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Category: Team Ops (Page 2 of 63)

Golden Knights Exempt From Next Expansion Draft… If It Happens Soon

The Creator better keep as close an eye on expansion as he is whatever is on the KnightTron in this picture. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Vegas Golden Knights are intimately familiar with the rules of the Expansion Draft and their relative favorability compared to those in the past. Thus, if anyone knows the importance of being spared from any future Expansion Drafts it’s George McPhee.

It was reported previously Vegas would be exempt from the next Expansion Draft, however, it now appears there’s a time limit on the exemption.

Actually our expansion agreement with Vegas doesn’t even account for the exemption. We feel having looked at it preliminarily that it is a fair result that they would not have to expose players for the next Expansion Draft, if there is one. I’m sure if it’s Seattle and this application is different than if it’s 10 years from now with some other market. That’s the extent at which we’ve looked at it, it’s not called for in the expansion agreement at all. -Bill Daly, NHL Deputy Commissioner

Reading between the lines the simple way to put it is, if the Seattle bid comes through, Vegas would be exempt, if it does not, they would not be.

The bad news in all of this is that there it is not expressly written that the Golden Knights are indeed exempt. Therefore, even though it appears this will not be the case, the NHL Board of Governor’s could choose to change their path and force Vegas to expose players like every other team.

It’s really not something to worry too much about with the puck set to drop on the Stanley Cup Final in Las Vegas in less than an hour, but it’s certainly something that could come in to play in a big way soon.

Being exempt would be a major benefit for the Golden Knights as not only would they get to keep their entire roster intact, but the league would dissipate even further. Vegas would automatically get stronger relative to the entire league. Also, McPhee would have the ability to be a workaround for some teams in the weeks and days leading up to the next Expansion Draft.

It only makes sense for Vegas to remain exempt, especially if the reports are true that The Creator would not receive a cut of the expansion fee. The league appears to agree, but only for now. Hopefully the next seven games don’t change that.

The Western Conference Champions Were NOT Handed Anything

Even this guy, who had his name on the Cup three times and won the last two, was better than he’s ever been before. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Tonight the Golden Knights will hit the ice as the home team in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. There’s a narrative around this expansion team that they were gifted the success they are having. We’re here to show you how ridiculous that is from every angle we can.


Prior to the season beginning, we scoured the Internet to find the most optimistic predictions for the Golden Knights in their inagural season. Most predicted Vegas to be the doormat of the NHL (see this, this, this, or this), but there was one person, or really a computer, that claimed the Golden Knights might not be too bad…

Make no mistake, the Vegas Golden Knights will probably be bad, very bad even, but the degree of badness might have been oversold. -Dom Luszcyszyn, The Athletic

Dom’s computer gave the Golden Knights an 18% chance of making the playoffs and projected them at around 83 points. Believe me when I tell you, this was a very good outlook for Vegas comparatively.


On August 7th we made a chart of what the Golden Knights would look like if every single player on the roster had a career year in scoring. When we added it all up, the Golden Knights came away with 243 goals, which would have been good for 10th in the NHL in 2016-17. The point of the exercise was to show that it’s going to take the best out of every single player for them to even be competitive.

243 goals, if every guy has the best offensive year of his life. The Golden Knights scored 272.


The NHL put out a series of graphics to show how unbelievable the Golden Knights season was. I’ll let them speak for themselves.

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The One Where Nate Schmidt Is Still On The Caps

Sorry Washington, the pick is Schmidt, and there’s nothing you can do about it. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Nate Schmidt has quietly, unless you are anywhere within earshot of him physically, become one of the best defensemen in the entire NHL. He is relied upon each and every night to shut down the opposition’s top line and throughout the postseason he has two goals, four assists, a +7 rating and has taken just one penalty.

He’s a player any team would love to have. At this time last year, the Washington Capitals had him, and if they had it their way, they would have never lost him in the Expansion Draft.

We made our selection, and then (Capitals GM Brian MacLellan) called and asked if there’s any way we could do a deal for him to get Schmidt back, and I said, I don’t see anything, but we’ll try to come up with something to give you a chance to say no. So we made a proposal that I didn’t think would work, and it didn’t work because our guys like Schmidt. So we overreached on the ask, and that’s the way it went. -George McPhee

Yeah, in a couple discussions, I don’t think they fully disclosed who they were going to take, and they brought up a couple names that they were thinking about. And as we progressed, at some point they said we’re going to go with Schmidt. So I tried to get deals done to protect Schmidt, and it just didn’t make sense for what they were asking. So consequently, we had to let him go. -Brian MacLellan

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Stanley Cup Final Media Day: Quotes and Pictures

We are close but there’s still a lot of work to get done. We’re going up a very good club over there. It’s going to be our toughest series yet. -Colin Miller, Vegas Defenseman on staying focused during the series

