 in value. Autograph cards are hard to find (1:276), as in one per every 276 individual packs.
My personal favorite inserts are game-worn jersey cards. They’re not as elusive as player signature cards. Beckett.com lists jersey cards as (1:40), or one per 40 packs. If you do get lucky, hopefully, it’s a card with value or has some sentiment. As cool as they are, most are overpriced. For instance, on eBay, you can buy an Upper Deck game-used Fleury jersey card for $2,669.99, and an Alex Tuch patch insert for $499.99. As well crafted as these cards are, there are plenty of them released so they don’t hold value. Consider them like a car. However, here are a few that could hold value.
Trading card companies don’t produce as many cards as they used to, so not every player is featured in a series. Also, companies sign contracts with younger players and develop entire lines of cards around those projected stars. Tuch has the most trading cards as a Golden Knight. Fleury would be second, but you’d be surprised who follows. Cody Glass has upwards of ten separate autograph/jersey cards, including several Draft Day autographed jersey cards. At the young age of 20, the 2017 sixth overall pick has 341 different trading cards, most being released before he played a game for Vegas. If Glass pans out like the organization expects his cards could hold and possibly gain value over time.
It’s been two and a half weeks since the Golden Knights last suited up. Their 3-2 overtime victory in Edmonton was their final game before the league pause.
You miss two weeks without doing anything, your wind goes, your legs go. They’re not nearly the same. Not like an NHL player needs to be. Two weeks is probably the most they can miss, and then it becomes a real hard struggle to get back in a hurry. -Pierre McGuire, TSN Montreal
Established players hit camp around the second week of September, and their first game isn’t until early October. That allows them plenty of time to get the rust off, build endurance, strength, and prepare for a lengthy 82-game season. Most, if not all, are ready to get back to work by camp because they’ve been training and playing scrimmages with other NHL’ers. I’m sure you’ve heard of Da Beauty League or the Comm Ave Classic.
Outside of injuries, players rarely spend two weeks or more off the ice during a normal NHL season. So why is it that easy for players to lose their condition after all of the hard work they put in the offseason and regular season?
Two weeks if they haven’t done anything. A lot of guys will tell you if you miss five days it’s tough to get it back right away. It takes two or three (games). Usually after two weeks players start to lose whatever they had built up to this point during the regular season. It becomes really difficult to get it back on the track. -McGuire
Two weeks ago all was rolling along as planned and the Golden Knights were 11 games away from claiming their second Pacific Division title in franchise history. Then, the NHL hit the pause button, quite literally. Then, on March 12th, the season was halted, the season suspended, and the league calendar put in complete limbo.
Normally, the season ends, the playoffs start, then there’s a draft, free agency, training camp and we’re onto the next season.
The sequence of the events, I expect, will roll out in the same order. I can’t tell you what the dates of those events will be but I would expect that we wouldn’t have the NHL Draft until the season was over. There’s still going to be a window in there for free agency, which wouldn’t happen until the NHL Draft is over. -Kelly McCrimmon on Vegas Hockey Hotline
McCrimmon did qualify his expectations, indicating that he had not been told this by the league.
And again, that’s only speculation on my part, but I expect that the sequence of events will remain the same. The uncertainty would be exactly when those would be. -McCrimmon on Vegas Hockey Hotline
Last year, here’s how the calendar rolled out.
April 6th – Last day of regular season April 9th – NHL Draft lottery April 10th – Stanley Cup Playoffs begin April 27th – NHL Scouting Combine begins June 12th – Final day of Stanley Cup June 19th – NHL Awards Show in Las Vegas June 21-22 – NHL Draft July 1st – Free agency opens August 6th – Deadline for RFA salary arbitration
As the pause continues, it’s no surprise the NHL is preparing for a severe loss in revenue. It’s not to suggest they would rush to play, but like most of us, the league is facing serious financial issues. It’s already started inside the league office.
Just filed to ESPN: the NHL is temporarily cutting league office employees salaries by 25%.
According to sources, the NHL is hoping that the temporary pay cut among league office employees will prevent them from making any layoffs during this uncertain time.
The NHL has informed the NHLPA that revenue losses could range from the best-case low of a couple of hundred million dollars to a worst-case amount of up to one billion dollars, The Post has learned. -Larry Brooks, NY Post
The NHLPA spoke with player representatives and explained the escrow share could reach a loss of 21% if the season and/or playoffs are canceled. Under the current labor agreement, it’s possible player contracts would be paid only 65% of their salary for 2019-20.
The season is approximately 85-percent complete. The discrepancy reflects a combination of the 6-to-10 percent of revenue generated by the playoffs and the fact that a full playoff would come at the cost of the remaining 15-percent of the season that would not be played. No wonder the players are pitching the idea of resuming the season in some form and playing for the Stanley Cup in August and September.-Brooks, NY Post
For a team like the Golden Knights who were expected to make a deep run, the pause takes significant money out of the players’ pockets. Playoff shares, according to the NHL are distributed by “A single lump-sum payment of $6,500,000 shall be made by the NHL to the players on account of a player fund, which shall be allocated to the players on clubs participating in the various playoff rounds and/or based upon club finish, as shall be determined by the NHLPA, subject to approval by the League.”
Without the postseason, players stand to lose a good chunk of change, and because of their escrow agreement, they stand to be impacted financially even more than the owners.
