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Travel Schedule Lighter Than Normal, Still Tough On Pacific Dwelling VGK

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As I sat in the airport for 12 hours only to have my flight canceled by Delta and then not even given the option to rebook, my mind was unsurprisingly on the nightmares that can come with travel.

Of course, the Golden Knights do not have to put up with most of the hassles we normal people do (seriously, Delta, WTF?!) but playing in the Pacific Division is no joke when it comes to travel.

This season the Golden Knights are set to log more than 43,000 miles to complete their 41-game road schedule.

43,491 miles is actually not bad for Vegas. It ranks 5th in the Pacific Division and just a few thousand more than the remaining three teams.

Despite one of the teams moving, VGK’s travel load is nearly identical to what it was last year (43,747). However, last year Vegas ranked 13th in the league where this year they are 9th.

The most the Golden Knights have ever traveled in a season was in 2022-23 where they put in a total of 47,787 the year they missed the playoffs.

VGK’s longest road trip this year is just five games, however, they do have four separate trips to Western/Central Canada, three trips to the Midwest, and four separate three-time-zone trips to the East Coast and Canada.

No matter how you slice it, playing in a place like Las Vegas is never going to be easy when it comes to travel. But, this year does seem to offer a bit of a break compared to what it has been in the past it what it could be sometime in the future (wouldn’t surprise me at all if VGK play in Europe or Australia at some point soon).

Somewhat Revenge Games On VGK’s 2024-25 Schedule

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When you have a lot of roster turnover like the Golden Knights had this offseason, naturally there will be some revenge games on the schedule. In 2024-25, the Golden Knights will have several emotional, personal, and potentially vengeful games on the docket. Which makes for great drama leading into the matchup.

Former VGK Players First Return In 2024-25

  • Michael Amadio (OTT): 10/25/24
  • Willam Carrier (CAR): 11/11/24
  • Logan Thompson (WAS): 11/17/24
  • Chandler Stephenson (SEA): 12/21/24
  • Alec Martinez (CHI): 2/27/25
  • Paul Cotter (NJD): 3/2/25
  • Jonathan Marchessault (VGK): 4/12/25

On April 12, 2025, the Golden Knights will be hosting the Central Division’s Nashville Predators… strike that, the Golden Knights will be hosting Jonathan Marchessault’s Nashville Predators. The original Misfit will make his homecoming late in the season which is a real bummer for VGK fans. On the flip side, Marchessault likely prefers the late-season emotional return to Las Vegas. This way he will be long settled into his new club without the distraction of an early T-Mobile Arena matchup with the Golden Knights.

It might not be quite the same level — particularly given Vegas’s recent track record of shipping out former franchise mainstays to remain ruthlessly competitive — but in the wake of Marchessault’s comments about how his Golden Knights tenure came to an end, his own homecoming promises to bring some fireworks of its own. Asked this week about his conversations with the Golden Knights brass before leaving the club he won a Conn Smythe with just two seasons ago, Marchessault made clear he’d wanted to stick around, but Vegas has other ideas. “They just didn’t believe in me for the remainder of my career, I guess,” the veteran said of his conversation with president George McPhee and general manager Kelly McCrimmon before he was sent packing. He’ll make his return to T-Mobile Arena on April 12, to make them believe. –Sonny Sachdeva on Sportsnet.ca

Naturally, the Golden Knights will face off against Pacific Division rival Seattle Kraken four times in 2024-25. Former VGK center Chandler Stephenson will return to Las Vegas with his new squad on December 21st. Stephenson will not yield the same lengthy ovation Marchessault will receive but it’ll certainly be a loud welcoming by fans at T-Mobile Arena. Remember, Stephenson represented the Golden Knights in the 2023 All-Star game, and was second on the team in scoring in both 2021-22 and 2022-23. In 327 games the 30-year-old center recorded 237 points in a Golden Knights uniform. He was an overall success in Vegas and would have continued to be if he had been offered a similar deal to the one he received from Seattle. Most notably, Stephenson is the only player in league history to hoist the Stanley Cup cup twice at T-Mobile Arena. So, it should be a special return for him as well.

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Golden Knights Trivia: Coaches

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Question 1

Which head coach was the youngest when hired by the Golden Knights?

A) Gerrard Gallant
B) Pete DeBoer
C) Bruce Cassidy

Click to reveal answer
A) Gerrard Gallant (53)
B) Pete DeBoer (51)
C) Bruce Cassidy (57) 

 

Question 2

Which head coach has the most wins (regular season and playoffs combined) with the Golden Knights?

A) Gerrard Gallant
B) Pete DeBoer
C) Bruce Cassidy

Click to reveal answer
A) Gerrard Gallant (134, 118/16)
B) Pete DeBoer (120, 98/22)
C) Bruce Cassidy (115, 96/19)

 

Question 3

Which coach had the shortest winning streak to begin his VGK career?