It’s a nice looking trophy for sure. -Miller

It’s kind of amazing how things worked out for him. I remembered talking to him before his contract expired in Calgary, he pretty much knew he wasn’t going back. He thought that if he can maybe get a one-year contract in Vegas and take that in to retirement. It didn’t really guarantee him much but I think this is the best year he’s had as a pro.- Brooks Orpik, Washington defenseman on his friend Deryk Engelland

You want to do the little things. Make sure the puck is kept out of the net at the end of your shift. If it’s a draw, you want to start with the puck and give yourself a chance to get it out of your zone, get it out of trouble. Everyone has a job to do on the ice at that point. -Cody Eakin, Vegas Forward talks about his role in the postseason

We were watching when gave his speech, there were guys in our locker room saying, ‘man, what a good speech.’ Especially, at a very, very difficult time. -Orpik

They have a couple of players that play similar style to the way we play as the fourth line. It’s your mindset. Every little shot matters, so obviously blocking shots is a huge factor. Making sure they’re not getting shots to the night. It’s a big part of my game, and I have to continue that. -Jay Beagle, Washington Forward on similarities to the Golden Knights fourth line

We know they’re coming. We got to be prepared for it. We have a good plan and now we got to follow it and try and get the win. -Christian Djoos, Washington Defenseman on Vegas coming out strong early in games

Just play. They’re going to get hit, I’m going to get hit. Personally, I’m not worried about it. I’m expecting to get him, I’ll throw some hits. I don’t think any of us really have to change. -Devante Smith-Pelley, Washington Forward talking about being smart when playing physical against Vegas

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“Remarkably Consistent” Golden Knights Shouldn’t Be Surprising Anymore

All they do is win. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights are 12-3 in the playoffs. They have yet to lose back-to-back games, they’ve trailed in just five of the 15 games, and they have only been behind in a series once.

In the regular season, they started the year winning eight of their first nine. They made their way into first place in the Pacific Division on November 24th and held it for all but a few days the rest of the season. Their longest losing streak was three games and they had an excellent 19-10-1 record following a loss.

They are, in a word, consistent.

This team has played really similar to the way its played all year. A lot of times you don’t see that. Some people elevate their game, some people sort of drift on you a little bit, almost to a man this team has been the same. This team has been remarkably consistent from day one. -George McPhee

Of the Golden Knights top 10 scorers in the regular season, nine of them are among the top 10 in the playoffs. Jack Adams finalist Gerard Gallant has distributed the minutes nearly identically to how he did throughout the whole year. When they have had injuries or sickness, the next guy has stepped up and filled in, just like he did in the regular season. Since the moment the playoffs began, nothing has changed.

I don’t expect guys to do anything more than they’ve done all season long. Just be ready to play, ready to compete and give yourself a chance to win. -Gerard Gallant

The Golden Knights have been a surprise to many around the hockey world this postseason, but to anyone watching every day, the only real surprise is that there hasn’t been any. They’ve played the same brand of transition-oriented offense, the same simplistic style of defense, had the same goaltending, and are enjoying the same results.

There have been long layoffs, early games, unfortunate reviews, and more oddities that have happened since April 11th, but nothing has changed for the Golden Knights.

We just play one game at a time, round to round. For me personally, we’re in the Stanley Cup Finals but it hasn’t really felt like a grind. We felt like we can compete with any team and play with any team so we just move on. It doesn’t feel like a Stanley Cup Final right now. Our guys are fresh and ready to go. -Gallant

It is the Stanley Cup Final though, and if things stay the same for four more wins, the Golden Knights will be crowned the best hockey team in the world. That’ll be a surprise to many, but it won’t be for the Golden Knights, and at this point it really shouldn’t be for anyone, because they’ve been doing it all year, even when most weren’t watching.

What If I Told You The First 8 Minutes Of Game 1 Weren’t As Bad As You Think They Were?

After 7:25 of hockey had been played in Winnipeg, the Golden Knights had already lost Game 1. The score was 3-0, the crowd was buzzing, and the announcers were fawning over the Jets as if they were the 1977 Montreal Canadiens.

In the moment, it felt like the Golden Knights were being run out of the building by a far superior team. Winnipeg was quicker, stronger, faster, and crisper, while Vegas was stuck in the mud, panicky, and making countless poor decisions. That is what it felt like, yet that’s not what was actually happening on the ice.

If you scroll all the way down to the end of this article, you’ll see that  I went through the first eight minutes of the game and wrote a transcript of exactly what happened in the game. If you feel like reading it and re-living it, feel free, but the real reason I’m publishing it isn’t for anyone to read it, it’s to prove two things. First, that I actually went and re-watched it on super slow motion, slow enough to be able to write a 1700 word recap of the events, and secondly so that anyone who disagrees with this article can roll back the game-tape themselves and point out the moments in which our opinions of what happened differ.

