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McCrimmon, McPhee, Creator Weigh In On Expanded Video Review

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Time has passed since the #NotAMajor incident that helped lead to the Golden Knights season coming to a close far earlier than most had hoped. However, the topic of changing the rules to ensure something like that never happens again remains very much on the forefront.

The Golden Knights have three powerful voices that will be involved in the process of amending the rules this offseason and they each have a slightly different idea of what should take place in regards to video review.

First, here’s GM Kelly McCrimmon’s belief, speaking on the Sports and More podcast with Dean Millard.

My feelings are that we don’t need more video review in the regular season, in fact, I think a case can be made for less video review in the regular season. I do however, at playoff time, think the rules should be different with respect to video review. If it was as simple as reviewing any overtime goal for a puck that maybe hit the netting behind the glass or was hand passed or high sticked or whatever the different situations that might occur, I think with what’s at stake at that time of year it’s most important to get it right. That’s out of respect to the players and the game, ownership, fan bases, and everyone that’s fully vested at that time of year. I just think with what’s a stake at that time of year I do believe video could be used probably more to everyone’s advantage to make sure the right calls are made whenever possible. -Kelly McCrimmon

President of Hockey Operations George McPhee took a slightly softer approach speaking to TSN at the NHL Scouting Combine.

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“We Are Not A Budget Team”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

As the league calendar gets set to turn to 2019-20 all eyes seem focused on the color red.

Through the first two seasons, the Golden Knights have not had to worry much about in terms of the salary cap. In Year 1, the floor was as much in view as was the cap. In Year 2, money was being thrown around left and right for Marc-Andre Fleury, Paul Stastny, Max Pacioretty, Ryan Reaves, Nate Schmidt, Alex Tuch, Shea Theodore, and Mark Stone, but there still was no concern for reaching the cap. Now, as decisions need to be made on William Karlsson, Deryk Engelland, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Nikita Gusev, Jimmy Schuldt, and others and suddenly the salary cap is the main point of focus in Vegas.

George McPhee, Kelly McCrimmon, and the Golden Knights front office have plenty of ways to manage the cap. The most obvious way would be to make a trade or two to move some salary out. This may very well happen. But, despite what you may hear/read, it also may not.

The salary cap in the NHL is incredibly complicated. There are pages and pages of legalese that govern the league’s cap. It’s so complicated that almost every team in the league has a specific person on staff whose job is to do nothing but focus on the cap. For the Golden Knights, that’s Andrew Lugerner.

From the outside looking in, we don’t get to see the whole picture. We don’t have the entire rule book. Instead, we tend to rely on a birds-eye view of simply adding all of the contracts together to come up with a total number. In the Golden Knights case, that number is too high already, and they’ve still got work to do. But that’s not how the salary cap works. There’s daily accumulation, long-term IR, performance bonuses, two-way contracts, assignment clauses, buried contracts, buyouts, discounted cap hits, and probably numerous other loopholes we aren’t aware of.

Luckily, we don’t need to be, we just need to know that whatever is necessary, the Golden Knights have the ability to make it happen.

We are fortunate that we are not a budget team. We aren’t one of those teams that is always on the edge in terms of its financial performance. In fact, our financial performance has been very good and as a result, we can make some things happen that maybe some other teams couldn’t have made happen. -The Creator

That comment was made in regards to promoting Kelly McCrimmon to GM, but it can easily be applied to just about everything else with the organization. If there’s a way to gain an advantage, the Golden Knights owner is going to be willing to pay for it.

He did it in the Expansion Draft by allowing McPhee to add bad contracts for draft picks, he’s allowed the organization to go from an expansion team to one pushing up against the cap in Year 3, and there have been numerous stories of what he’s done in and around the facilities to make Vegas one of, if not the, best place to play in the NHL.

So, if there’s a way to use some of The Creator‘s money to help the Golden Knights get under the cap, McPhee will have the green light to do it.

Just never forget that when we see the red number next to Vegas’ name that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Things do need to happen for the Golden Knights this offseason, but they may not always be things we see. The reason that’s possible is ownership’s willingness to do whatever it takes to create, in his words, “a dynasty.”

Change In Title, Not In Command

It was August of 2016 in an airport in Vienna, Austria that Vegas Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee first met Kelly McCrimmon.

