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McPhee On Injuries: “We Aren’t Deep Enough Yet To Not Have Everybody In”

Gerard Gallant confirmed this morning Haula is considered “month-to-month.” (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Injuries are a major part of hockey. Every team goes through them at various times and for various stretches of the season. For the Golden Knights, it’s come early and it’s come in the form of high-end forwards.

Alex Tuch missed the first eight games of the year and Max Pacioretty missed four games at the end of October. Both Pacioretty and Tuch have returned to the lineup, but the two guys they’ve played with on the Vegas second line haven’t been as fortunate. Paul Stastny went out in Game 3 and isn’t expected to return until late December at the earliest, and Erik Haula appears to be out for at least the balance of the calendar year.

Then there’s the suspension which has kept Nate Schmidt out for the first 20 games of the season. All in all, the Golden Knights have yet to play a game with anything resembling a full lineup, and the GM is frustrated.

I’d like to get healthy, for one game. just to see what we are. We just haven’t been. You know we rebuilt our second line and I think they’ve played two and half games together. Stastny’s been out most of the year, Pacioretty was out, Haula’s out, Tuch’s been out. We aren’t deep enough yet to not have everybody in. -George McPhee on Sportsnet 590 in Toronto

All in all, they’ve missed 39 games due to injury and 18 going on 20 due to suspension.

Nate Schmidt – 18 missed (100%)
Paul Stastny – 15 missed (83%)
Alex Tuch – 8 missed (44.%)
Deryk Engelland – 5 missed (28%)
Max Pacioretty – 4 missed (22%)
Erik Haula – 3 missed (17%)
Cody Eakin – 4 missed (22%)
Ryan Carpenter – 1 missed (6%)

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Hockey Central Rips Pacioretty, Golden Knights

Any time the Golden Knights head to Canada, specifically Toronto, the major media heads north of the border tend to weigh in on what they are seeing from Vegas. Following the 3-1 loss at the Maple Leafs, the voices of Sportsnet’s Hockey Central were not shy in tearing down the reigning Western Conference Champs.

Vegas played fast last year. They were a fast relentless team. I remember sitting down at breakfast with Gerard Gallant this summer and I said, you know Stastny, he slows things down. I mean I hope the pace is (still) pretty good. Then you throw Pacioretty on that wing and all of a sudden you are saying where’s the pace, where’s the speed with this group. -Doug MacLean, former NHL GM and head coach

We’re all in agreement that the shine on some level for many reasons has worn off on that Vegas team. -David Amber, Hockey Central host

They also had a singled out a specific new member of the Golden Knights.

I watch Pacioretty and he is not the 30 goal scorer we saw in previous years with the Montreal Canadiens. For me, he’s just not engaged, involved. He’s got to find a way to start getting into the trenches to score goals again. I don’t know whether or not it’s just the needle moving at the speed of the game the last two or three years, but if you don’t have that dynamic step it’s tough to get into spots to score goals. -Nick Kypreos, former NHL player

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Weird Moment For Paul Stastny Coming Before Tonight’s Game

He’ll always say the right things, but we know what will probably be going through his mind seeing the banner at T-Mobile. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

A few minutes before puck drop at T-Mobile Arena tonight the Golden Knights will unveil two banners celebrating winning the Pacific Division and the Western Conference. It’s sure to be a joyous occasion for all involved… except maybe Paul Stastny.

Stastny was a member of the Winnipeg Jets in last year’s Western Conference Final. His season ended three wins short of a Stanley Cup Final berth, which would have been the first of his career. His season ended at the hands (or gloves) of the Golden Knights. Now, a member of the Golden Knights he’ll be on the ice watching his new teammates and fans celebrate the same accomplishment that left him coming up just short of a lifelong dream.

I asked Stastny what he’s expecting to be feeling when he sees the banner and it was clearly something he had yet to think about as he was almost speechless at first trying to answer. After about 10 seconds of “um’s” and “I don’t know’s” he did find the words, and in typical Stastny fashion they were pretty much perfect.

