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VGK’s New Assistant Coach Was The Defensive Tactician Behind Multiple Stanley Cups

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup in both 2012 and 2014. They did it with a very specific style of play that led to a countless number of teams attempting to copy their way to success. That style relied heavily on possession, shot suppression, and tactically sound defensive hockey in all three zones.

A suddenly familiar name was a huge reason why.

As an assistant coach, John Stevens has an unbelievable track record. The defensive numbers, the penalty kill numbers, all of the possession metrics point to him being a brilliant defensive hockey tactician. -Jesse Cohen, Producer/Host of All The Kings Men Podcast

Stevens stood behind the bench as an assistant coach for the Kings from 2010 to 2017. During that time, he ran LA’s defense which allowed the fewest goals and shots while winning 44 playoff games and two Cups.

There are people who accuse Jonathan Quick of being a “system goalie.” If that’s true, though I don’t subscribe to this theory, it’s John Stevens’ system that made him. -Cohen, Producer/Host of All The Kings Men Podcast

Stevens also was the mastermind behind a penalty kill that boasted an 87% penalty kill in the playoffs and finished above the league average in seven consecutive seasons.

Earlier this week, Stevens was announced as the new assistant coach for the Golden Knights.

We’re definitely looking for someone to run the D and PK. Hopefully look for someone with some experience and knows the West more than I do. –Cassidy to TSN 1200 on 6/20

The only real knock on Stevens is his pair of stints as a head coach in the NHL. In Philadelphia, he got off to a rough start seeing his team finish dead last in his first season. The Flyers turned it around under Stevens earning a playoff berth in his second season and winning multiple rounds before being bounced in the conference final. He was fired shortly into his third season after a 13-11-1 start. In LA, Stevens was promoted to “Associate Head Coach” in 2014 before assuming the job as real head coach in 2017. His Kings made the playoffs but were ultimately swept in the first round by the Golden Knights. 13 games into his second year, he and his 4-8-1 record were kicked to the curb.

I think he is an astute hockey mind and a tremendous human being, but I don’t think that anybody could have done the job he was asked to do with the Kings. -Cohen, Producer/Host of All The Kings Men Podcast

Hoping to have his name engraved in the Cup for the third time, Stevens appears to be the perfect fit to run the Golden Knights’ defense and penalty kill in 2022-23.

GM For A Day: Alex’s 2022-23 Vegas Golden Knights

As the week comes to a close, we decided to hand the keys to the Porsche (remember when DeBoer called the roster that?) to the man entering his 5th season as an intern at SinBin, Alex Norwood.

Ken and Jason had their turns to put the Golden Knights in a better position for this season and beyond, and now it is my turn to make Vegas a younger and cheaper team that can still compete this year and for years to come. I am not trading Jack Eichel like Ken, I am not keeping as many players as Jason.

Here’s what I would do.

TRADE – Max Pacioretty and Nolan Patrick traded to Detroit Red Wings for a 2022 2nd round pick and a 2022 4th round pick

The Red Wings seem like a team that is very close to making their return to the playoffs after a few years of being on the outside looking in. Adding a proven scorer in Max Pacioretty could be the trade that moves the needle in Detroit, which is great for them but this is about the Golden Knights.

Pacioretty is in the final year of his contract which counts $7 million against the cap. He is also going to be 34-years-old during this coming season. Vegas moving on from him solves a few problems. Most importantly, they instantly get cap relief, something that they desperately need. Almost as importantly, they will get younger which should help with the fear of potential injury problems.

As far as moving Nolan Patrick, he was not much of a factor in a Golden Knights uniform, which is unfortunate because it is due to his injury history and his ability as a player. If he is not part of any trade package, he should be a prime candidate to be waived to save a few more dollars.

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

TRADE – Robin Lehner to New Jersey Devils for a 2022 3rd round pick and a 2022 6th round pick

Robin Lehner may very well be a top 10-15 goalie in the NHL. He has proven that before winning the Jennings Trophy twice and being a Vezina Trophy finalist. Unfortunately, his health has failed him in the last couple of seasons. With additions being made later on in this article, Logan Thompson appears to be a viable option for much less money, and Bruce Cassidy implementing a “goalie friendly” system, it makes sense to move on from Lehner and give Thompson the keys to the franchise. It’s up to Thompson to make this move look good, we’ve seen a small sample size of what he can do and there’s nothing showing me he can’t continue his upward trend. This trade is me going all-in on Thompson, not going all-out on Lehner.

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GM For A Day: Jason’s 2022-23 Vegas Golden Knights

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Our week of hypothetical managing rolls on. Today, it’s my (Jason) turn to play GM for a Day, and we’re going a little calmer than Ken’s plan.

