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Gerard Gallant: In-Game Line Switcher

I like you, I just don’t like playing with you. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Over the course of the first 13 games of the season, the Golden Knights set their lines and ran with them during a game. Barring special teams or injury, the four forward lines and three defensive pairings stayed the game all 60 minutes of the game.

That was until Monday night in Toronto.

After a rough 1st period in which Vegas let in three goals and got destroyed in possession, Gallant had seen enough from two of his defensive pairings and decided to switch it up.

The original pairings were Nate Schmidt/Luca Sbisa, Deryk Engelland/Brayden McNabb, and Shea Theodore/Colin Miller. He stuck with Schmidt/Sbisa throughout the entire game, but after an early 2nd period penalty, McNabb and Theodore were switched.

From that moment on, the Golden Knights outscored the Maple Leafs 2-0, outshot them 11-7 at even strength, and seemed to control the action for the remainder of the game. When all was said and done with the game, McNabb played more minutes with Miller than he did Engelland, and from the naked eye, both “new” defensive pairings were better than the original ones.

The Engelland goal was created by a Theodore stretch pass (and a terrible Toronto line change). Miller and McNabb had a 70% Corsi For Percentage and were on the ice together for one of the three Golden Knights goals, and Shea Theodore probably played his best game as a Golden Knight with his new linemate.

When Vegas is at it’s best, they are playing a much more offensive style game. They create turnovers through forechecking and in the neutral zone and then quickly make things happen in the offensive zone (see the gif above). When Engelland’s playing with Theodore, Miller with McNabb, and Schmidt with Sbisa, the Golden Knights always have a defenseman on the ice that has offensive capability. It allows them to play the style of game that’s worked at all times rather than really going for it with one pairing and backing off with another.

The switch may have been made because of the score, but the results were staggering. Right back at it tonight, keep your eyes peeled on how Gallant lines em up to start the game. I have a feeling we’ve seen the end of 3/5 and 6/27… cause 3/6 and 5/27 are much better. It just took a little while longer to figure it out than it should have.

Hottest Team In Sports Media: Your Vegas Golden Knights

The World Series begins tonight, the NBA just tipped off, college and pro football are in the thick of their seasons, and still the Vegas Golden Knights are in nightly headlines across the country.

I think it’s outstanding for our organization. That’s what it’s all about. We’re being mentioned for the right reasons. We’re winning hockey games, we’re playing well. The group is really taking off right now. -Gerard Gallant

Like us, I’m sure most Vegas fans have gotten calls and texts from out of town friends and family, praising the Golden Knights blazing start. Average Americans are hearing about the NHL’s hottest team in the most unusual places. National magazines and newspapers, cable news stations, local TV, and social media are all trending for the Vegas Golden Knights.

Yeah, it’s great. I think we came out here and proved a lot of people wrong. It’s been a lot of fun. -Brayden McNabb

The coaches and players are aware of the national attention, but they’re careful to stay humble from the recent fame.

“You read here and there. You watch the NHL channel… yeah it’s good. We gotta keep it going. -Deryk Engelland

Engelland’s attitude is echoed around the locker room. The players are happy about their (6-1) start but they know an 82-game season has its ebbs and flows. Forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare appreciates the attention but prefers to believe it’s about Las Vegas and not the team.

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Hockey Central Praises Vegas, Golden Knights, Engelland

You’ve probably heard us reference Hockey Central a zillion times over the past two years. It can be seen on NHL Network and heard all over North America. Hockey Central is the best daily NHL program offered to fans. George McPhee, Kelly McCrimmon, and Gerard Gallant have all been guests multiple times. On yesterday’s show, hosts Jeff Marek, Nick Kypreos and Doug Maclean spent the early part of the show discussing the emotional night in Las Vegas.

You only have one chance to get it right. They were great. The introductions of players with the heroes… it was the perfect tone last night. -Nick Kypreos, Sportsnet Analyst

The Hockey Central trio genuinely sounded touched by Tuesday nights player introductions, the moment of silence, and Deryk Engelland’s speech. And they weren’t even in the building, just watching on TV.