Happy for the guys but it’s just added motivation for the guys that were here last year and for the new guys to see what they did last year and not be satisfied. Everyone had a good ride last year but they didn’t finish it off and that’s what they want to do. -Paul Stastny

He followed that by saying there will be no hard feelings or negative emotions when he does indeed physically see the banner for the first time.

We’re definitely going to have to follow up on that one though. It’s easy to say it won’t be tough, but I’m not sure about you, I almost vomited when I saw the clip of the Capitals raising their banner last night, and I’m just a guy who writes hockey. Can’t imagine what it must feel like for the guys playing.

Paul Stastny: Diehard Tennis Fan

This dude loves tennis more than you love hockey. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

If you’re a tennis fan or not, the Serena Williams/US Open controversy was hard to miss. We’ve seen this scenario play out countless times in professional sports. It’s the classic story of a competitive, superhuman athlete vs. the villainous, sketchy game officials. Bozo’s like me, blindly support the player. As was in the case with Serena’s violation meltdown last week.

Since nobody I knew was willing to talk about a messy tennis match, I decided to strike up a conversation with the Golden Knights biggest tennis fan.

They’re both to blame, but in a championship game, I don’t care you let it slide. I don’t think she got screwed, but at the same time the ref shouldn’t be known. -Paul Stastny

My argument to Golden Knights newest center, was the chair umpire never should’ve called the violation to begin with. Especially, in a final match. Here’s the rule, if you actually care.

In my eyes, the finals chair ump broke multiple unwritten rules. Therefore, I let Serena completely off the hook. ESPN’s Chris Fowler described the chair ump as a stickler… he overstepped and picked a weird time to give a coaching violation.

Stastny, the more reasonable tennis fan wasn’t willing to give the Open umpire the share of the blame.

She was berating him over and over again. I understand, she’s emotional down a game, down a set. All the pressure is on her to win her twenty-fourth slam… She called him a thief and was also telling him he wasn’t going to officiate again. She threaten him more than once and she did for five straight minutes. -Stastny

Well, the 12-year NHL veteran does make a good point.

As a ref in a championship game you gotta tell her, call me out but one more outburst and I’m taking a game from you. -Stastny

Finally, Stastny came around and admitted that officials ruin everything. Okay, now I’m making things up. In all seriousness, it was fun to talk to a professional athlete about being a fan. Stastny told us his love of tennis came from his mother and his NHL Hall of Fame father Peter Stastny. Both were tennis enthusiasts and passed it along to their son. That and hockey.

Stastny is a good NHL center, and a great guy but…

Are you a Roger fan?

Oh yeah. C’mon. -Stastny

We’ll let it slide I guess.

**We were able to get most of my chat with Stastny about tennis recorded, but Ken decided to walk away towards the end to go ask Pacioretty about bed sheets. Here it is, you can just hear the excitement in his voice when I opened the door to talk tennis.**

 

Training Camp Day 1 Quotes

New guys are fitting in quickly. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

A team that plays a high paced game like we do I think it’s important to do a lot of skating and to do a lot of up-tempo drills so that when it comes to games you are kind of used to that. -Paul Stastny

It’s hard to see any positive in losing the Final, but after a few weeks or months you start to understand what you did right and what you did wrong and make sure you don’t do it again, so there is always something you can take from any negative situation. -Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

(Having a child) is still the best accomplishment we’ve ever done. He’s so cute, it’s impossible to be that cute. He has a hockey stick, he doesn’t know what it is, but he has one. -Bellemare

We had the meeting to go over our systems and it was very very similar to what we did in Montreal. I was able to sit in that meeting and kind of know what to expect. Then I went out on the ice and was able to not think on the first day because I’m so used to our breakouts and our system when we go back for pucks. It’s a system I’ve had a lot of success with and I look to pick up where I left off with it. -Max Pacioretty