I have no choice, I’m going for it now. There was an order given six seasons ago and I agreed to it. So, it’s time to deliver.

Vegas’ current roster has enough talent up and down the lineup but it hasn’t fully succeeded. However, under the right conditions, the Golden Knights can defeat almost every team on any given night. Sure, changes will be made but for the most part, I’m going to use what I already have.

TRADE – Alec Martinez traded to the Detroit Red Wings for a 2022 4th round pick.

On Tuesday I predicted the Golden Knights front office would aggressively try and unload Alec Martinez’s contract. It’s rare, but I’m in agreement with VGK’s FO. Detroit is a team that’s maturing, has cap room, and could use some veteran leadership. As the Golden Knights have done in the past with Brad Hunt, sending Martinez to Detroit would be looking out for the player as well. It’ll hurt to some capacity to lose the almost 35-year-old but Vegas opens cap space and replenishes a 4th round pick. It’s not ideal but I’d rather shed defense in order to keep my offense intact. My only fear is the Red Wings management asking for a sweetener.

Look, I’m not a miracle worker but my task is to win the Stanley Cup this year, not in 2028. With that in mind, immediately after trading Martinez I’m picking up the phone and reassuring Max Pacioretty he’s not going anywhere. It’s time for a heart-to-heart. Like Brad Pitt said to the actor playing David Justice in the movie Moneyball, “I want to milk the last ounce of baseball you got in you.” The same goes for Pacioretty. He’s on an expiring contract seeking another lucrative deal, and I need goals. I’m looking for 70+ games and 30+ goals from Pacioretty next season. In the end it could work out well for both parties.

It’ll be no secret, the pressure is on Pacioretty, Mark Stone, and yep, Jack Eichel. When a player signs a contract worth $10M annually he’s also agreeing to accept the pressure that comes along. I anticipate Eichel to play like a ten-million-dollar center this season and I expect him to get the most out of his teammates. He may not wear a C but this will be Eichel’s team. It’s just a matter of when. He wasn’t an original Misfit but The Creator’s demand of winning a Cup in six seasons applies to the top center as well. To keep the trio of Pacioretty, Mark Stone and Jack Eichel together, someone else will need to go.

TRADE – Laurent Brossoit and a 2022 7th round pick to Dallas Stars for 2023 5th round pick

Brossoit’s contract was another example of overspending on an unnecessary need. Vegas had Robin Lehner’s backup already yet overpaid for an underwhelming, established goalie. The Golden Knights didn’t get enough from Brossoit last season to continue to carry his salary. Since 2020, the Golden Knights have severely overpaid their goaltenders and last offseason the club was forced to sell off a Vezina winner for nothing. I’m going to follow suit by shipping out Brossoit, and like Vegas’ front office I’m not concerned with the return.

I’ve successfully managed to get underneath the cap without tearing apart the team. Now, it’s time to examine what I have left on the books.

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GM For A Day: Ken’s 2022-23 Vegas Golden Knights

Alright, so we’ve already shared with you what we think the Golden Knights will do this summer (Ken’s Picks, Jason’s Picks). Now, it’s time that we step into the hot seat and try our hand at playing the role of general manager. I (Ken) am going first, and I’m coming in hot!

You make me the GM, you are getting changes a plenty. In simple terms, I look at the current roster and cap situation and I think it will take a set of fortunate circumstances beyond what I believe to be realistic to win the Stanley Cup. Now, I’m not saying the roster is bad, at all, in fact, I believe it is in the Top 10 in the NHL, maybe even pushing Top 5. But, you hired me to win 16 playoff games, not 8, 9, or 10, and that’s what we plan on doing.

We’re here to take risks. We’re here to turn this thing into a true champion, and unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to happen right away. My first order of business is to straighten up the most valuable asset in today’s NHL, the salary cap. Quite frankly, I look at the VGK cap and I see myself in a “you’re probably wondering how I got here” meme. Hell is far too polite a word for where the Golden Knights are salary cap-wise, so we need to straighten it out, and in a big way.

That means trades and lots of them. Buckle up, here we go.

TRADE – Jack Eichel to New Jersey Devils for 2022 1st Round Pick (#2 overall), 2022 4th Round Pick, 2023 2nd Round Pick, and Miles Wood

Yep, we’re doing it. I love Jack Eichel and I think he’s a generational talent that is bound to score 100 points in a season soon. But, I can’t have him and his no-move clause on a roster that already has $9.5 million Mark Stone and $8.8 million Alex Pietrangelo each with no-move clauses of their own. So, I have to do the only thing I can, and that’s move Eichel before that NMC kicks in on July 13th.