The puck drops to begin the game and nothing happens for :17. Remember, it only took 1:05 for the Jets to take the lead. Then, the first real event of the game occurs and it’s a terrific play by Nate Schmidt. He singlehandedly breaks up a 4-on-3 rush of the Jets and starts a 3-on-2 the other way for Vegas. This is the kind of play we’ve seen all year from the Golden Knights and a play that usually ends in better fashion than this one did.

Marchessault gives the puck away on a somewhat careless turnover ending the Golden Knights rush. However, this is not what led to the Jets goal. Instead, it was a miscommunication by Shea Theodore and Deryk Engelland, combined with a shot that should have been saved by Fleury. In other words, a good play led to three bad ones and a goal against.

Ok, so it’s 1-0 Winnipeg after a sequence of errors that’s incredibly rare for the Golden Knights. It’s bad, but it didn’t have to do with speed, quickness, or physicality, and it started because on an odd-man rush in Vegas’ favor that an unforced error ended. Aside from the well-placed shot from Byfuglien, this was not a Jets goal as much as it was a trio of subsequent Vegas mistakes.

If Schmidt scores on his identical chance, we’re talking about a much different story of the first eight minutes. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Next there’s a stretch of 4:39 of hockey in which Vegas has clear possession of the puck for 2:49 (61%) of that time. The Golden Knights created a scoring chance nearly identical to the Byfuglien goal, but Nate Schmidt’s shot was saved by Connor Hellebuyck. Shea Theodore had a good chance with traffic in front and Deryk Engelland had a clear lane but waited a bit too long and had his shot blocked. In the same 4:39, Winnipeg had one dangerous chance which came off an unfortunate hop off Engelland’s skate, and another shot from the point that should have been blocked by Theodore. It was saved by Fleury.

That’s when the penalty is called on Alex Tuch. It’s a tough call because Tuch hooks the Jets player due to the fact that his route to the puck was interfered with. It’s either a no-call or a penalty on both, the fact that it goes only on Vegas is a rough break.

Now the Golden Knights have to kill a penalty. For over a minute they put on a penalty killing clinic. During that clinic they forced an easy shot that Fleury opted not to cover so McNabb could clear it out. McNabb was less than an inch away from succeeding in doing so, but instead, it’s kept in, Bellemare is stuck on the ice, and another miscommunication leads to the Patrik Laine goal.

It’s now 2-0, 6:49 into the game and there’s certainly not a domination going on.

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Golden Knights Goalie Coach Knew He Could Make Fleury Better, Followed Through

“Dave Prior thought that he can make him an even better goaltender,” and he did. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen) 

Marc-Andre Fleury was the #1 overall pick in the 2003 NHL Draft. He made his debut in the league at the age of 18. He’s posted 12 straight seasons with a save percentage of .905 or better. He’s been named an All Star three times, the same number of times his named is engraved on the Stanley Cup. All of this is a fancy way of saying, Marc-Andre Fleury is really good, and has been really good for a long time.

That’s why when George McPhee said this, it came as quite the shock.

One of the things that appealed to us about bringing (Fleury) in was Dave Prior thought that he can make him an even better goaltender. He was excited, he really advocated for him in our meetings. And thought that he can make him even better than he’s been. -George McPhee

Prior was right, he could, and did, make Fleury better. Fleury posted career highs in save percentage (.927), goals against (2.24), quality start percentage (67.4%), and GSAA (20.77). In his 14th season, he had the best statistical year of his career, and he’s been even better in the playoffs.

He’s helped, definitely. On the ice, I think he changed a few things for me and it’s been working good. -Marc-Andre Fleury

Of course, he wouldn’t go into anything specifically as he “didn’t want to reveal his secrets.” However, a reoccurring theme that’s come up when Prior’s name has been mentioned to Fleury over the course of the season has been a tweak in his mental approach.

I think he’s somebody that wants me to trust in my ability to do things, it doesn’t matter if I had a day off before, if I had morning skate or not. -Fleury

Allow me to read between the lines of how I took that quote, along with other similar ones this season. It seems as if Prior has tried to get Fleury to focus less on practice time and honing his skills, and more on being ready for the games. No one can ever take away the whimsical nature of Fleury, nor would you want to, but it’s possible he was getting in his own head well before the games were ever even played. Fleury has all the skills to be a tremendous goalie in the league and no matter how he fared in off-day practice or morning skate the day of the game, his confidence should never waver.

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McPhee Identifies Shipachyov Situation As Seminal Moment In Defining Golden Knights Culture

I knew Shippy would have an impact on this team! I told you all along. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

A bit before the Expansion Draft, George McPhee and the Golden Knights signed a 30-year-old Russian player name Vadim Shipachyov. He was described as a top-six forward with elite vision and passing skills and was expected to be one of the most talented players on the Golden Knights roster come opening night in Dallas.

