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Golden Knights Who Could Be Heading To The Olympics In 2022

As we inch closer to the NHL and NHLPA agreeing on a plan to finish out the 2019-20 season, word has leaked out that an amendment to the CBA will pave the way for NHL players to participate in the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.

The league blocked players from playing in the 2018 games citing an unwillingness to put the NHL season on halt for upwards of two months. Russia’s KHL took 33 days off for an Olympic break in 2018, Sweden’s SHL took 14, and leagues in Germany, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic took nearly three weeks each.  The last three times NHL players have gone to the Olympics the league took a two-week break.

So, with the prospect of being without the Golden Knights for two weeks in the middle of the 2021-22 season, we’ll have to hope a few Golden Knights make Olympic rosters. Here’s a look at which ones have the best chance.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Mark Stone – Canada

It’s hard to believe a roster with the option to select Mark Stone would be without him, but it is actually possible. He should be a lock as the best defensive winger in the NHL and nearly a point per game producer with size and an incredible stick, but the list of Canadian forwards is vast and depending on the type of team they are going for, there’s a legitimate argument to leave him off.

In the end, not selecting Stone would be a mistake Team Canada will probably not make.

William Karlsson – Sweden

Sweden is surprisingly a bit weak when it comes to the center position. By 2022, there’s going to be an argument to be made for Karlsson as the best Swedish center available. Nicklas Backstrom will be 34-years-old, so it’ll be between Karlsson and Mika Zibanejad. Karlsson will probably find himself down the lineup a bit due to his defensive prowess, but with the wingers Team Sweden boasts, every line is going to be potent.

Assuming health, Karlsson will be headed to Beijing.

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Reaves And Schmidt Share Gallant Story On Spittin’ Chiclets

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Last night two of the Golden Knights biggest personalities joined Spittin’ Chiclets to sip some brew, talk some trash, and play a little NHL 20.

Schmidty has been nervous about this all week. -Reaves

As usual, Chiclets hosts Ryan Whitney and Paul Bissonnette loosened up their guests and the video chat turned to trash talk, inside jokes and small nuggets of information. The combination podcast/game-watch was close to an hour, and for a guy who doesn’t enjoy watching others play video games, it was very entertaining. Plus, there was one hilarious story involving former Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant.

The two teammates were asked about getting back to work, and if the team has gotten together at all during the pandemic. Reaves mentioned the entire team was in Las Vegas but they haven’t been able to see one another.

Yeah we’re all here, but no you can’t. Yeah but everything is opening up now. I don’t know what’s going to happen.-Reaves

While we assumed most, if not all of the Golden Knights stayed in Las Vegas, Reaves confirmed it. With players from all over the world, you have to wonder if the organization pleaded with the players to stay in town during the coronavirus lockdown or left it up to them. Either way, it makes it easier for the team to fully unite than if they had to wait for other teammates to self-quarantine.

Las Vegas as a potential NHL hub city came up in conversation, and it sure seems like the players know they won’t be getting any advantages.

I was thinking that would be quite a bit of an advantage for the Golden Knights considering they get to stay at home, but that’s not the case. -Paul Bissonnette

Yeah, we still have to go to the hotel and everything.-Reaves

And with no fans, yeah you’re pretty much in the same ballpark. Other than, would you then be able to see your family?-Bissonnette

No. I don’t think so. I think we’re in full lockdown.-Reaves

So it’s clear the Golden Knights have been told some directives regarding the league’s plan to return. With the concern of creating a disadvantage for the other teams, if Vegas is allowed to play in their home city, they really should be looking at it as if they’re on the road.

Schmidt even thinks this could be the toughest Stanley Cup to win for any team.

Don’t you think that if we start up again it’ll actually be even tougher because everyone’s healthy? -Schmidt

Schmidt’s theory has been floating around hockey media and it’s interesting to hear a player talk about how hard it’ll be to hoist the 2020 Stanley Cup.