It was spectacular. The players did a wonderful job. It was terrific to see the heroes, and first responders. It gives them a little bit of healing, which is tough right now in that community. – Doug Maclean, Sportsnet Analyst

Marek brought up Engelland’s moment with the fans and suggested it couldn’t have been delivered by anyone else. MacLean, a former GM and head coach couldn’t agree more. By the way, MacLean promoted Gallant to head coach of the Blue Jackets in 2004.

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Deryk Engelland’s Speech And Goal Will Forever Live In Vegas Lore

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Like all of you I am proud to call Las Vegas home. I met my wife here, my kids were born here, and I know how special this city is. To all the brave first responders that have worked timelessly and courageously throughout this whole tragedy, we thank you. To the families and friends of the victims, know we will do everything we can to help you and our city heal. We are Vegas Strong. -Deryk Engelland

Prior to last night’s game, Deryk Engelland went from being “the guy on the team who lives in Vegas,” to an immortal figure in Las Vegas history as the voice of the city’s first team during one of the worst moments any city has ever endured.

Then, the game started, and this happened…

It’s a moment that can only happen in sports because if it happened anywhere else, we wouldn’t believe it.

The speech… the goal… the win.

They are going to be tough to top. This team may go on to make the playoffs at some point. They may even eventually lift the Stanley Cup and carry it down the Las Vegas Strip. But there may never be another moment like that in the history of the Vegas Golden Knights.

It was probably one of the more emotional times in my life, going out there with the first responders and seeing them out there. With all that they have been through over the past week. It was a little nerve-racking to speak in front of that many people, but the response from the crowd was phenomenal. It was the least we can do for the people that went through that. -Deryk Engelland

I thought it was unbelievable. He was very nervous, but he looked like he was calm, cool and collected. He scored a goal…pretty amazing. -The Creator

It gave me some goosebumps. He’s always talks about this city and how much he loves it. I know he cares a lot. I’m happy he got to do it and he’s such a gentleman. He got a big goal for us too right away, which was nice. -Marc-Andre Fleury

It was great. That’s tough to do especially before a game. I’m sure he was nervous even just for the first game here, and then for him to do that, I don’t know how he focused on playing hockey, but he did, and he played great, and he got a huge goal for us, which was awesome. -James Neal

He made a great speech out on the ice and for us to come out the way that we played the first 7 or 8 minutes was incredible. It was the perfect script for us and it’s the way things should have went. A lot of times it doesn’t go that way, but tonight was the perfect night for our group. -Gerard Gallant

What a moment. What a night. What a person.

And as if it couldn’t get any better, the speech lasted exactly 58 seconds. The same amount of time as the moment of silence that preceded Engelland’s incredible words. One second for every life that was lost on October 1st.

There’s no word that correctly sums it up, so I’ll go with the closest one we’ve got in the English language.

Perfect.

Golden Knights Name Six, Yes Six, Alternate Captains

Screw it, let’s just make em all alternates. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

I know it’s unique, but then again everything about the NHL in Las Vegas is unique. The Golden Knights announced yesterday, that they’ll be going with a leadership core of six players. Normally, a team will award one Captain and two Alternate Captains. Vegas will have three home Alternate Captains and three different road Alternate Captains. The six leaders are; Deryk Engelland, Jason Garrison, James Neal, David Perron, Luca Sbisa, and Reilly Smith.

It’s pretty cool. It’s pretty exciting. You don’t need a letter on your jersey to be a leader. It’s an opportunity to do everything right on and off the ice and be a professional. I’m excited to to be part of that group. -David Perron

It’s definitely an honor. We have a great group of guys here . All of those other guys named will put a great leadership group together. Helps the young guys and guide this team. -James Neal

Getting picked for that is special but at the same time, there a lot of good quality guys, with some character on this team. -Luca Sbisa

It’s a great honor to wear it, but the guys in this room, there is a lot more leaders than just the guys that have the A’s on. Everyone in this room leads in their own little, certain ways. Which brings us closer and tighter as a group. -Deryk Engelland

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Golden Knights Probably Won’t Have A Captain To Start Season

Would it be Deryk Engelland, James Neal, Jason Garrison, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, or even someone else we haven’t really considered having the famous “C” stitched on to their first Golden Knights jersey? Well, it looks like the correct answer, at least to start the season, will be none of the above.