Then opening night in Dallas came, and Vadim Shipachyov wasn’t on the roster. He eventually got a shot for a few games, but the organization made it clear, they didn’t believe he was good enough to stay over the likes of Alex Tuch, Erik Haula, Oscar Lindberg and others. So, they sent the team’s highest-paid forward (at the time) to the AHL and eventually back to Russia, and in doing so they also sent a message to the entire Golden Knights roster. A message the GM believes may be a major reason they are still playing today.

It wasn’t my observation, it actually came from a coach of another team that I was talking to about 30 or 35 games into the year. He thought the best thing we did all year was take a guy on the big contract who wasn’t performing and ate it, or were prepared to eat it, because it was what was best for the team… Ownership supported it, and we did it, but it turned out to be a bigger move than we anticipated in terms of setting the template right for this team and how we would operate. -Geroge McPhee on Hockey Central

That was just one of the many examples McPhee, Gallant, and the Golden Knights have made to set that type of culture for the NHL’s newest team. Brad Hunt made the roster and remained on it for the entire season despite being a free agent that was signed to play in the AHL. Shea Theodore and Alex Tuch deserved spots out of camp, so the team made room for them. They healthy scratched Tomas Tatar in the playoffs, the trade deadline acquisition that cost three draft picks, because Ryan Carpenter, a waiver claim, was better. And the list goes on and on.

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What In The World Is Going On With David Perron?

What’s wrong with you David? (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

David Perron last played on March 26th in a home game against the Colorado Avalanche, the day the Golden Knights clinched their playoff berth. He missed the next six regular season games, missed Game 1, and has officially been ruled out for Game 2 of the series tonight.

David’s skating every day and he’s getting close and he’s feeling better. It’s just a matter of him you know being ready to go when he’s ready. We don’t force players into the lineup, we make sure they are ready. -Gerard Gallant

Following the game on March 28th, the first one Perron missed, Gallant was coy about Perron’s absence saying only “he didn’t play tonight.” Leading into the second game he would miss on March 30th, Gallant said he was out for “maintenance.” Then on March 31st, when flat out asked Gallant, “is David Perron hurt?” the response was “Yes, it’s a minor injury.”

Perron returned to the ice for the Golden Knights practice leading up to Game 1 of the series, but he stayed on the ice after practice with the other three players who were expected to be scratched. Yesterday, on the off day, Perron participated in a practice with the same players, a group of all the guys who did not play in Game 1. This morning, Perron was once again a full participant in morning skate but stayed on the ice well after with the other players to be scratched.

Throughout the entire 18 day absence, Perron has not been made available to speak to the media in English, he did conduct a scrum style interview with French-speaking media yesterday.

The injury has never been declared as upper or lower body, we cannot find anything in the Colorado game that points clearly to the injury, and watching him on the ice recently no one would never have any clue that he’s not healthy enough to play.

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6th Defenseman

Expect Sbisa to get back in the lineup, but who he’ll be paired with remains a question. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Just as is the case with the 12th forward, with the return to health along the Golden Knights blueline, All Star head coach Gerard Gallant has some tough decisions to make heading into Wednesday’s playoff opener.

Nate Schmidt, Brayden McNabb, Colin Miller, and Shea Theodore are certainties to be in the lineup. Deryk Engelland is likely to be crack the lineup but there’s at least a bit of decision making needed with him as his play has seemed to slip as the season has worn on.

That leaves four defensemen with just once spot available in the Vegas D-core. As we did with the forwards, here’s a pros and cons list of each player and then both Ken and I made selections as to who we believe will get the call.

Luca Sbisa
20 Playoff games
1 goal, 4 points, -10 rating, 17:15 ATOI

Pros: Sbisa was one of the most reliable Golden Knights defenseman to start the season, was once considered VGK’s superstar shadown, and he has played several playoff games. Before being injured in mid-November Vegas was 10-5-1 with him in the lineup. Usually, Sbisa was paired up with Nate Schmidt and split duties covering the best forwards in the NHL. Like Englland, Sbisa is best staying home and protecting the net. Although he has done his share offensively. When Sbisa records a point the Golden Knights are 10-1-1 this season.

Cons: Sbisa has been hampered with injuries most of his career, and this year has been no different. Vegas was expecting a healthy defenseman after playing a full 82 games in Vancouver last season. It’s uncertain how injured he is, or if he’s even healthy enough to play against the Kings. Sbisa has suited up for 20 postseason games, going 8-12 with three different franchises. Sbisa could be the better overall option but Gallant may decide to go with Engelland because of similar style and trust.

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