Okay, okay enough burying the lead. Let’s get to the funniest moment of the entire webcast. Bissonnette and Whitney pushing Reaves to tell the story about the time he took a shot on net and lost the puck in the netting for a delay of game penalty.

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Theodore Anything But Marginalized On A Power Play

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

If you had a chance to watch SinBin’s Virtual Game Show, you would’ve seen me guess incorrectly which player leads the Golden Knights organization in power play assists. I answered Jonathon Marchessault with 27 PP assists, but was off by one.

Defenseman Shea Theodore leads the franchise with 28 power play assists. Based on games played it was a bit surprising, but when you check his man-advantage time on ice, it clearly makes sense. With over 567 PP minutes served for the Golden Knights, Theodore has become Vegas’ ace in the hole on the power play.

TSN’s Travis Yost argues over the past few years defensemen have been marginalized on the PP. Mostly because a majority of teams use a four forward unit. The Golden Knights have been one of those clubs. Sure, we’ve seen variations of 5-on-4 lines but Theodore is usually the lone defenseman. Which is why he’s gradually become more effective on Vegas’ power play. His PP statistics prove while he’s a valuable asset, blueliners overall are underutilized on offensive special teams.

It’s not a trivial data point. A few years ago, teams started to shift towards a four-forward power play because it yielded more scoring opportunities and, consequently, goals. –Travis Yost, TSN

This season, Theodore had the 17th most power play points in the NHL for a defenseman.

2017-18: 9 PP Points (1 Goal, 8 Assists)
2018-19: 8 PP Points (4 Goals, 4 Assists)
2019-20: 16 PP Points (1 Goal, 15 Assists)

Without a doubt the 24-year-old has become the Golden Knights #1 blueline option on the PP. Theodore’s PP TOI% is 70.6% (5th in the NHL), showing he’s deployed like John Carlson, Torey Krug, Rasmus Dahlin, and Kris Letang.

Need further evidence? Don’t mind if I do.

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DeBoer: “I’m A Believer In A Captain”

Since the beginning, the Golden Knights have had 23 captains. Technically, they’ve had about 10 with a variety of players wearing “A’s” through the first three seasons, but the underlying mantra of “23 captains” has been a part of the fabric of the Golden Knights’ locker room since they first got together back in September of 2017.

With the new coach in town, that could be changing in the very near future.

I’m a believer in a captain and I think we have a lot of candidates in that dressing room. I’m still getting to know the group, but that’s something I’ll have to discuss with Bill Foley and George and Kelly and see what their feeling is on it. -Pete DeBoer on VGK Q&A Podcast for season ticket holders

Vegas is one of five teams in the NHL currently without a captain. They are also the only team that has not had a captain in any of the previous three years. No captainless team has won the Stanley Cup since 1972.

I think the reason we didn’t have a captain in Vegas, to begin with, was the identity of this team, basically coming out of expansion you were getting all these guys that were left unprotected or traded for, was the strength of the team was going to be in the group. -DeBoer

That reason was repeated time and time again by management, coaches, and the players during the Gallant era. DeBoer thinks the time is near that the first “C” is stitched into a Golden Knights jersey.

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The Golden Life After Hockey

The one downfall of being an NHL player is that it’s not a lifelong job. The average American retires around 65, but for the average pro hockey player it’s 33. While it’s a highly desirable job, earning high salaries, and entertaining millions, there’s still plenty of life after hockey.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie was asked which current player he thought could become a good NHL GM, and his answer was not surprising.

Sidney Crosby is a hockey junkie. He loves the game. He loves to talk about the game, he follows things closely. He has a great awareness of what’s going on. I don’t know if he’ll go into management but it won’t surprise me. If he did go in, he would be all in. He’s got a real passion for the game and that reflects in knowledge and a thirst for knowledge about all things hockey.-Bob McKenzie, TSN

So it got us thinking, which current/former Golden Knight would make a good NHL general manager?

