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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: SinBin.vegas 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.

We just tried to make it clear to all of our players, and it started in camp but it’s been that way all year long that it doesn’t matter where you were drafted in your career, how many teams you’ve been with, what your contract status is, what your age is, you are going to be on this team if you are a fit, if you’re the right personality and you are ready to work, and if you are that kind of person we’ll find room for you. So that’s how we’ve operated and it’s really helped in creating this great culture that we have. -McPhee

The culture of the Golden Knights has become one of winning, but it got there because it was about competition and fairness. The best players were going to be afforded the best opportunities, and every player, despite any preconceived notions,  would be given a fair shot at earning their place in the lineup.

It’s the laws of accumulation. You keep making the right decisions and doing the right things based on what’s right for the organization. The organization comes first and the individual comes a close second. -McPhee

Now, that organization is eight wins away from completing one of the most improbable stories in sports history. It’s because they’ve done it the right way. Many teams say they’ll operate the way the Golden Knights have, but few actually do it. There’s just something about this team. Everything seems to work out. Even when there appears to be a colossal mistake, somehow it finds a way of turning itself into something useful. That’s because of the culture that’s been created.

The signing of Vadim Shipachyov was a mistake, but a great organization finds a way to take that lemon and made lemonade, and that’s exactly what we have here, a great organization, and hopefully soon a giant metal Cup to hold that lemonade.

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19 Comments

  1. Brian

    #LEMONDAEFROMTHECUP
    #CUPIN1
    #WETRUSTINMCPHEE
    #WETRUSTINGALLANT

    Shipping Shippy was a ballsy move by GMGM. But what a message that must have sent at that point of the year.

  2. And that is Vegas..true Vegas, no one is above reproach. If you do not perform, regardless of credentials, you are out. If you think you are more important than the team, the organization, you will not fit in here.

  3. RJ

    History is written by the winners (and those that speak English). Whether or not it actually happened this way doesn’t matter. That people like you are willing to write the story McPhee and Foley want written will make sure that the ‘facts’ are whatever they want them to be.

    Anyway, it doesn’t matter because the team is winning, so our collective memory will be pretty short and our collective opinion very forgiving. I like winning more than I like honesty after all, and so does every one else.

    • RJ

      And what “other history” is at work here? The Knights sent Shippy home because he was a bad hockey player? Because he was injured? Homesick? Because he spoke Russian and not Swedish? Precisely what is dishonest about what happened? Really – one thing? One thing that was not honest about the whole scenario?

      No – at the time it happened it was because it didn’t work out. Shippy complained he was treated badly but never stated exactly why he thought so. There has never been a single word from anyone in the Knights’ organization to say what exactly happened.

      The general consensus from OUTSIDE the organization: Shippy came in expecting to be handed the keys to a top-six position and was surprised that he had to earn anything. He came in with one set of expectations and couldn’t – or wouldn’t adjust to be part of the low ego – high character – hard working culture Foley, McPhee and Gallant were working to instill into the organization. Doesn’t mean Shippy is a bad person… he just didn’t fit.

      Could VGK have done better in meshing Shippy into the team early – more developmental help – better translation or personal aid support to him and his family? Maybe, but we don’t know because to this day no one has provided any details about what happened. Was it personalities clashing? Was it the style of hockey? The people who know are not saying.

      The whole point is many GMs would have insisted Shippy play because he wouldn’t want to admit to a bad signing. For that matter many also would have required Gallant to play Tatar after the price GMGM paid to get him.

      As far as Shippy…it is a good point for both sides that they reached a deal and both walked away. He could have just played and collected the bucks, but he wanted to play at the highest stage possible. He preferred playing in the KHL instead of the AHL even for less money. I would have preferred if he had developed into a strong player to help the Knights… but Shippy is evidently happy playing back in the KHL – and the Knights have moved on.

      It is not strange that a signing turned out bad. IT IS STRANGE that Foley, GMGM and Gallant seemingly so simply agreed to not let signing issues keep them from concentrating on what was best for the team on the ice. And they did it with at least to this point no finger-pointing from anyone except a guy who writes under the name of RJ.

      And just making snarky statements about “winners write history” and intimating there is something sinister being hidden – makes people cringe and roll their eyes, while at least in my case tends to identify any future statement from RJ as hot air unless proven otherwise.