It’s important to make sure everyone knows that just because there’s a lot of hype around here it doesn’t mean anything. It starts with what we did in the summer, it starts with what we do today and constantly building as a team on and off the ice to repeat that success from last year and take that next step. -Stastny

First and foremost their unbelievable guys (Stastny and Pacioretty). I’ve been talking to them and I sat next to them at the team dinner and we were cracking jokes and they are just great guys. They’ve been around the block for a while and they’re really experienced and it’ll be fun to be on the same team as them this year and I’m going to try to learn as much as I can from them too. -Alex Tuch

I still think we have some doubters that we won’t do it again, that it was almost like a lucky Cup run. That’s the mentality that we have going in that we still have a lot to prove and we still want to be that elite team that’s making a Cup run and we are all in, all of us are. -Tuch

We have some new guys, we have some different situations than last year in a way but I think every individual, just make sure you stay healthy, make sure you put the work in. Hopefully everyone did put the work in during the Summer, that’s the expectation when we left here. -Erik Haula

Just individually try to get better, and having a little internal competition is good. Just keep pushing each other and that ultimately makes all of us better. -Haula

It’s a little bit different (than last year), we’re so comfortable with each other, we’re a really tight group, but I don’t think the prove it mentality is gone and I think that’s really good. We’re still building towards something and we want to be a really good team for a long time. -Haula

Splitting Up The Second Line

Last week on the SinBin.vegas podcast, the Golden Knights second line combination scenarios were a big focus. As it currently stands, it appears the Golden Knights have seven forwards that can fill top the six roles. Of course, messing with the top line of William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, and Reilly Smith is foolish, so that leaves Erik Haula, Paul Stastny, Alex Tuch and Tomas Tatar to fill three spots.

10 more goals from Tuch changes the entire outlook of the changed VGK made in the offseason. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Unless, as we discussed, Jack Adams winner Gerard Gallant chooses a more balanced attack by splitting the four into pairs of two rather than a full line and a leftover. That would leave an open spot on both the second and third lines. Possibly, the distribution of points would create more offense throughout the entire lineup while not sacrificing the offensive talents of one of these four by sticking them on a defensive-minded line.

Let’s put it to the test statistically. To do so, we’ll start by comparing possible combinations of 2nd lines using three of the four available players and compare it to that of the line of David Perron, James Neal, and Haula.

The Perron, Neal, and Haula line produced 70 goals, 95 assists, and 165 points while posting a combined 2.8 defensive point shares.

We used last year’s stats to come up with combined line totals for each of the four potential lines. Each line is named by which player is missing, so “w/o Haula” means a line of Tuch, Tatar, and Stastny.

LineGoalsAssistsPointsDPS
w/o Haula51731244
w/o Tatar60851344.4
w/o Tuch65771313.9
w/o Stastny64621153.3

Before you go scrolling back and forth trying to figure out the difference between each line and that of Perron, Neal, and Haula, we did the math for you.

LineGoalsAssistsPointsDPS
w/o Haula-19-22-411.2
w/o Tatar-10-10-311.6
w/o Tuch-5-18-341.1
w/o Stastny-6-33-500.5

Unsurprisingly, the numbers come up way short offensively. Defensively, however, any of the four options would be better. The biggest concern though is the play of the leftover player. Could Tuch, Haula, Tatar, or Stastny thrive on a line with players like Cody Eakin, Ryan Carpenter, Daniel Carr, or Tomas Hyka? That’s yet to be seen, but it’s also why the idea of splitting the four high-end forwards came up.

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Stastny Mentions Tuch And Haula When Asked About Potential Linemates

The number one storyline (maybe number two behind Theodore’s contract) heading into the 2018-19 season is the mystery behind the third center spot. With the signing of center Paul Stastny it’s assumed either Erik Haula or Cody Eakin will no longer man the middle of the ice for the Golden Knights.

Haula has said in the past that he “obviously likes playing in the center” and his career year statistically backs up his claim.

