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McPhee And McCrimmon Linked Up By Unlikely Matchmaker

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

For the past three years, most of the success the Golden Knights have achieved on the ice can be credited to the “two-headed monster” of George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon. As a pair, they’ve called all the shots that took Vegas from an expansion team to the Stanley Cup Final to a perennial contender in an incredibly short period of time.

From the moment I got here I was struck by (the fact that), we have two GMs. I like to call you guys the two-headed monster. I know you don’t like that and you said to me, ‘we’re not monsters Gary’ –Gary Lawless on SLGND Podcast

Whatever you call them, they are a heck of a pair atop the Golden Knights front office depth chart. So much so that in May of last year McCrimmon was promoted to general manager out of McPhee’s fear that he would leave for another job if he wasn’t.

It’s a partnership that has defined the Golden Knights, but it’s one that may have never been formed in the first place if not for an assist from an unlikely source.

As recently as July of 2016, McCrimmon and McPhee had never met. They knew of each other having both worked in hockey for the past few decades, but it wasn’t until a phone call in July, then a meeting in an airport in Austria in August that they actually linked up.

That phone call, the first one from McPhee to McCrimmon, may not have happened if not for a powerful recommendation from a man known in the hockey community as “The Bobfather.”

I had just finished reading Bob McKenzie’s book (Hockey Confidential) a few years ago and I thought jeez Bob would be a good guy just to call and say ‘here’s my list of guys I’m considering for assistant GM, do you have anybody I should put on this list?’ -McPhee on SLGND Podcast

So George asked me and the first thing I said to him, ‘is Kelly McCrimmon on your list? ‘-Bob McKenzie, TSN

I didn’t know Kelly. I do recall our amateur scouting staff in Washington always said good things about him. -McPhee on SLGND Podcast

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McCrimmon Expects League Order Of Operations To Remain In Tact Despite Pause

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Two weeks ago all was rolling along as planned and the Golden Knights were 11 games away from claiming their second Pacific Division title in franchise history. Then, the NHL hit the pause button, quite literally. Then, on March 12th, the season was halted, the season suspended, and the league calendar put in complete limbo.

Normally, the season ends, the playoffs start, then there’s a draft, free agency, training camp and we’re onto the next season.

This year, who knows?

Kelly McCrimmon, speaking on the Hockey Hotline with Brian Blessing, has no idea when the league will pick back up, nor is he even sure it will, but he does have an expectation as to how the calendar will look once it does.

The sequence of the events, I expect, will roll out in the same order. I can’t tell you what the dates of those events will be but I would expect that we wouldn’t have the NHL Draft until the season was over. There’s still going to be a window in there for free agency, which wouldn’t happen until the NHL Draft is over. -Kelly McCrimmon on Vegas Hockey Hotline

McCrimmon did qualify his expectations, indicating that he had not been told this by the league.

And again, that’s only speculation on my part, but I expect that the sequence of events will remain the same. The uncertainty would be exactly when those would be. -McCrimmon on Vegas Hockey Hotline

Last year, here’s how the calendar rolled out.

April 6th – Last day of regular season
April 9th – NHL Draft lottery
April 10th – Stanley Cup Playoffs begin
April 27th – NHL Scouting Combine begins
June 12th – Final day of Stanley Cup
June 19th – NHL Awards Show in Las Vegas
June 21-22 – NHL Draft
July 1st – Free agency opens
August 6th – Deadline for RFA salary arbitration

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Carp: Ready For The Future

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

At some point, the hockey world will return to normal. When that point will be, nobody can say with any certainty as the coronavirus pandemic maintains its grip on the world.

But that time is coming, and when it does, it means charting a course for the future. We’re talking entry draft. We’re talking free agency. We’re talking salary cap. We’re talking scouting plans for 2020-21, both pro and amateur.

Right now, everything is at a standstill. There’s no junior hockey being played. There’s no minor league hockey. There’s no college hockey. There’s no KHL, and most of the other European professional leagues have either finished or canceled the remainder of their seasons.

The Golden Knights are no different from the other 30 NHL teams. They can’t travel which is fine because there’s nothing to travel to. They are going to have to rely on the work their hockey ops and scouting staffs have been doing since last August.

The good news? They have more time to analyze the information they have gleaned. There’s no rush to make a hard decision on a player. The majority of their work is already completed.

The NHL has not decided whether to delay the draft, which is currently scheduled for June 26-27 in Montreal. In all likelihood, the draft will get pushed back. How long? Again, that remains to be seen.

But George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon have an opportunity to use the data at their disposal to really hone in on a particular player and see what the pros and cons are. Scouts can go through their reports, rewatch video of a player and either confirm their analysis or perhaps alter a couple of things.

McCrimmon is up at his cottage in Manitoba and he remains in communication with McPhee along with his hockey staff.