Jason’s candidates: Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny, Shea Theodore

Ken’s candidates: David Perron, Nate Schmidt, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

Max Pacioretty

There are many elements that go into being a successful general manager, the biggest one is accepting the harsh reality of the business side of hockey. The Islanders Lou Lamoriello is a great example of being a stone-cold executive, even Vegas’ George McPhee has an icy side. Maybe it’s education, or it comes with experience. Pacioretty felt the chill up in Montreal where he was constantly made the scapegoat. From the fans, media, to team executives, #67 had a lot on his plate. However, he still managed to score 226 goals for the Canadiens. Pacioretty accepted his high-profile role as an American captain in Montreal, and professionally handled his daily responsibilities, no matter how combative they were. In the end, he was traded by the organization he gave it all for, and it didn’t phase him. By then, he had already been schooled about the dirty business.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

After one year at his local high school, Pacioretty moved on to a hockey prep school, then to the USHL, and lastly the University of Michigan before becoming an NHL player. Since the age of 15, the Connecticut native was heavily recruited and scouted, so he’s well aware of that process.

As captain, Pacioretty needed to work the room and find balance with all of his teammates. Even loud, overbearing teammates like PK Subban. Being captain allowed him insight on how the team was built. What the front office was doing right and what went wrong. With several failed seasons in Montreal, I’m sure the 31-year-old veteran took note of the poor decisions made by the organization.

His experience early on with the recruitment stage, witnessing of building up and tearing down rosters, adding in his tough skin and Pacioretty has the resume to become a future general manager. (written by Jason)

David Perron

Man, I miss David Perron. Perron is one of the most intriguing players both on and off the ice.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

His hockey mind is always on full display when he’s playing as he just seems to have a knack for finding holes in the offensive zone where he can hold onto the puck for a little longer than anyone else who has ever worn a VGK jersey. He sees the game at a different speed than most and I’d have to think that would translate well into scouting as well as team construction.

Off the ice is where he really made me believe he has what it takes to be a GM though. He’s one of the few players in Golden Knights history who really cared about stats and even advanced stats. He’d talk about Corsi, zone starts, through-percentage, and many other pieces of data that proved he’s a true hockey junkie.

The intelligence he displayed in breaking down complex game situations as well as his understanding of the salary cap and the business end of hockey has me believing he would be not only the most likely to become a GM, but also the best future GM of any current or former Golden Knight. (written by Ken)

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Martinez’s Versatility Allows VGK To Go Unconventional With Their Defensive Alignment

We don’t have a VGK Martinez picture yet. Please accept our sincerest apologies for this one where he’s wearing a hideous outfit. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights lineup on Thursday, Alec Martinez’s first game, included six defensemen that all shoot with the same hand. Nate Schmidt, Brayden McNabb, Shea Theodore, Nick Holden, Jon Merrill, and Martinez all shoot with their left hand.

In the NHL this season, of the 294 defensemen to make an appearance, 175 of them, or 60%, shoot left-handed. So, it’s not abnormal that Vegas has a bevy of them, but icing an entire lineup lacking a single right-hand shot defenseman is far from common.

The Golden Knights have used a roster with all lefties four different times this season. I looked as hard as I could, and I can’t find a single other team that has done it once this year. (Because I know you’re wondering, they were a winless 0-3-0 before Thursday)

This season, the Golden Knights have only used two defensemen that shoot with their right-hand; Deryk Engelland and Zach Whitecloud. They’ve played a combined 56 games. The next closest team with the fewest number games by right-handed defenseman is Arizona with 93. Every other team has over 100 with many over 200.

The reason the Golden Knights have been able to get away with it is because of how many players they have that are comfortable playing on both sides. Since joining the Golden Knights, Schmidt, Theodore, and Holden have all seen significant time playing both sides and Martinez may have more experience doing it than all three combined.

