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Vegas To Control All Hockey Operation At AHL Level; Likely Affiliated With Chicago Wolves

Remember about a month ago when we were discussing the Chicago Wolves organization and how they may not be the perfect fit for the Golden Knights? Well after a little further digging, it appears the information that led us to that conclusion is a bit out-dated, and the concerns we had aren’t going to be an issue at all.

Vegas will have full control over hockey operations of it’s minor league affiliate. They will be the primary NHL team to be affiliated with their minor league team, and the Chicago Wolves are still the likely destination which will be announced when the AHL season concludes in late April to mid May (depending on the Wolves success in the playoffs).

Let me back up a minute and show my work here, cause this is quite a bit different from what I said a little more than a month ago.

The first report of an affiliation with the Wolves was posted by Steve Carp of the RJ on January 1st. At that time it was reported as “in discussions” with Chicago.

Since then, sources have assured with me on multiple occasions that unless something changes, it’ll be Chicago. I even got a pretty strong hint of that yesterday as well.

So that’s when I went into dig mode on what an affiliation with the Wolves would look like. Historically, the Wolves are one of the most independently run AHL franchises even making comments like this.

They are in no way defined by their NHL parent. Affiliation, for (Wolves GM Wendell Young), is just another league rule. –Danny Ecker, Crain’s Chicago Business

That quote was from 2013, but Ecker doubled down on that in an article written in June 2016 about the Blues extending their affiliation with the Wolves.

Then yesterday, in a special Q&A with season ticket holders, George McPhee was asked about the minor league affiliation and exactly how that will process will work.

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Listen Up VGK, Honesty’s The Best Policy, So Says MLB’s Best Executive

When it comes to building a winning franchise from the ground up, no one in the history of sports is better than current Chicago Cubs President and General Manager, Theo Epstein. He’s the mastermind behind ending not one, but two, of the longest championship droughts in the history of sports.

Epstein began his tenure with the Boston Red Sox in 2002. In 2007 they won the World Series for the first time in 86 years. Epstein then resigned and took the same job in Chicago with the Cubs in 2012. In 2017, the Cubs won the World Series for the first time in 108 years.

In short, this guy knows what he’s doing.

It started with trying to be really transparent with the players. The more you do that, it’s kind of like a drug. You realize it’s just easier when you’re transparent. You don’t have to worry about remembering your lies or your slants or your coverups. Then you realize it works with everyone. It works managing up, it works with the media, it works with agents, it works with your fans. It’s kind of the best way to do things if you can pull it off. Something as simple as transparency is really scalable, because it quickly impacts the culture. And the culture is something everyone feels. –Theo Epstein, Chicago Cubs GM, President

Be honest with players. Be honest with staff. Be honest with agents. Be honest with the media. Be honest with the fans.

It’s something we here at SinBin.vegas have been harping on for a long time and are often met with resistance with people telling us, “it just doesn’t work that way.” Well Theo disagrees.

If upper management is really transparent with everyone, that has this amplifying effect. Then you tend to attract players who operate that way, on the same wavelength, coaches and fans. -Epstein

Now I’m not here to say the Vegas Golden Knights aren’t being transparent and open. Much the opposite in most cases. The Creator himself is one of the most honest sports owners out there. But there have been some hints from this budding franchise of wanting to go the Belichick route at times rather than the Epstein one.

It’s kind of the best way to do things if you can pull it off. -Epstein

When you can’t pull it off is when you are making decisions that are not in the best interest of your paying customers. Remember when MGM instituted their parking fees. This is how they sold it.

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Final Payment Clears; Vegas Official And Free To Make Moves

Update 3 (12:07 PM) – Official statement from The Creator via Golden Knights press release.

Today we reached another significant milestone in our team’s history – the Vegas Golden Knights are officially a National Hockey League franchise. It is an incredibly exciting day for our organization and we would not be here without the continued support from our fans. In February of 2015 we started our season ticket drive. We asked Las Vegans to put ticket deposits down for a team that didn’t exist in an arena that hadn’t been built and they came through in a big way. The progress we have made together in these last two short years is remarkable. Now that we are official, we look forward to continuing this momentum and building a team that our fans and our community will be proud of.