A) Gerrard Gallant
B) Pete DeBoer
C) Bruce Cassidy

Click to reveal answer
A) Gerrard Gallant (3 games)
B) Pete DeBoer (1 game)
C) Bruce Cassidy (3 games)  

 

Question 4

Which coach did NOT bring his top assistant with him from his previous team?

A) Gerrard Gallant
B) Pete DeBoer
C) Bruce Cassidy

Click to reveal answer
C) Bruce Cassidy (Gallant brought Mike Kelly and DeBoer brought Steve Spott)

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Youth Movement Will Determine VGK’s Success In 24-25

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If the Golden Knights want to continue their historic success to start the franchise it’s going to take more help from young and/or inexperienced players than ever.

With the turnover in the roster since the final game of the playoffs last year, there are more open spots in the lineup than at any time since the Expansion season. There’s at least one spot available in the top-six, a few more down the forward lines, at backup goaltender, and a former 2nd round pick is ready and able to nick a job from a veteran on the blue line.

I think we’ve got some forwards on the wings that are ready to take on more responsibility and bigger roles. If your centers are as strong as ours are, it really helps to bring a younger player or an evolving player along. It’s the best scenario for people like that. -Kelly McCrimmon

Among that group are former draft picks Brendan Brisson and Pavel Dorofeyev along with newcomers Alexander Holtz and Victor Olofsson. All four of them have had some success in the NHL but each is still waiting for that opportunity to become an integral part of a winning team. There will probably never be a better chance for any of them as they’ll all get plenty of looks alongside superstars like Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, and Tomas Hertl.

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VGK Expected To Reach Playoffs In Offseason Power Rankings

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You all know how much we enjoy picking apart leaguewide power rankings during the season but now the routinely inaccurate lists are being released months before opening night. This week, NHL.com, ESPN and Sportsnet all published power rankings following the NHL Draft and July 1st free agency frenzy. Before the playoffs began, ESPN ranked the Vegas Golden Knights as the 15th best team in the NHL. They were close as VGK ended up with the 17th overall pick of the 2024 draft. After losing six players from their 2023-24 lineup, ESPN surprisingly raised Vegas three spots to 12th in the league.

ESPN’s Post-Free Agency Power Rankings

  1. Florida Panthers
  2. Edmonton Oilers
  3. Dallas Stars
  4. New York Rangers
  5. Colorado Avalanche
  6. Carolina Hurricanes
  7. Boston Bruins
  8. Nashville Predators
  9. Vancouver Canucks
  10. Toronto Maple Leafs
  11. New Jersey Devils
  12. Vegas Golden Knights

The Sportsleader ranks the Golden Knights out of the top ten but high enough to qualify for the 2025 playoffs. Vegas also cracks the list of six best teams in the Western Conference, and third best in the Pacific Division.

It’s easy to forget because it feels like it was years ago, but the Knights’ first-round matchup against the Stars was one of the best of the entire postseason. There were some significant losses from the on-ice group due to Vegas’ ever-present salary cap crunch, but we’re not convinced they’re done making summer moves, either. -ESPN Staff

NHL.com’s Post-Free Agency Power Rankings

  1. Florida Panthers
  2. Edmonton Oilers
  3. New York Rangers
  4. Boston Bruins
  5. Dallas Stars
  6. Colorado Avalanche
  7. Nashville Predators
  8. Vancouver Canucks
  9. Toronto Maple Leafs
  10. Carolina Hurricanes
  11. New Jersey Devils
  12. Tampa Bay Lightning
  13. Winnipeg Jets
  14. Vegas Golden Knights

The league’s online outlet was a bit more realistic when ranking the 2023 Stanley Cup champions. NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika is quite familiar with how the aggressive Golden Knights front office operates. However, he also observed Jonathan Marchessault, Chandler Stephenson and four other players leave the organization this offseason.

The Golden Knights are used to turnover, but this is tough. They have lost Michael Amadio, William Carrier, Jonathan Marchessault, Alec Martinez, Chandler Stephenson and Logan Thompson, while adding Victor Olofsson and Ilya Samsonov. The loss of Marchessault especially stings, even if the 33-year-old received a five-year contract from the Predators, a term that didn’t make sense to the Golden Knights. He was a “Golden Misfit,” a member of the inaugural team. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs when Vegas won the Cup in 2023, and he led the Golden Knights in goals (42) and points (69) last season. Vegas still has lots of talent, but this is a step backward, which is why I have them at No. 14 in my Super 16.” — Nicholas J. Cotsonika, NHL.com

Sportsnet’s Post-Free Agency Power Rankings

  1. Edmonton Oilers
  2. Dallas Stars
  3. Florida Panthers
  4. New York Rangers
  5. New Jersey Devils
  6. Boston Bruins
  7. Colorado Avalanche
  8. Vegas Golden Knights

This shouldn’t be a surprise, but Sportsnet has the Edmonton Oilers as the highest ranked team going into the 2024-25 season. The biggest surprise was the Golden Knights listed as the 8th best team and the second-best team in the Pacific Division. Sportsnet seems to downplay the loss of regulars VGK lost this month. They’re expecting Vegas’ remaining star players to stay in the chase for the Pacific Division title.