When George called me in July, I had never talked to him, I had never met him before. -McCrimmon

Both on their way to the Ivan Hlinka prospects tournament in Slovakia, the two met for the first time and eventually formed a partnership that would take the NHL by storm.

It’s the best working relationship I’ve had in this business. -George McPhee

On that day McPhee began the process of courting then owner, general manager, and head coach of the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, Kelly McCrimmon, to become his “assistant.”

I told Kelly when I was trying to hire him that he was going to be involved in every single thing we do here. -McPhee

McCrimmon took the job, officially titled “Assistant General Manager” and the two immediately got to work.

However, it was never really a situation with a first and second in command. Instead, McPhee quickly turned over half of his responsibilities, making the relationship much more of an equal partnership. It literally happened days after McCrimmon took the job.

I divvied up the teams, I said you take these 15 NHL teams, I’ll take these 15 NHL teams. You deal with them all year, I’ll deal with these and we shared everything, basically co-managed for three years and that will continue. -McPhee

Quite frankly, since the moment he started, Kelly was the general manager of the Golden Knights in relation to those 15 teams, but in reality, it was much more than just half the league.

The thing that’s special about our organization and our relationship is just the collaboration. -McCrimmon

That has continued ever since.

Literally however insignificant a move we’ve made, it has never ever been someone overruling the other. -McCrimmon

We haven’t disagreed on anything. For two guys who didn’t know each other, to get together and see things the way we see them, it’s just been a real treat to work together and I think we’ve been good and we’re going to keep doing it the same way. -McPhee

That’s why, when McCrimmon’s name started popping up as a prime candidate for open GM positions in Edmonton and Seattle, McPhee knew he couldn’t let his “co-manager” leave. So, he had to come up with a solution.

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Kelly McCrimmon Promoted To General Manager, George McPhee To Remain As President Of Hockey Operations

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights announced today that Kelly McCrimmon has been promoted from Assistant General Manager to General Manager. George McPhee, who previously had the title of General Manager and President of Hockey Operations, will now simply become the President of Hockey Operations.

Truthfully, very little will change with the Golden Knights organization. McPhee remains first in command and in complete control of all hockey decisions, while McCrimmon gets a title boost, probably a pay raise, and a few added responsibilities.

The reason for this move is because of how coveted McCrimmon is by other teams. He was a lead candidate for the General Manager position in both Edmonton and Seattle. The title boost means the Golden Knights will not lose McCrimmon to either job.

Functionally, there will be a few minor differences.

In this new role, McCrimmon will represent the Golden Knights at the league’s General Managers Meetings and be the point of contact for other NHL GMs. -Golden Knights press release

As far as from the fan perspective, this move has nearly no impact on the chemical makeup of the front office. The same people are making the decisions, with the same power structure in place.

The main takeaway that should come from this move is The Creator’s continued commitment to the Golden Knights success. Rather than let a trusted person leave for a better position, the team gave him a new title to keep him with the organization. Further proving, The Creator will spare no expense to reach the ultimate goal.

McCrimmon, McPhee, and Foley are expected to meet with the media at noon today at City National Arena.

Locker Room Clean-Out Day Highlights

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In the final media availability of the season nearly every Golden Knights player spoke to the media. We also had extended press conferences with The Creator, George McPhee, and Gerard Gallant.

Of course, there will probably be 50 stories on this site based off many of the comments on this day, but we wanted to share some of the highlights from the day.

(If you would like to listen to every second of the nearly 2 hours and 15 minutes of locker room interviews that we participated in, go here or to our podcast feed.)

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McPhee “Committed” To Keeping 2019 1st Round Pick

Vegas didn’t have a 1st round pick last year, they don’t intend on that being the case this year.

Historically, George McPhee is active around the trade deadline. Whether his team is good and he’s buying reinforcements (like he did last year in Vegas) or if he’s bad and selling for the future, McPhee normally takes advantage of the closing of the marketplace at the end of February.

In his 17 years in Washington, McPhee made a move at the deadline (within three days) in 15 of the 17 years.  Last year, McPhee pulled off three deadline trades, adding Tomas Tatar and Ryan Reaves and moving on from Brendan Leipsic making it 16 of 18 seasons at the helm he’s swung a deadline deal.