The bottom line is the Golden Knights should be better prepared for the 2020 draft than they were for the first three they participated in. McCrimmon said Saturday the work continues despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

The amateur scouting staff is an obvious area where we’d be the most impacted. We’d normally be getting our final readings on most players in competitive settings. But I think we’ll prepare very well. Our guys have been all over the world doing their work and we’re prepared. It’s hard to speculate. First, the world has to get healthy. We don’t know how the dates will fall in line. -McCrimmon

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DeBoer’s Goalie Workload History

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

With the 2019-20 regular season winding down, the Golden Knights are blessed to have two elite goaltenders to get them through the home stretch. Both Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner are proven starters capable of handling a postseason load, but for now they have 14 regular season games to split. Or will they? Without knowing the plan coach Pete DeBoer has drawn up, we have his history to look back and give us an idea of how things may go down in net.

We have great depth at that position. -Pete DeBoer

In his 11 completed seasons as an NHL coach, DeBoer has led his teams to the postseason five times; each of the previous four and twice to the Stanley Cup Finals. In both Cup runs, his goaltenders Marty Brodeur and Martin Jones stood on their heads. In the 2011-12 postseason, Brodeur held his opponents to 2.12 goals per game. Same goes for the 2015-16 season. Coming off a Stanley Cup victory as Jonathan Quick’s backup in 2014, Martin Jones was a rock for DeBoer in the 2015 Cup run. Jones allowed 2.16 goals per game and led the playoffs with 3 shutouts.

Based on those two extended postseasons you would think his goalies were well rested and prepared for the playoffs. However, games played per goalie suggests differently. The Devils were jockeying for playoff position, leading to a heavy workload for Brodeur. However, it worked out and New Jersey won their last six regular season games. The Hall of Fame goaltender played in five of those final six contests.

2011-12: Games Down The Stretch

  • Brodeur 16 Games Played (9-5-2)
  • Johan Hedberg 4 Games Played (4-0-0)
  • Lost in Cup Finals

In their 2015 Cup run, San Jose was also battling to secure a playoff position down the stretch. Which led DeBoer to rely heavily on Jones. The Sharks starting goaltender played in 12 games going 6-6-0 in the final months. However, backup James Reimer picked up his club winning six of his final eight starts.

2015-16: Games Down The Stretch

  • Martin Jones 12 Games Played (6-6-0)
  • James Reimer 8 Games Played (6-2-0)
  • Lost in the Cup Finals

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A Look Back On The Golden Knights Path From Contender To Contender In Offseason To Deadline

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights entered this past offseason with a Stanley Cup caliber roster. They were stacked at forward, coming off a season where they finished among the league’s best defensively and had a bevy of prospects coming up, and still had one of the best goaltenders in the world.

However, there was too much money on the books. The CBA allows teams to exceed the salary cap by up to 10% during the offseason, but they must get back down under the cap on the first day of the regular season. So, Vegas needed to shed some money, and thus, a few players.

The conventional wisdom would have been to start by singling out the players with the highest salary coupled with the lowest performance expectations for the 2019-20 season. Send those guys packing, get under the cap, and head into the regular season with as dominant a team as possible.

The Golden Knights opted for a different route, one that may have ended up working out even better, though it came with risks, a bit of a price, and ended up costing a head coach his job.

The trades in many respects brings full circle the strategy that we went into the offseason with last year in a situation where we were over the salary cap. We had to make some decisions that involved veteran players, roster players, and we wanted to acquire draft picks in return to build capital for decisions and moves just like this. -Kelly McCrimmon

That’s the official explanation of the Golden Knights strategy. Let me explain it in more detail.

In moving contracts during the Summer to become cap compliant, the Golden Knights strategy was to harvest as many draft picks as possible. They traded Colin Miller for a 2nd round pick. Nikita Gusev went for a 2nd and a 3rd. And Erik Haula was moved for a young player in Nic Roy and a 5th. Instead of trying to make their roster better before opening night, they wanted to create a bank of “capital” they could cash in 145 days later at the trade deadline.

The thinking is fairly simple, yet when the onion is peeled back, there’s a lot more to it. The simple idea is that having this bank of capital will allow the team to make moves and improve their team at the deadline without having to sacrifice any significant players off the roster in season. 145 days, 62 games, and a heck of a lot of hockey will give them a better understanding of what the team needs in order to win the Cup than they had back in June and July. Tear it down now so we can rebuild it more intelligently later.

And that’s exactly what they did. They turned those “bank of capital” picks into Chandler Stephenson, Alec Martinez, Robin Lehner, and Nick Cousins, while only having to give up Cody Eakin off the roster.

It looks like a significant roster upgrade at the deadline, but in reality, it’s just replacing what they had eight months ago.

Here, take a look at how it all broke down from June 27th to February 24th.