We’ll sit down with the coaches and decide what we want to do. We may be better off just having a leadership group than naming one guy captain. (You) really don’t want to put a C on a guy unless this is going to be a person that’s going to lead us for a long time. -George McPhee

As we discussed on the latest podcast, there’s really not a single player that stands out as the guy who would make sense to be the captain of the Golden Knights. Marc-Andre Fleury would make the most sense but in the NHL, goalies cannot be designated captain. Next up would likely be Engelland, but he’s on the back-nine of his career and may struggle to even get on the ice consistently this year. Then there’s Neal, who has been an assistant in the past, but could be a trade candidate at the deadline in February.

So McPhee, Gallant, and Co may go down the three alternate captains road. It’s not unprecedented in the NHL. Last year neither the Hurricanes nor the Leafs named a captain, and there have been many vacant captaincies across the league over the past decade. There’s also the Minnesota Wild, who famously (or infamously) rotated captains each month for the first few years the franchise was in existence. Wouldn’t expect VGK to try that plan.

Instead, expect the Golden Knights to name multiple assistants as a part of their “leadership group.” There’s only one name almost guaranteed to be among that group, and that’s Engelland. The rest are about as fluid as those last defenseman spots.

McPhee said this is part of a press conference today at City National Arena. Here’s the whole presser.

Right Handed Defensemen Lacking On Roster Full Of Defensemen

Much has been made about the total number of defensemen under Vegas Golden Knights control and how it may affect trades, waivers, scratches, and more. But there’s an elephant in the room, and it’s time we point it out.

The Golden Knights have 14 defensemen under contract (including Nate Schmidt). One of them is Erik Brannstrom, who we expect to head back to Sweden rather than stay with in Vegas with the NHL club. Of the 13 who are staying in Vegas or Chicago, a whopping three shoot right handed.

Now, don’t go freaking out too much, teams have utilized defensive pairings of two left handers before, but the handedness (that a word?) of the players on the roster may be able to give us some hints on what may happen in the future.

Colin Miller, Deryk Engelland, and Chris Casto are the three right handed blueliners. Miller was likely to be among the top two pairings no matter what, but this basically confirms it. It’s Engelland and Casto that make things a bit more interesting.

We’ve always assumed Engelland would be either a third line defenseman or even a healthy scratch as his strongest talents lie in checking, fighting, and general badassery. However, being right handed may be his ticket to significant minutes at least early on in the season for the Golden Knights.

That brings us to Casto, a player initially expected to have a guaranteed ticket to Chicago. He’s spent the last three seasons in the AHL with the Providence Bruins including last year when he played in all 16 playoff games. An undrafted free agent signed by Boston in 2013, he’s yet to appear in an NHL game. He’ll be competing with the likes of Luca Sbisa, Jason Garrison, Clayton Stoner, Jon Merrill, and Griffin Reinhart, but the fact remains he’s got a “hand” up on the competition.

Finally, remember the name Matt Dumba? The 22-year-old budding superstar from  Minnesota the Golden Knights passed over for Alex Tuch and Erik Haula? Yeah, you guessed it, he’s right handed too. Whoops?

Camp is still about a month and a half out, and roster movement is likely before we reach October 6th, but the fact remains, one side of the boat is a bit heavier than the other, and it may be an issue down the stream.

Whose Name Should Be On The Back Of Your Golden Knights Jersey

Right now if you head down to The Armory at T-Mobile Arena, you can become one of the first to pre-order a Golden Knights jersey. The tough part is deciding which name to choose to put on the back. We’re here to help aid in that process.

The Safe Picks
Marc-Andre Fleury and Deryk Engelland

The Flower is already the fan favorite in Vegas, and will almost certainly be starting in net on Opening Night. Engelland is the hometown hero who is the only free agent that decided to join the Golden Knights (I know there were others, but c’mon). Both are safe because we are pretty darn sure neither are going to be traded before the season begins. Short term, these are safe and good options. Long term might be a bit riskier.