However, he’s in a bit of a bind this year in regards to future assets. Appearing on the Golden Knights official podcast, The Creator mentioned an unwillingness to move on from draft picks.

We’re going to be very careful about the draft picks, giving up draft picks, this year. You know we gave up a #1 last year and George is really committed to keeping that #1 this year. It’s a pretty good draft class. -The Creator

The Golden Knights currently have nine picks in the 2019 Entry Draft including two extra 3rds and two extra 5ths.

Courtesy of CapFriendly.com

Aside from the few extra picks, the Golden Knights are not exactly stocked with tradeable assets. The only true position of strength is at defenseman with Erik Brannstrom, Nic Hague, Zach Whitecloud, and Jake Bischoff all projected to be NHLers. But, it doesn’t sound like The Creator has much interest in losing any of them either.

We have four really good d-men with the Wolves right now and they’re getting ready. They really are. You might see them up and down a little bit later on in the year. Definitely next year I’m sure we’ll be doing something. -The Creator

So, while history suggests McPhee will be interested in making something happen at the deadline, a bare cupboard may force him to sit on his hands.

If I had to guess, I’d still expect something minor, but everyone with their eyes on the blockbuster, it may have to wait a year.

The Creator Speaks – On A Load Of Subjects

**Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

Bill Foley looked tired. And indeed, he was.

The chairman and CEO of the Golden Knights and the man who brought the NHL to Las Vegas had gotten home late from Thursday’s exhilarating 4-2 come-from-behind win over the New York Islanders at T-Mobile Arena.

He was about to spend 90 minutes outside “The Arsenal” team store at City National Arena Friday afternoon, signing copies of the team’s official book that recapped its magical inaugural season. And the line was long. After all, how many fans get to meet the owner of the team they root for?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

But that’s what makes the man Ken refers to as “The Creator” so special. He loves interacting with the Golden Knights’ fan base. He’s so down-to-earth that even though he’s a billionaire, he can relate with those who sit in the balcony at the Fortress and who have invested more than money in this team.

I found that out early on when I first interviewed Foley back in 2014. Friday, we sat down in a conference room adjacent to his office at CNA, an office, which by the way, is fairly spartan. Not a lot of memorabilia or pictures. Very simple, perhaps an ode to his West Point days in the 1960s.

We talked for just over 16 minutes (you can listen to the entire audio of our conversation below) and we touched on a wide range of topics.

Remember, this is a man who had to bury his son in August after 31-year-old William died. He is still grieving and he admitted he’ll never get over his loss.

You can replace an injured player or a player who is under-achieving. But you cannot replace a family member who died way too early.

But he said hockey and the Golden Knights have been cathartic. And for those couple of hours when the Knights are playing, he can allow himself to focus on the team and the game.

It’s a great distraction. -Bill Foley

Normally, this would be a regular column. But Foley had so many interesting things to say, I figured why not let you hear and read everything?

So here’s my Q&A with the Top Knight from Friday afternoon:

SinBin: How would you assess the state of the Golden Knights on the ice at the moment?

Bill Foley: “Honestly, I believe we’re in a really good spot. We’re 22 away and now 15 at home. It’s the biggest split in the league. I think the next closest is the Avalanche who are 20 and 15. So we got through that horrendous period of five at home, 17 away.

“One of the goals was to get a point a game. We needed 17 points and we got 20, so we got through that. And we did it with a lot of injuries. (Max) Pacioretty is out again for a bit. (Erik) Haula’s month-to-month …”

SB: Did you see that brace on his knee?

BF: “Yeah, it’s terrible.”

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1 Of 31 Organization With 1 Of A Kind Owner

This picture sums it up The Creator’s style perfectly. In the picture, but not in the way. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It wasn’t an officially stated goal, but one of the most impressive accomplishments the Golden Knights achieved in their first season was truly becoming an NHL team. From the moment the puck dropped to the end we’re still trying to forget, there was never a feeling that the Golden Knights, or Vegas, was new to this. The building felt like an NHL arena, the fan base had the same (or more) passion as any other, and both the on and off ice products matched those of places that have been playing hockey games for decades.

Sure there were quirks like the opening “show” or the drumline, but there wasn’t anything a hockey fan can pinpoint and say “that’s something only an expansion team would do.” NHL.com columnist Nick Cotsonika put it as simply, but powerfully when he told me, “it feels like this team has been here forever.” That’s a testament to the entire staff, top to bottom.