    • VgK4life

      RJ I’m going to chalk this post of yours up as a late night copious amounts of an alcohol based beverage and leave it at that. Come on man.

    • David Richards

      Are the facts wrong in the article? I liked the story and “bought” into it hook, line, and sinker. But I’m curious to know the inaccuracies.

    • Really

      don’t assume everyone thinks like you.

  4. S

    Don’t you have a social justice meeting of some kind to attend RJ?

  5. Kielbasa Kid

    Boy, do I hate to pick nits given all the good news work showing up here. But Seminole? Florida Native American tribe-like Seminole? Maybe seminal…

    Anyway, primarily a Blackhawks fan. But Vegas is the hardest working team in the league, with Nashville not even a close second, and it pays off. Half a billion reasons and excellent management set this team up for success; I’m pleased to see hockey, good hockey, being played in the desert. Congrats!

    • Fixed it about 2 minutes after I posted the story.

    • Slr1982

      It is really good to hear someone who is a fan of another team, give respect and appreciation for what the Knights have done/accomplished. I am a life long Sabres fan, but have lived in Vegas for 25 years now. I now am a fan of 2 teams, kind of 1A/1B. Yes we paid alot, yes we got a good pool to draft from, but you still have to mesh talent and personalities together and they have to perform. We may not see the true result or respect until we see what Seattle does with its draft and 1st season.

      • MC

        As a fellow lifelong Sabres fan and VGK convert, I see a lot of similarities between VGK and the 98/99 Sabres.

        There is almost no limit (other than bad refereeing in the Sabres case) to what a lot of really good hard-working, players playing exceptionally good as a team, backed up by an exceptional goalie can do. VGK is a much faster, and much more hard-working team, but I see a lot of the old Sabres in them. In particular the teamwork element which led to career years for a lot of players for both teams.

        As a lifelong hockey fan, who has lived through the ups and downs of the Sabres and was at the front of the line ready to embrace my new home team, this has been just a magical year.

  6. vivamcbride

    Yeah, but the real question is… will my Shipachyov jersey be worth anything one day? #cupin1 #shipashamwowww

  7. I have no idea what RJ is implying by talking about “other history” and “facts”. Just enjoy this remarkable season without it being something that it’s not. McPhee, Mr. Foley and Coach Gallant have done an excellent job with the players that they have. Shippy didn’t seem to fit and from what I could tell, it seemed like he didn’t want to be on the team. He could have gone to the AHL, and maybe have gotten called up later in the season, but he didn’t. He felt as though he was God’ s gift to hockey and went back to Russia to play in the KHL. That’s his loss. There’s no conspiracy or anything going on.

  8. Jonathan

    The surface story is pretty much all you need to know, anyway. It speaks for itself. The guy wasn’t willing to prove that he was a great hockey player over here, so he wanted to act like a baby. I cannot even imagine this happening, because I haven’t followed hockey before this year, but if one of the Yankees young prospects is sent back to AAA, he doesn’t ask questions, he goes to AAA or he’s not playing baseball anymore bottom line. Those are the rules. You nod, you smile, and tell everyone else you’re going to work hard to show you belong with the Big Club. That’s how sports work. I’m bummed it didn’t work out because what if he did have a better attitude and had played in the AHL for 20 games or so, proved himself, and ended up being a great player for us and helping our offense be even more potent? He would have gotten his chance because of injuries, provided he worked hard, but there’s no room on ANY team, Golden Knights or otherwise, for a guy who expects to be handed everything and isn’t willing to work for it. That’s ridiculous. That’s called having a bad attitude and being a “me first” type of player. Nobody needs that type of player. Some teams will tolerate it IF and ONLY if he’s a generational talent like Terrell Owens or Randy Moss, guys with bad attitudes in the NFL who were also among the greatest receivers of all time. That wasn’t Shipawhatevs.

    • PhiSig150

      Unless you’re 30 like Harvey get DFA turn it down and get cut or traded.

  9. Bill

    This move was a major reason I knew they weren’t selling at the deadline. A lot of people insisted they weren’t playing for this year, but making this move said they were and sent the message you have to play hard to get time.

  10. Michael V Smith

    Just hope the “Shippy” affair doesn’t sour present (Gusiev) or future Russian prospects. Some of those guys can throw pucks on goal.

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