He’s a left-shot, from what I understand he’s very comfortable on the right and he’s very good on the right. That versatility’s nice. Having a guy, even though he’s not a right-shot that’s very comfortable on the right is important. -DeBoer

The Golden Knights wasted no time putting that skill to use. In Martinez’s first game, he was paired with Jon Merrill with Martinez playing the right. Not even a period deep, he scored a goal playing the left partnered with Shea Theodore. Later in the game, he killed penalties on the right with both Schmidt and McNabb, and as a power-play expired he played a full shift on the left of Holden.

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Adding Martinez May Pave The Way For Schmidt/Theodore Pairing

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Shea Theodore and Nate Schmidt have both played in over 200 games for the Golden Knights in the regular season and playoffs. They are #1 and #2 in average ice time per game, goals, assists, points, shots, and takeaways among all Golden Knights defensemen, yet in the three-year history of the team, they’ve only been paired together for three games.

The first was in the very last game of the magical inaugural season, Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. Schmidt was then suspended for the first 20 games of 2018-19, but when he returned, he found himself paired back up with Theodore. It lasted two games before Schmidt was put back with McNabb and he’s been with Brayden or Deryk Engelland ever since.

Theodore’s partner has been a bit of a revolving door over the course of his 228 games with the Golden Knights, specifically this season. This year he’s played with Nick Holden, Nic Hague, Jon Merrill, Engelland, and McNabb. His most common partner (for 22 games), Hague, isn’t currently on the Golden Knights roster and Shea has played at least even games with four different guys.

Both have played both sides quite a bit, but have each settled in on the right despite being left-hand shots.

With the acquisition of Alec Martinez, maybe now’s the time for the Golden Knights to give Schmidt and Theodore another look. They’ve both grown to be the Golden Knights best defensemen both offensively and defensively, they are interchangeable playing the left and right side, they’ve shown they can eat up minutes and play against the opposition’s best players, and their games really should be much more complimentary now than they were a year and a half ago with Theodore’s defensive game taking a big leap.

Here’s how he D-pairs would likely look with them together.

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The Golden Knights Identity; What Is It? What Is It Supposed To Be?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When Pete DeBoer was first hired a common term he would use in talking about his new team was “identity.” He said it in a number of ways but the refrain was always the same, that the team had a great identity and when they played with it they were almost unbeatable, but recently it had been lost and they were playing without it.

Here’s one example from five days after he was hired.

I think for me just playing aggressive, and dictating games and wearing teams down with our depth because we have the ability to roll four lines and be really hard to play against. I think we want to get back to that. Not that that slipped totally off the table but that’s something this team did better than anybody in the league for a long time and we want to try and get that type of identity back. -DeBoer on 1/20/20

I have to admit, it’s a term that’s always troubled me. Identity. I don’t even really know what it means. Everyone uses it, heck I’ve even used it, but if you pinned me down to explain exactly how it relates to a hockey team, I can’t do it. So to hear it over and over again from the new head coach as basically the primary focus on how to solve the issues the Golden Knights had been having, I couldn’t help but tilt my head the way Wiglaf and Rupert do when I ask them if they want a piece of cheese.

What is the Golden Knights identity? What’s it supposed to be? Has it changed?

I’ve spent the last three weeks pondering all of this and finally had a chance to ask a few players, and the coach, specifically about it. Take a listen to it all, in its raw form. First is Jonathan Marchessault, then Nate Schmidt, Paul Stastny, and it ends with Pete DeBoer.

I’ve listened to each of those four interviews about 10 teams apiece and I still have no clue how to define the Golden Knights identity.

It’s just a bunch of buzzwords that apply to every hockey team.

Relentless. Heavy. Fast. Aggressive. Play as a unit. Hard to play against.

Put that aside for a second though, I’ll get back to it.

However anyone defines it, it seems to have shifted. Well, sorta shifted. Actually, no it hasn’t shifted at all. It’s exactly the same, it just looks a little different because this team is more skilled, or to use a simpler term, better.

But it’s not. Or at least it hasn’t been when counting wins.