Update 2 (11:29 AM)

Update (8:18 AM) – “We are aware of the reports, we would issue a formal announcement if and when it is finalized.” -Eric Tosi, VP of Communications

Apparently that mountain of paperwork holding up the Golden Knights from participating in the trade deadline this season has been signed, sealed, and delivered.
As reported by SportsNet’s John Shannon, the final payment of the $500 million expansion fee has cleared and the Vegas Golden Knights are officially a fully operational NHL franchise.

They are free to participate in the trade deadline which is at noon today. They can also sign college free agents, European players, or any other unsigned player.

Looking forward to getting into the office. –George McPhee, GM

McPhee can agree to any trade not involving Vegas actually taking on a player. In other words, Vegas can agree TO select or NOT TO select a player at the Expansion Draft in June in exchange for draft picks which will be reported as “future considerations.”

This comes as a bit of a surprise as The Creator mentioned in an interview with myself on KXNT Tuesday that the payment would not make it in time. McPhee also resigned to the fact that he’d have to deal in “gentlemen’s agreements” rather than official deals. Apparently the league woke up and realized what we’ve been saying all along, there’s really no reason to keep Vegas out any longer.

This news also means McPhee will be able to attend the general managers meetings beginning on March 6th.

Final Payment Won’t Be Made By Trade Deadline, No Deals For VGK

On an interview on KXNT Radio with Alan Stock (and me), The Creator confirmed that the final payment, which allows the team “full entry” into the league will not clear in time for the trade deadline on March 1st.

We won’t make it before the trade deadline. The documentation is unbelievable. I have documentation with the league on a franchise agreement. I have documentation on a loan we are taking out with CitiBank. I’ve got my personal stuff, which all has to get in and get approved. If you saw the stack of documents you’d say it’s not a pretty picture. -The Creator

What it means is the Vegas Golden Knights cannot be officially active at this trade deadline. Deals can be agreed to in principal but cannot be signed off on by the league.

George is having informal calls informal talks with various GMs. Other teams want to do more than we want to do. They want to lock up some of their players for the playoff run and after the playoff run. We aren’t going to get ahead of ourselves. George is going to make good deals. George is a deal maker especially in hockey. If we give up the right to draft a good player we are going to get something good for it. -The Creator

The next question is whether or not the payment will clear in time for George McPhee to attend the GM meetings beginning on March 6th.

In the end, the significance of this will always be unknown. Would deals have actually gotten done? Would McPhee have been willing to sign the dotted line on not selecting a player with four months still to go before the Expansion Draft? We’ll never know.

This also delays the ability to sign college free agents and undrafted players.

Well we just feel the sooner the better. We’d like to start doing some business. We’re ready to go and it’s important for us to be involved. It’s important for us to be at the table at the GM’s meetings because there are important decisions regarding the league and all of hockey in general are being made there and Las Vegas should be heard. –George McPhee to Puck Daddy on February 9th

But the fact of the matter is now we know for sure, the 2017 trade deadline will not involve the Vegas Golden Knights.

 

Open And Honest, At Least That’s The Plan

When it comes to all sports, some organizations are known for hiding the facts. Okay fine, every team does it in some form like inflating attendance numbers or puff pieces following tough losses, but some are just flat out tone deaf. The most recent obvious example is the Boston Bruins firing Claude Julien during the Patriots Super Bowl parade. We talked to The Creator about the importance of being open with his fan base. We didn’t ask him about the Bruins situation specifically, but we asked about fan communication.

We’re going to be fan friendly. We’re going to be careful about it. We’re going to be a community oriented team, that’s what we have to be. -The Creator

Fans aren’t dumb, they see through all the poppycock. It’s up to the owner to make sure fans aren’t fed nonsense.

Thus far there have been a few missteps when it comes to being forthcoming, such as the reasoning behind the team name and the trademark situation to point out a couple. But overall, and especially in terms of The Creator himself, the team has been incredibly open and honest to this point… maybe even to a fault.

That’s what the fan base wants. Actually, that’s what a fan base like Las Vegas needs. Covering up negative information gets unearthed in the amount of time it takes someone to type 140 characters, or however many characters are in Ken’s mean fingers at any given moment. But more importantly, those moments are the ones fans take with them.