Fleury has two years left on his contract and the Golden Knights are already lining up options to take over behind him. Odd are Fleury will be around for the entire inaugural season, but his second season and beyond gets tough. He’s going to be a candidate for a deadline deal in 2019 and will likely not remain with the Golden Knights after he hits free agency. Similarly, Engelland will be in Vegas for this season, but the future beyond 2018 is a major question mark. Really can’t go wrong with either, but chances are, you’ll be needing a replacement sooner than later if you go this route.

The Names You Know
James Neal, David Perron, and Brayden McNabb

You can expect every guy on this list to be on the first 23 man roster the Golden Knights release, but they are all going to be dangled to other teams as the season progresses. Here’s the biggest problem with having a jersey with any of these names on the back of it, the better he plays, the more likely he is to be shipped out. So, you are either stuck with a jersey of a guy playing poorly or a guy playing great (for a bad team) who is probably getting traded. Not exactly ideal for your first Golden Knights jersey.

The OGs
Reid Duke and Vadim Shipachyov

Both are great options but come with major concerns. With Duke, the concern is right away in the fact that he’s probably not going to make the team out of camp (and possibly ever). But, he’ll always be the first Golden Knight, he’s an awesome guy , and everybody loves a good underdog story.

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Breaking Down McPhee’s Expansion Draft Interview With Sportsnet

Since Wednesday when the Golden Knights made their 30 selections from the Expansion Draft and subsequent transactions, GM George McPhee hasn’t been answering a ton of questions, especially with local media. Luckily, the guys from Prime Time Sports had McPhee on the phone for 20 minutes and asked a lot of the unasked questions.

Since there’s so much in the interview (and a few others), we transcribed the most important quotes and offered our analysis on what it means about the Expansion Draft, upcoming trades, and the future of the Golden Knights. Here it is.

(There were) only one or two teams we didn’t get a deal with that we thought they would want to have a deal to protect their roster. -McPhee

Analysis: Best guesses would be Ottawa, Nashville, Montreal, and/or Washington. Clearly seeing both Ottawa and Montreal going back after Marc Methot and Alexei Emelin proves they were unable to reach a deal during the Expansion Draft. Washington makes sense because most expected Philipp Grubauer to be selected and Vegas ended up taking Nate Schmidt. A deal may have been talked about and never reached… and/or McPhee wanted to stick it to Washington. Nashville lost James Neal, hard to believe they were okay to just let that happen.

The rules were better for us, but we were dealing with some things that hadn’t been dealt with in the past like free agents. It didn’t make a lot of sense for us to claim free agents when they were going to be free in two weeks. Unless it was a throw away pick. -McPhee

Analysis: Wait, what? So what was Deryk Engelland? He hinted at it a bit in a previous presser to a SinBin.vegas question saying there were some things to not like about Calgary’s list, but this really cements it. Calgary had nothing else at all to claim in the eyes of McPhee, so they went ahead and essentially threw the pick away by signing a player they certainly would have gotten on July 1st. (Engelland’s surprise to getting handed a contract during the Expansion Draft further confirms this.)

There were some teams where if you just looked at their situation there weren’t many ways out. If we didn’t do a deal with them, and they traded a player and lost a player, then they lose and we lose too. We thought it was better to get a deal done rather than claim the second best player or third best player.

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Deryk Engelland, The Lone UFA Signed During Expansion

Sometimes in sports, things just make too much sense to not happen. That was the case with Las Vegas native and pending UFA Deryk Engelland.

The 35-year-old defenseman signed a one-year $1M contract with the Golden Knights during the Expansion Draft making him the selection from the Calgary Flames.

Was it more of a priority to sign Deryk Engelland or was it more based off Calgary’s protected list?

It was a little of both. We had interest in him and he was there and there’s some things we didn’t like about what else is available and we just thought this would be a good fit for us. Leadership, some grit, some size, and he’s from Vegas. –George McPhee

One has to wonder how important physically being at the Expansion Draft was as well.

We aren’t going to sign someone just because they’re from Vegas but we liked him. It didn’t matter where he’s from, it just happens to be really nice that he is from Vegas. -McPhee

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