Players and owners split the NHL’s “hockey-related revenue” 50/50 (players get their share in salaries). At the end of the playoffs every year, both sides get together and count up how much money the NHL made that season. They then use that number to estimate how much it’ll make the next season (a five per cent bump is a typical ballpark guess). The salary cap, which is designed to make sure the players get 50 per cent of the revenue and no more, is then set based on that number.
But because it’s impossible to predict exactly how much revenue will come in, a percentage of every player’s paycheque is held in escrow until the money is counted at the end of the season (it isn’t always the same, but 15 per cent is a good ballpark number). If the NHL does really well and exceeds the revenue projection by a significant amount, all that money is returned to the players. But if it doesn’t, the owners get to keep however much they need to ensure they end up with exactly 50 per cent of the revenue. –Jesse Campigotto, CBC Sports
In their first official roster activity since the NHL season was put on halt, the Golden Knights locked up defenseman Zach Whitecloud to a two-year contract at $725K AAV.
Whitecloud becomes the third Golden Knights defenseman to be locked into next season since early February. First, Vegas acquired Alec Martinez and will pay him $4 million against the cap in 2020-21, then they extended Nick Holden on trade deadline day for a cheap $1.7 million for two seasons, and now Whitecloud.
That leaves the Golden Knights blueline fairly stocked. Shea Theodore and Nate Schmidt are under contract for each of the next five seasons, Brayden McNabb, Holden, and Whitecloud each have two years left now, and Martinez’s deal expires at the end of next season.
That’s six NHL defensemen under contract for the 20-21 season with Nic Hague, Jake Bischoff, and Dylan Coghlan all waiting in the wings in the AHL. Plus, Jimmy Schuldt will become an RFA whenever free agency opens this summer meaning he’ll likely stick around for another year as well.
So, where does that leave the two defensemen currently on the roster both set to become UFAs? Well, the previous nine games before the pause told the beginning of the story (neither Merrill nor Engelland played defense in any of them), Whitecloud and Holden’s extensions tell the middle, and now the end will have to wait until July 1 (or whatever the equivalent is this year).
Under Gallant, Merrill played 38 of the Golden Knights’ 49 games. Engelland was in Gallant’s lineup for 44 of 49. Under DeBoer, Merrill has played 11 of the 22 (with one as a forward) and Engelland just five. Clearly, both Merrill and Engelland had fallen out of the Pete DeBoer led Golden Knights lineup prior to the pause.
Now, with six defensemen under NHL contract and four more pushing for time there’s simply not space for both Engelland and Merrill, if there’s even space for one.
Plus, looking over the roster and the salary cap balance sheet, if there’s one place for Vegas to upgrade with a massive piece, it would be on defense (paging Alex Pietrangelo).
Things get even trickier for Merrill and Engelland when you consider that none of the six NHL contracts are waiver-exempt next season. Also, Nic Roy will require waivers next season as well. Vegas spent the majority of the season juggling their roster this year because they could. Glass, Hague, Whitecloud, and Roy could all go back and forth without any risk. That’s no longer the case for Whitecloud and Roy, which means the expected roster already has 18 (and 19 if you count the backup goalie), waiver-eligible players. There’s simply no room for another one.
The move of signing Whitecloud should be celebrated as it was done for an incredibly cheap price and it gives the Golden Knights even more cap flexibility heading into an offseason with an uncertain cap. But, for those who are fans of original Golden Misfits, the deal likely signals the end of at least one and probably two of them.
**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**
At some point, the hockey world will return to normal. When that point will be, nobody can say with any certainty as the coronavirus pandemic maintains its grip on the world.
But that time is coming, and when it does, it means charting a course for the future. We’re talking entry draft. We’re talking free agency. We’re talking salary cap. We’re talking scouting plans for 2020-21, both pro and amateur.
Right now, everything is at a standstill. There’s no junior hockey being played. There’s no minor league hockey. There’s no college hockey. There’s no KHL, and most of the other European professional leagues have either finished or canceled the remainder of their seasons.
The Golden Knights are no different from the other 30 NHL teams. They can’t travel which is fine because there’s nothing to travel to. They are going to have to rely on the work their hockey ops and scouting staffs have been doing since last August.
The good news? They have more time to analyze the information they have gleaned. There’s no rush to make a hard decision on a player. The majority of their work is already completed.
The NHL has not decided whether to delay the draft, which is currently scheduled for June 26-27 in Montreal. In all likelihood, the draft will get pushed back. How long? Again, that remains to be seen.
But George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon have an opportunity to use the data at their disposal to really hone in on a particular player and see what the pros and cons are. Scouts can go through their reports, rewatch video of a player and either confirm their analysis or perhaps alter a couple of things.
McCrimmon is up at his cottage in Manitoba and he remains in communication with McPhee along with his hockey staff.
The bottom line is the Golden Knights should be better prepared for the 2020 draft than they were for the first three they participated in. McCrimmon said Saturday the work continues despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
The amateur scouting staff is an obvious area where we’d be the most impacted. We’d normally be getting our final readings on most players in competitive settings. But I think we’ll prepare very well. Our guys have been all over the world doing their work and we’re prepared. It’s hard to speculate. First, the world has to get healthy. We don’t know how the dates will fall in line. -McCrimmon