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Don’t Hate Too Much On Cappy

This week we got a surprisingly bad reaction from fans regarding the coaching direction of the Golden Knights. The Creator’s “unwillingness” to overpay for Claude Julien started a conversation about financial commitment. Some even went as far as to call him cheap. Let’s clear something up, the man is about to finish to paying off $500 million for an NHL team, he’s not cheap. But fans are getting nervous that The Creator won’t do everything he can do to win hockey games. When he said $4.5 million for Julien was too much for Vegas, fans took that as not being fully invested.

If Vegas chooses a coach like Jack Capuano or Gerard Gallant fans are going to voice themselves. The Creator is realistic, the organization is committed to the future. Passing on a big name coach isn’t a sign of cheapness, it’s a sign of a responsible approach eyeing that future rather than instant gratification.

I’ve written about Capuano’s fit in Las Vegas, but he’s not a popular among fans. Here’s a comment from SinBin.vegas on Capuano back in late November.

Take Capuano, please. Take his assistants, too. They make no adjustments. They have ruined more players (high draft picks) than they have developed. The GM might be part of that, too but playing time & in game is on the coach. They have stopped playing hard, and for the past two plus seasons, I have never seen so many late goals (both end of periods & games) given up in 45 years of watching hockey. I will drive him to the airport if you want. -pfh64

 

Many people think Capuano underachieved in New York. Complaints are he cannot develop talent and won’t use analytics to assist his decisions. All are very good reasons to be down on a potential Vegas coach. However, is that really Jack Capuano? Or is that what you say about a coach who was just fired?

I’m here to tell you, he isn’t anything like the comment above, and the countless others we’ve received on social media.  Let me try and quiet the storm in Las Vegas. Here’s how Jack Capuano compares to other available coaches.

 Jack CapuanoClaude JulienKen HitchcockLindy Ruff
Seasons as HC6142119
W-L227-192538-332781-474724-542
Win %.536.603.606.562
Playoff Appearances481410
Playoff Record10-1461-4786-8266-54
Playoff %.417.560.512.550
Stanley Cups0110
Key PlayersTavares, HalakBrodeur, Chara, ThomasModano, Nieuwendyk, Belfour, HullHasek, Satan, Peca
 Jack CapuanoDan BylsmaGerard GallantJon Cooper
Seasons as HC6865
W-L227-192310-176152-140172-114
Win %.536.624.518.591
Playoff Appearances4613
Playoff Record10-1443-352-425-25
Playoff %.417.551.333.500
Stanley Cups0100
Key PlayersTavares, HalakCrosby, MalkinJagr, Nash, Ekblad, LuongoStamkos, Bishop, St. Louis, Hedman

 

Here’s a breakdown of Capuano vs. the more experienced coaches in their first six seasons behind the bench.

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Creator Confirms Golden Knights Will Have Two Mascots

The name and logo are all good and well, but now it’s time for them to come to life in the form of a mascot, or as The Creator shared with SinBin.vegas, two mascots.

We’re going to have two mascots. One fan-friendly, kid-friendly mascot and there’s going to be one awesome, mean mother… the guy you don’t want to meet in the woods. -The Creator

First off, describing one mascot as a “mean mother…” might be the greatest thing that’s ever come out of The Creator’s mouth. It’s a shame he didn’t realize he was in the R-Rated space of talking to SinBin.vegas and finished off the thought with what he really wanted to say.

He went on to speak about his dream, which I heard for the first time in April of 2016 and have heard many times since, of the mascot skating in his full suit of armor and pulling Excalibur from the ice to kick off the season. Expect that mascot to be a true to form human knight plucked right out of the medieval days.

The other mascot is a bit more of a mystery. The only description we got was “kid-friendly” which leads me to believe he (or she) will be your classic fluffy oversized bobblehead looking mascot. Think this, or this, even something like this.

A female/male combo? -SinBin.vegas

Nah, I think we’ll go… Well the male is going to be the Golden Knight, and I’ve got a lot of ideas for him, then we have another idea but I can’t tell you about it yet. -The Creator

My guess would be an apprentice-type, or even the son of the Golden Knight.

Hopefully holding a sword from the Sword Star logo, wearing an oversized VGK helmet that doesn’t yet fit, and acting like a child trying to be like his father, but doesn’t yet have the skills, but no one asked me, so who knows.

Either way, not one but two mascots will be roaming the rows of T-Mobile Arena come October when the team finally hits the ice for the first time. As for when we’ll get to meet the literal faces of the franchise? That’s still unknown. Could be any time between next week and east July.