Three forwards in, three forwards out. One defenseman in, one defenseman out. Two goalies in, one goalie out, and a net loss of one draft pick and one prospect.

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“Secondary Moves” Still On The Way For Golden Knights?

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The trade deadline is three days away but the Golden Knights have already dipped their toe in the red hot defenseman trade market. Essentially on the same day as Brendan Dillon, Dylan DeMelo, and Marco Scandella were moved, Vegas pulled the trigger on their response adding Alec Martinez for a pair of 2nd round picks. However, there’s still time on the clock and according to the Golden Knights owner, the Golden Knights may not be done yet.

This (the Martinez trade) was our big one really for this trade deadline period. There are a couple of other ideas that are floating around with the pro scouts and with Kelly and George. Now we’ve got a few days. Might be something else happen, but this was the important one, to get behind us, to get a really strong d-man to help supplement what we already have. -The Creator on Vegas Hockey Hotline

(The whole interview by Brian Blessing with The Creator is embedded below.)

At the Martinez announcement presser, GM Kelly McCrimmon was a bit more coy about the future plans surrounding the Golden Knights and February 24th at noon.

This was a move that we had considered for a long time and we identified this as a way we wanted to improve our team was to add a defenseman of this caliber. That’s why we worked hard to finalize the price in advance of the deadline. We’ll do a reset now, is how I would explain it to you, and then we’ll work right until the deadline on Monday to see if there’s any other moves out there that could help us that make sense. -McCrimmon

The Golden Knights are now very tight to the cap with the addition of Martinez, but they remain with a number of upcoming UFA contracts (Eakin, Reaves, Holden, Merrill, Nosek, Engelland) still on the books that could become trade bait between now and Monday.

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Buy, Sell, Or Hold, Pacioretty Trusts VGK To Make The Right Call

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The NHL trade deadline is a week away and it could be another active one for the Golden Knights. Since their first trade deadline in 2018, Vegas hasn’t been shy adding players to their already competitive roster. The first season Ryan Reaves and Tomas Tatar were acquired to give the coaching staff extra skill and muscle. On last year’s deadline day, the Golden Knights traded and signed Mark Stone who quickly became the face of the franchise. Needless to say, the players and fans are anticipating the front office to be calling and texting other general managers.

 I’ve been on every end of that situation, buying and selling, or standing put. In terms of rumors you don’t hear too many playing in Vegas as opposed to playing in a Canadian city. On trade deadline having the TV on in here, you heard about the possibility of getting a guy like Mark Stone. I’m sure once we get closer to the day maybe we’ll hear a little more. In terms of what we hear with outside noise, we don’t as a player in Vegas and that’s a nice thing. -Pacioretty

Max Pacioretty has seen his share of deadlines come and go in his 12-year career. The 31-year-old has been on both sides of the scale, teams that were buyers and teams that were sellers. Even for a veteran the trade deadline period can be a bit stressful, knowing a teammate or potentially himself could be dealt to another club.

It’s a pretty crappy feeling when you get the day off and you’re all hanging out, which has happened to me, and everyone has got their phones on. Seeing guys drop like flies getting traded to other teams because your team is selling. That’s the worst feeling in the world and you never want to be in that position.- Pacioretty

That isn’t the case for Vegas, nor has it been in team history. Pacioretty and his teammates expect the Golden Knights to be heavily involved, even if a trade doesn’t materialize.

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Kelly McCrimmon Dispels Two Theories On Gallant Firing

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

There have been plenty of theories surrounding the firing of Gerard Gallant and subsequent hiring of Pete DeBoer.

No matter what the powers that be inside City National Arena say, many of those will continue on, however, one of the two voices that actually know the whole truth took to the radio in an effort to dispell a couple of them.

Kelly McCrimmon went on Fox Sports Radio with JT The Brick last week to chat about the firing of Gerard Gallant, hiring of Pete DeBoer, and the team’s expectations moving forward. (It’s a terrific interview start to finish, so I’d highly recommend a listen. Here’s the link.)

The first theory surrounds The Creator’s involvement in the firing. No matter who you talk to, while there are varying degrees as to the extent, just about everyone believes he was involved in some way in the coaching change.

Bill Foley’s been a great owner. This decision went from George McPhee and myself up to Bill Foley, not the other way around as has been suggested by some. -Kelly McCrimmon

This would be the normal order of operations for an NHL team. GM decides the coach needs to go, he brings it to the owner, who signs off on it. That’s how McCrimmon says it went down, but the timing and shockwaves it sent off across the NHL has many skeptical.

McCrimmon and McPhee are an experienced pair, one that is not prone to panic or hastiness as this decision appeared to be. Thus, the new owner with ultra-high expectations would make sense to be at the center of it. According to McCrimmon, this is untrue.