However, there is one guy who is new to the NHL in every sense of the word and he’s not trying to fit in.

I guess I’m a different type of owner. I like to be with the guys and the coaches and the hockey staff, learn as much as I can, interchange with them, goof around with them, that’s kind of my style. Most owners don’t do that. I believe the players like it. I believe I had some small piece in our success and I’m going to keep on doing it and we’re going to get better. –The Creator on Vegas Hockey Hotline on 6/22/18

The owner of the newest franchise might be the most hands-on owner in the entire league. He gave locker room speeches. He ate meals with the team regularly. He bought a ping pong table, a dart board, and a bubble hockey machine because he heard players mention they “needed” them. He even arranged for car washes and detailing to take place in the parking lot of City National Arena because Marc-Andre Fleury mentioned one time that he didn’t have time to clean his car.

Then, when the players weren’t using it, he went military style on them in a way only an owner like him could.

So a couple of days later I had a meeting with the guys and I said, “It’s like the military. Use it or lose it.” I told them, “If you don’t use that car wash and detailing, I’m pulling it because I’m not going to have these guys just sitting around.” The next day there were 17 cars lined up. –The Creator to The Hockey News

He’s different, in a good way. I’ve talked to plenty of players about the owner and they all seem to genuinely enjoy his style. Where most hands-on owners want to be one of the guys, The Creator actually seems to have become one of the guys. So much so that there’s a “team policy” in which calling him by the wrong name costs you a pretty penny.

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The Creator And McNabb Talk Golf With Sirius PGA Radio

Neal might be better at golf than he is hockey, and he’s pretty good at hockey. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

As they await their next destination, the Vegas media tour continues. This time, legendary PGA golfer Fred Couples chatted with two of the Golden Knights biggest contributors.

I went to George and I said, ‘George are you going to grow a beard?’ He said, ‘You know I’ve seen a lot of coaches grow a beard and they lose the first two games. That beard comes right off.’ -The Creator on Sirius PGA Radio with Fred Couples

Couples has followed the Golden Knights success all season and is captivated by their deep playoff run. In separate interviews with The Creator and defenseman Brayden McNabb, Freddy “Boom Boom” discussed the Western Conference finals, and of course a little golf.

We knew we were contenders. We knew we could possibly go far in the playoffs and even win. We believe in that room and it’s contagious. -Brayden McNabb on Sirius PGA Radio with Fred Couples

The Sirius PGA Radio host brought up x-factor type players and mentioned Marc-Andre Fleury and his postseason performance. Naturally, the man in charge spoke of his admiration for Fleury and made it known the goaltender is a Golden Knight for life.

He’s a great individual. He’s got a great family. My goal for Flower is to have him retire in this town. I really appreciate what he’s done, his attitude, and what he’s done for this team. -The Creator

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Vegas Golden Knights Rank 14th On Forbes NHL Franchise Valuation List

Every year Forbes releases a list of the most valuable franchises in the NHL. The leader, for the third straight year, is the New York Rangers coming in at $1.5 billion. For this year, the Vegas Golden Knights were simply slotted in at the price The Creator paid for the franchise, $500 million.

FULL LIST

The interesting number is the Golden Knights debt to income ratio, which is listed at 42%. Having no historical data to go off, it’s hard to determine where that number should be less than two years into existence and without a full season under their belt, but it’s certainly a number to keep our eyes on.

Next year’s chart will be much more telling as Forbes will estimate the Golden Knights revenue and operating income which will shift the debt ratio.

The $500 million fee paid by the Golden Knights to become the NHL’s 31st team this season as a base line for the value of hockey teams illustrates the league’s enormous financial success as it has grown from six to 31 franchises. -Mike Ozanian, Forbes

The Maple Leafs, Canadiens, and Blackhawks were the only other teams that checked in at over $1 billion.

Based on the rousing success the Golden Knights have had on the ice, as well as with ticket sales, merchandise, and sponsorship, we can reasonably expect the Golden Knights to move up near the top 10 by next year.

He may still have his mind on “Playoffs by three, Cup by six,” but a spot amongst the NHL’s elite in valuation is something The Creator is also dying to see.

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