Cross Off Claude, Julien All But Out For Vegas

Last March, the Toronto Maple Leafs handsomely paid Mike Babcock $6.25 million per year to be their head coach; an offer Babcock couldn’t refuse. In the process of getting a monster raise, Babcock rewarded his fellow NHL coaches by inflating the market. Now coaches are waiting their turn to cash in. Say a guy like Claude Julien.

When you make these decisions, you better have a guy in line that’s better than that guy. There’s not many, I can tell you that. He’s a hell of a coach. –Mike Babcock on Boston firing Claude Julien

Many believe Julien will demand a salary as high as $4-5 million per year. Which made me wonder, would Vegas be willing to pay the going rate for Claude?

The answer is no.

Ken and I had a chance to catch up with The Creator during the Mandarin Oriental Rooster trade event, and after our conversation, I can officially cross Julien’s name off the list. It’s no longer speculation, Claude Julien will not be the Golden Knights first coach. It was clear immediately when I asked directly about the financial aspect of the hiring. I first asked if he would pay top dollar, to which he instantly said yes. I added, four to five million? And the answer speaks for itself.

That’s probably a lot for us.

I’ll tell you what we really want. George McPhee’s going to make the call. My call is going to be, is this a guy I can work with feel comfortable with. All the people we have in this organization keep their egos in check they are about winning hockey games or making a successful business. -The Creator

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Golden Knights Ring In Chinese New Year At Mandarin Oriental

In Vegas culture it’s the Year of the Golden Knight, in Chinese culture it’s the Year of the Rooster. In a ceremony at the Mandarin Oriental yesterday the two met, exchanged pleasantries, hockey sticks, and golden roosters in an attempt to create a symbiotic relationship that could truly turn the Vegas Golden Knights into the worldwide brand The Creator is hoping it becomes.

Now, obviously, the ceremonial exchange of a left handed hockey stick with the words Vegas Golden Knights on it for a golden rooster aptly named Stanley by the GM of Mandarin Oriental is hardly going to do anything to form a relationship with the Asian fan base the NHL has yet to capture. But the gesture is just the beginning.

The Vegas Golden Knights plan to attract fans from all over the world, including the world’s largest market, and the NHL’s smallest, China. It’s quite the tall task, but if even a small part of the eastern hemisphere adopts the Golden Knights as their own, look out.

Think of this as a the ribbon cutting ceremony, the only difference is this relationship is going to be much slower growing and much more difficult to see than what’s going on at the site of the last VGK ribbon cutting.

They’ve proven their commitment to the military. Now shown the beginning of an engagement with the Asian market. Next up, diving into the lifeblood of the organization, Las Vegas locals. Though I can’t get into much of what’s scheduled (was asked politely to wait until the press releases come out), there’s a lot on the plate in the coming months, and likely weeks.

Ok, enough about that, let’s see some Rooster pictures!

FRONT ROW: Peter Sadowski, Kerry Bubolz, Nehme Abouzeid BACK ROW: Donald Bowman (Mandarin Oriental GM), The Creator, Steve Sisolak (Clark County Commission Chairman)

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If Gallant Is The Guy, Just Do It Already

Procrastination is about as American a concept as apple pie, democracy and being fat. We all do it from time to time, even on some of the most important decisions in our lives. Usually there’s a reason for the urge to keep pushing things back. Whether it’s feeling unprepared, uncomfortable, or unwilling, procrastination usually tells a story.

Right now the Vegas Golden Knights are in the hunt to find the first coach in team history. Originally the plan was to wait until after the Expansion Draft to begin narrowing down the search, then the idea of doing it after the regular season ended seemed realistic, and now, it could happen as soon as tomorrow.

At this point, I’d say it’s 50-50 we have our head coach in place before the season’s over. –The Creator to LVRJ

Why the urgency all of a sudden you ask? Because maybe the perfect candidate is available right now and might not be in a few months.

The guy that’s caused the urgency is Gerrard Gallant. Jason touched on the importance of Gallant passing on the Islanders job and how it could signal his arrival in Vegas.

That brings me back to the whole procrastination thing. If Gallant does end up being the guy, every day that ticks away shows less and less confidence from George McPhee, The Creator, and the entire staff that he’s the perfect fit. There’s only one reason to procrastinate, and that’s to wait and see if someone better will come available.

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