The second theory is in relation to when and where the decision was made. It was not made during a seven-game homestand in which the Golden Knights were in Las Vegas for more than two weeks. Then, one game into an eight-game road trip which had the Golden Knights away from their home city for 28 days, the bomb is dropped. No local media availability has been offered from either the new head coach or the pair that pulled the trigger on the move. It feels incredibly convenient when the move was clearly going to be met with resistance.

McCrimmon insists that timing wasn’t a catalyst for the change.

The timing of a decision like this, as much as it comes as a surprise to some people, is never based on one or two games, it’s never based on where you are at in the schedule or certainly whether you are playing at home or away. It’s a decision that takes precedence over all of those things. -McCrimmon on Fox Sports Radio

Thus, the location of press conferences, the next opponent, and the amount of time before the hated (at the time, I think that’s fading) new head coach makes his debut in Las Vegas was all coincidental, or reactionary, according to McCrimmon.

If you believe that’s the best course of action for the organization than you aren’t doing your job properly if you don’t address it. That was what led to the decision being made. -McCrimmon on Fox Sports Radio

McCrimmon said they knew there would be backlash and the fan base would be “emotional” over the decision, but he’s always remained steadfast that the decision was not made in haste and that both he and McPhee “just had a feeling” that the move needed to be made.

So, they made it and dealt with everything that came with it, no matter how it looked to the outside world.

Carp: Out Of Sight, Not Out Of Mind

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

The Golden Knights were last seen together last Tuesday in Boston. We’re not going to see them again until Friday in Raleigh.

For some of you, this has been tough, not being able to watch your favorite team, or even attend a practice.

It’s been tougher on coach Peter DeBoer, who had all this time at his disposal but was unable to get his team on the ice for what would’ve been a mini-training camp. The NHL’s CBA doesn’t permit teams to practice during the All-Star Break or during a team’s mandatory mid-season hiatus.

Instead, DeBoer likely spent the time away from the team getting familiar with the way the team operates. He probably has huddled with his staff to go over some of the things he tried to institute in his first three games on the bench after taking over for Gerard Gallant in Ottawa. He got his personal affairs in order and perhaps started looking for a place in Summerlin for he and his family to live.

But it’s going to be a while until things get a sense of normalcy to them or the Knights become whole again. In fact, there’s a good chance we don’t see this team the way it was initially constructed much, if at all, the rest of the season.

Let’s start with this Friday against the Hurricanes. Marc-Andre Fleury will not be in net as he opted to take that game rather than sit out the contest vs. the Bruins for his one-game suspension after opting out of the All-Star Game Saturday. So you’ll see Malcom Subban on the ice at the PNC Arena with either Garret Sparks or Oscar Dansk backing him up.

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Then there’s William Karlsson. Will he be ready to go against Carolina Friday? Or is he going to need more time? While Wild Bill tends to his injury, DeBoer has to continue to shuffle things around. He’s had Chandler Stephenson centering for Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault the first three games of Karlsson’s absence from the lineup. Will that continue? Probably, given Paul Stastny’s game has perked up since being reunited with Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty.

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Expecting Another Golden December

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Kelly McCrimmon spoke with the media yesterday to formally announce the Chandler Stephenson acquisition. He also mentioned his high expectations for the month of December.

We’re trying to get all little bit of traction. December has for one reason or another traditionally been a really good month for this organization. We’re hopeful we can get a solid footing and play good hockey. -McCrimmon

Vegas’ GM should feel optimistic about the next 13 games in December. A month his players annually shine.

Win Percentage in December
2017: .846 %
2018: .600 %
Overall: .714 %

Point Percentage in December
2017: .923 %
2018: .800 %
Overall: .857 %

Including last night’s game in New Jersey, the Golden Knights have an exceptional franchise record of 22-4-4 in the month of December. Beginning the month 2-0-0 is a good sign their holiday tradition will continue. Vegas plays 13 more games this month including seven at home and only three are against teams in the top 3 in their division.

Historical Breakdown

December 2017
13 Games: 8 Home/5 Road (11–1-1) Record

  • Goals For: 49 Total
  • Goals Against: 33 Total
  • Win Streak: 7 Games
  • OT/SO Games: (4-1)
  • 2+ Goal Wins: 5
  • Pacific Division Points: (8 points)
  • Wins vs Playoff Teams: 8 (Anaheim x 2, LA, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Tampa, Toronto, Washington)
  • William Karlsson: 10 Points (7 Goals, 3 Assists) +9
  • Jonathan Marchessault: 14 Points (5 Goals, 9 Assists) + 9
  • Reilly Smith: 11 Points (3 Goals, 8 Assists) +10
  • Alex Tuch: 8 Points (3 Goals, 5 Assists) +3
  • Marc-Andre Fleury: (4-0-1) 1.56 GAA, .948 Save%, 8 Goals Allowed
  • Malcolm Subban: (6-0) 2.25 GAA, .920 Save%, 14 Goals Allowed

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