Appearing on the Golden Knights official podcast, SLGND, Stastny was asked by Gary Lawless, “Is there a player you think will fit nicely with you?” Stastny was anything but committal in his answer, but the names he mentioned, and more importantly the one he didn’t, might give us a little preview into the Golden Knights’ plans for the second line heading into training camp.

Yeah, I don’t know… From what I heard, Tuch kind of came into his own as the season went on. I thought he blossomed really well and did really good the second half of the season. And then if potentially they might put Haula on the wing, and I wouldn’t mind that because someone like that with so much speed… sometimes it’s easy to play with those guys. Especially who has a background at center because you don’t have to be the first guy back all the time. It’s easy to kind of switch positions and always be moving and play on the fly.

This picture shows he at least knows Tatar exists. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It comes across much stronger as a transcribed quote than it does actually hearing him say it, so be sure to give it a listen, but Tomas Tatar’s name is nowhere to be found in that answer.

If indeed Jack Adams winner Gerard Gallant chooses to put Tuch, Haula, and Stastny together, that would leave Tatar to play with Eakin and another winger like Ryan Carpenter, Daniel Carr, Curtis McKenzie, Oscar Lindberg, Tomas Hyka or another “bottom-six” type player.

After coming to the Golden Knights at the deadline, Tatar never quite found a home in the Vegas lineup and his stats suffered mightily. Heck, he couldn’t even get in the lineup during most of the playoff run. Putting him back on a third line without bonafide playmakers like Stastny, Tuch, and Haula likely sets him up to struggle once again.

Gallant is in a tough spot at the moment, basically with seven forwards to fill six slots. There are a lot of different combinations in which he can go, the question will be, does he try to find the best combination of three without any worry of what happens to the leftover player, or will he attempt to return to a more balanced lineup and possibly break the four non-first line guys into two pairs? Or, will a player or two emerge in camp to help fill the offensive void currently left on the third line?

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m ready to be done with the speculation and get some answers. Unfortunately full training camp is still three weeks away. So, let the speculation continue.

Drawing Penalties Could Be A Problem In 2018-19

James Neal’s face seemed to attract sticks to it last year. VGK might need a new stick/face magnet if they want to keep up the scoring pace in 18-19. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Over the course of the 2017-18 season, the Golden Knights drew 249 penalties, good for 15th in the NHL. Vegas converted on 53, ranking them 12th in power play goals scored and 10th in power play percentage at 21.4%. Compare that to the 3rd overall ranking in even strength goals and it’s fairly clear the Golden Knights did not rely on a man-advantage to win games.

Nonetheless, power play goals remain the easiest way to score in the NHL (aside from empty netters of course) and the Golden Knights certainly cashed in on a few big ones along the way to a Western Conference Championship.

During the year 26 different Golden Knights drew penalties. Two players made up for 55 of the 249, or 22%. Those two players are now members of the Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues.

James Neal led the Golden Knights drawing 29 penalties in the regular season while David Perron was right on his heels with 26. The next closest Golden Knights were Jonathan Marchessault and Colin Miller, each with just 19. (Plus, Neal missed 11 games and Perron missed 12. Math says if they had both played the entire 82 game season they would have drawn a combined nine more penalties.)

55 penalties at a scoring rate of 21.4%, what the Golden Knights finished the regular season with, adds up to nearly 12 power play goals created off drawn penalties by only Neal and Perron.

The Neal, Perron, Haula line drew 68 penalties while the top line of Marchessault, Reilly Smith and William Karlsson drew just 40.

Tomas Tatar and Paul Stastny, the two players expected to replace a majority of Perron and Neal’s minutes drew a combined 36 penalties.

The numbers are alarming, especially considering Tatar has yet to show the success he’s had elsewhere in Vegas. It’s not crazy to think however that Tatar, Stastny, and the increased role for Alex Tuch can help to replace the 41 goals Neal and Perron produced, but expecting these same three guys to draw 50+ penalties is probably asking a lot.

The real bummer is this likely means fewer times to chant “shame” at the guy sitting in the box too.