I know what you’re thinking: the off-season has seen Vegas lose key pieces up front in Jonathan Marchessault and Chandler Stephenson, so how can the Knights be this high coming off a wild-card showing and first-round exit? Well, they made monster in-season moves that were also a long play in deadline acquisitions Tomas Hertl (who had lots of term left) and Noah Hanifin (who signed a new deal to stay). Vegas is running back Jack Eichel, Hertl and William Karlsson down the middle, with Hanifin joining Shea Theodore (who missed half last year with injury) and Alex Pietrangelo (who missed nearly 20 games, too) in the top four. Alexander Holtz, the 2020 seventh-overall pick, is also an interesting add to the forward crew. This team won’t be fighting for its playoff life again next spring. – Ryan Dixon, Sportsnet

Well, there you have it. Three hockey outlets and three different opinions. Personally, I agree with ESPN. Vegas may not be done refiguring their lineup. Also, the team’s core should be enough to be considered a top four team in the Pacific Division without Marchessault, Stephenson and the others. It just may be a little more challenging.

A Lot Of Goals To Replace, But Current Roster Can Do It

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Last season Jonathan Marchessault scored 42 goals. Chandler Stephenson scored 16, Michael Amadio 14, Paul Cotter 7, William Carrier 6, Alec Martinez 4, and Anthony Mantha 3. Add them all up and this summer the Golden Knights lost 92 goals from the team that finished 14th in the NHL in goal scoring to free agency and trades.

This is by far the most that has exited following a season in Golden Knights history and it’ll be up to a collection of players to make them all up. So, where are they going to come from?

The most likely candidates are the best and highest-paid players on the roster.

Jack Eichel posted his VGK-high 31 goals last year but has yet to reach his career high of 36 that he scored in 2019-20 in 68 games with the Sabres. It’s certainly reasonable he could score 5-10 more with a full season under his belt.

Captain Mark Stone scored just 16 last year after missing much of the back half of the season again. His high as a Golden Knight is 21 but he reached the 30-mark between Ottawa and Vegas the year he was traded. Obviously, health is a massive factor, but if he’s on the ice for 70+ games, he’s almost certain to eclipse 21.

Finally, there’s Tomas Hertl. The trade deadline acquisition played just six regular season games for the Golden Knights and scored two goals. His 82-game average during his 11-year career is 25 goals. There’s no question he’s in for at least 15 more and likely closer to 20-25.

Next is from the blue line.

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Western Conference Contenders Beefed Up Top 6

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Several teams made splashes last week during the July 1st free agency period, especially the Nashville Predators. Painfully, the Predators instantly improved their top six forward by luring Jonathan Marchessault away from the Golden Knights. Add in Steven Stamkos and Nashville is being dubbed as one of the winners of the offseason.

A handful of team’s significantly improved their offenses on the first of the month. Some are from the Western Conference, Edmonton and Nashville most notably. The Stanley Cup runner-up added two top six pieces in the offseason which could push Edmonton deep in the playoffs again. Last season Zach Hyman, Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid combined for 127 goals last season. That wasn’t good enough for the Oilers, so they even more added weapons.

As of today, the Pacific division Edmonton Oilers will have an opening night lineup with five forwards who scored 20+ goals in 2023-24, and seven total players with 18+ goals. In comparison, the Golden Knights will have two. If Viktor Arvidsson returns to form after an injured season, Edmonton will likely have six 20+ goal scoring forwards. If we’re being truly honest, the Oilers moves are noteworthy, but their final destiny still relies on Draisaitl and McDavid.

Now let’s move on to Nashville. Last season the Predators had three forwards to reach 20+ goals. With the additions of Marchessault and Stamkos, Nashville will field five in 2024-25. Astonishingly, the Predators casually added 82 goals to their Top 6. That’s scary. Again, to compare with the Golden Knights, it’s night and day. Vegas subtracted 85 goals from the previous season and will try and make it with three forwards that combined for 23 goals last season. One of them only played 3 NHL games and went pointless in 2023-24. If it were to come down to offense in the postseason, the Predators would have a sizable advantage.

https://twittee.com/miketgould/status/1811239178442858825?s=43&t=r0w8Y_Kvlc-GpxszwwgyWQ

Surely, other teams in the conference built up their top two line as well over free agency and the NHL Draft. Several Pacific Division teams can argue their 2024-25 lineup looks a lot more dangerous than last year. Seattle adding Chandler Stephenson makes the Kraken’s top lines more formidable. Heck even San Jose got a little better via the draft. The Golden Knights are still deep enough to defeat most teams in the Pacific Division, but they’ll likely do it with strong defense. Winning 2-1 is still worth two points in the standings. We shouldn’t count out a late summer splash for more offense. Cross your fingers fans, there’s still plenty of time for Vegas to improve their Top 6.

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