Both teams have the ability to check off all the buzzwords. The makeup of the team really isn’t that different aside from adding a new buzzword, “heavy,” which really just means “we have Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty now.”

So why aren’t they playing the same way? Why are they going through all these problems? Why was the identity lost in the middle of the third season?

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Carp: The Joy Has Returned To Nate Schmidt’s Game

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas 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.**

Nate Schmidt had just come off the ice after Saturday’s morning skate at City National Arena and he was wearing a big smile.

Nothing new about that. Schmidt is usually smiling. As one of the members of an exclusive club, he gets the fact that playing in the NHL is a privilege and it’s one that he embraces.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

But there was something different about Saturday’s grin. I don’t know if it was an aura or a sudden uptick in demeanor, but Schmidt was really, really in a good mood. Perhaps it was the fact that after being away from home for nearly a month, he got to sleep in his own bed Friday night and that he and his teammates would finally get to skate in their own rink later that night in front of their fans.

My theory is Schmidt is a happier person these days because he is playing better hockey and he seems to enjoy playing for Peter DeBoer.

Let’s not sugarcoat it: it has been a tough year for the 28-year-old defenseman from Minnesota. He hurt his left knee on opening night in a collision with San Jose’s Logan Couture and he missed 12 games. He struggled early upon his return. Then his coach was fired as the Golden Knights went through another befuddling stretch of inconsistent play.

But lately, Schmidt has shown signs of being his old self, the guy who jumped into the play and made things happen, which is what the Knights got from him their inaugural season in 2017-18 when they went to the Stanley Cup Final.

I think one of the big things is simplifying your game. I was trying to do too much the first half of the year. You tear it down, bring it back up, sort of like a grassroots kind of thing. Schmidt

Schmidt and Shea Theodore have both been contributors to the Knights’ attack. Since DeBoer took over for Gerard Gallant Jan. 15, Schmidt has score two goals and has six assists. He has had back-to-back multi-point games and now has 26 points for the year.

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Golden Knights Utilizing Zone Starts To Deploy Right Defenseman At Right Time

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

One of the most overlooked stats in hockey is zone starts. NHL coaches go to great lengths to get the correct players on the ice at the right times, but when examining stats, very rarely will you see a nod to a player’s zone starts.

When judging defense we like to use stats like +/-, Corsi, goal percentage, and defensive point shares. However, it’s important to consider deployment when taking all of this into account.

It’s become especially crucial when breaking down the statistical seasons of the Golden Knights blue liners. Looking at the numbers without zone starts involved it appears as though Shea Theodore has emerged as Vegas’ best defenseman. He leads all defensemen in goals, assists, points, shots, offensive point shares, defensive point shares, Corsi, Corsi relative, expected goals, expected goals percentage, and expected +/-.

There’s no question that Theodore has become the Golden Knights’ most effective offensive weapon from the blue line. That’s why the coaching staff have used him in a role much different than that of Nate Schmidt and Brayden McNabb.

The Golden Knights are 2nd in the NHL in percentage of faceoffs in the offensive zone. In Golden Knights games this season, 35.6% of draws have been in the offensive zone, 32.7% in the neutral zone and just 31.7% in the D-zone. Vegas has taken 648 offensive zone draws to only 577 in the defensive zone. That means the Golden Knights baseline zone start percentage is 52.9%.

In other words, any player getting less than 53% offensive zone starts is being deployed in a defensive role, while anyone above is in an offensive role. Here are the Golden Knights primary defensemen’s offensive zone start numbers this season.

oZS%
Hague 65.5%
Theodore 58.0%
Engelland 54.9%
Merrill 51.8%
Holden 49.8%
Schmidt 47.7%
McNabb 47.3%

The difference between the top of that list and the bottom is massive. Hague and Theodore are drawing offensive zone shifts more than 6% more than the team average while McNabb and Schmidt are finding themselves starting in the D-zone around 6% less than the average.

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