Pothier: The Golden Knights Are Not Better Today Than They Were On June 7th

As much as we love Paul Stastny, and we do love Paul Stastny, creating a dynasty involves more than Paul Stastny. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s a simple question, are the Golden Knights a better team today than they were the day they came up three wins short of winning the Stanley Cup? The answer is also as simple, at least in my opinion, and it’s no.

We want to be stronger next year than we were this year. I can’t say we’re going to win more games, or go further in the playoffs, but we want to be a better team next year…That’s the goal. George is working on it right now. –The Creator on Vegas Hockey Hotline on 6/22/18

The Creator said he has daily discussions with George McPhee on how to improve the team. Since that conversation, some can make the argument the Golden Knights got worse.

Let’s start with what they lost.

David Perron: 67 Points (16G, 50A), 0.94 Points Per Game, 0.71 Assists Per Game, 22 Goals Created, 17:49 ATOI, +1

James Neal: 44 Points (25G, 19A), 0.62 Points Per Game, 2.85 SOG Per Game, 17:11 ATOI, -11

Luca Sbisa: 14 Points (2G, 12A), 54 Blocks, 30 Total Goals For, 30 Total Goals Against, 19:32 ATOI, +8

Now let’s look at the Golden Knights additions.

Paul Stastny: 53 Points (16G, 37A), 0.68 Points Per Game, 0.47 Assists Per Game, 54.9 Faceoff Win %, 18:18 ATOI, +1

Daniel Carr: 16 Points (6G, 10A), 0.42 Points Per Game, 1.37 SOG Per Game, 12:08 ATOI, +2

Nick Holden: 17 Points (4G, 13A), 83 Blocks, 64 Total Goals For, 73 Total Goals Against, 19:00 ATOI, -5

It’s not fair to compare the loss of Neal and Perron, to Vegas’ new offensive additions. Stastny’s a fine player, but he’s not an elite center that can make up the production of two lost wingers. There’s only a few of those, and one of them passed for Toronto.

We have a lot of money to bring in some quality players. If we can get the players we’re going to spend the money. -The Creator

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Paul Stastny Adds To The Golden Knights In Every Way

He’s not Tavares, but Stastny is the splash acquisition the Golden Knights needed. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

On Sunday, John Tavares was introduced to the media, on stage unveiling his new #91 Maple Leafs jersey. Across the continent, Paul Stastny met the Vegas media over speakerphone.

In the end, sometimes you just have to go with your gut feeling. Sometimes it’s just one of those things that is the best fit, hockey wise, family wise and everything in between. -Paul Stastny

The Stastny deal didn’t create nearly the waves of Tavares and it didn’t instantly vault the Golden Knights to the top of the William Hill odds to win the Cup, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t impactful.

Term matters… a couple of summers ago we had a lot of older guys getting five and six-year deals. I think everybody realized that was a mistake. We’re trying to be a little more circumspect and it looks like the league is trying to do that. That’s why we went three years on Stastny. -George McPhee

The Golden Knights GM addressed many areas by signing the 32–year-old US Olympic Silver medalist. Stastny adds another well-rounded center to go along with William Karlsson. It also installs incredible depth down the middle. The Golden Knights now have eight players who can play center (Karlsson, Stastny, Haula, Eakin, Bellemare, Nosek, Lindberg, and Carpenter) But maybe most importantly, Stastny bridges the gap between now and the future. When Stastny’s three-year contract expires, future centers Cody Glass and Nick Suzuki will be 22.

There are always ideas of maybe where you can potentially end up, but you always want to go places where you want to be and go places that want you. It has to be a happy medium. -Stastny

Immediately, the newest Golden Knight gives the depleted second line some positive options. David Perron signed with St. Louis and James Neal is on his way to Calgary, leaving Eric Haula as the lone returning second liner. With Stastny, the Golden Knights now have a second line with two strong centers and numerous options on the wing. The newly signed center is strong on faceoffs (career 53.9%), will make plays on even-strength and man-advantage situations, and will help out on the penalty-kill.

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