Yes, I’m aware this package is not nearly as good as the one this franchise gave up to get him in the first place. If I could take that deal back right now, I would, but I highly doubt the Sabres are up for that so we have to look elsewhere. The key to this trade is obviously the #2 overall pick, which we would select either Juraj Slafkovsky or Shane Wright. (I’d prefer the former, so let’s say we get him.)

We also net an extra 2nd and 4th and a usable player that I’ve been high on for a long time in Miles Wood, which we would instantly sign for $3 million AAV on a short-term deal.

The original trade for Eichel would have been a great move for most franchises based on the price, but for this one it was a mistake. It’s not because of anything to do with Eichel, it’s simply due to the cap situation. It has to be corrected and now is the only time to do it.

TRADE – Max Pacioretty and 2023 2nd Round Pick to Carolina Hurricanes for Teuvo Teravainen and Ethan Bear

Let’s keep the blockbusters going. Pacioretty’s injury history concerns me. Plus, I’m not 100% sure I’m going to have a true Cup contender this year so I don’t want to be in a situation where I’m forced to make a tricky decision on him at the deadline (especially if he’s hurt). We acquire a player who has the ability to score but is also a much more defensive-minded forward. Also, we get Ethan Bear who the Hurricanes are looking to move on from. Bear has arbitration rights but he didn’t have a great year last year so it shouldn’t be too costly to get him under contract on a shorter-term deal (let’s call it $2.8m AAV)

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Predicting The Golden Knights Offseason (Jason’s Picks)

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Over the next two months, the Golden Knights will tweak their roster in hopes of creating a legitimate contender. Every maneuver the club decides to make will need to keep the salary cap in consideration. Yesterday Ken shared his predictions, now here’s mine.

TRADE – Alec Martinez and a 5th round pick traded to the Detroit for a 4th round pick

There’s just no way around it, the Golden Knights need to shed salary. Trading Martinez to Detroit makes sense for both teams and the player. The Wings have space and could use an elder statesman to direct their young d-core, and mentor Calder Trophy winner Moritz Seider. Let’s not forget to mention Martinez was born and bred in Rochester Hills, MI. It’ll hurt the Golden Knights but in a cap world space is much more important than an expensive veteran with miles. This also allows some flexibility for a possible multi-year deal with Nic Hague.

TRADE – Laurent Brossoit and a 4th round pick to Dallas for 5th round pick

Brossoit is another easy candidate for some cap relief. Logan Thompson made his case to become Robin Lehner’s backup and proved he can handle the pressure of being a number one. This allows the Golden Knights front office to undo their unnecessary spending of $2.5M last summer. It might seem like an odd destination considering new Stars coach Pete DeBoer had some sharp comments after one of Brossoit’s performances in Vegas. However, there’s space and a fit for a veteran backup to support up-and-comer Jake Oettinger.

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Predicting The Golden Knights Offseason (Ken’s Picks)

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Cup has been awarded which means the offseason has officially begun. The Golden Knights have already started shaping their roster, most notably with the news of a Reilly Smith extension, but they still have a lot of work to do.

This week we are going to go through a series of articles giving our thoughts on how we’d like the offseason to shake out and how we think it will ultimately go down for the Golden Knights.

Today we start with my (Ken) predicted roster. This is what I expect the Golden Knights to do this summer.

Nic Roy – Re-signed for 2 years at $2.75m AAV

As I detailed in a previous article, Roy is in line for a fairly significant raise. I expect him to file for arbitration but sign a contract prior to the hearing. The Golden Knights will utilize their excellent signing of Chandler Stephenson to set the market on Roy and eventually settle on the same number. It’s a nice bump for Roy, it keeps him in line to hit unrestricted free agency at the age of 27, and it doesn’t break the bank on VGK.

Keegan Kolesar – Re-signed for 1 year at $1.3m

Like Roy, Kolesar’s arbitration rights will earn him a bit more than he’s made in the past. However, I expect a short deal as the Golden Knights look to maintain some flexibility moving forward. Kolesar doesn’t have much to prove as it’s pretty clear the player he’s going to be, so he’ll look to cash in and $1.3 million is a decent payday for him.

Nic Hague – Re-signed for 1 year at $874,125

I truly believe Hague should refuse to sign the qualifying offer and hold out from training camp and ultimately regular season games in an effort to maximize his contract. But, I don’t think he’ll end up going down that road as the risk of the Golden Knights never blinking is far too real. (Read more about the situation here) So, I think he’ll take the qualifying offer and play one more year on a cheap deal before he looks to cash in next summer, which I believe he will to the tune of north of $3 million per year.

Read More Podcast #272: Smith’s Back, What’s Next

Reports indicate Reilly Smith will be staying with the Golden Knights which means the team is back to being about $5 million over the cap. We go through the options of what the Golden Knights may do to once again become cap compliant. Hosted by Ken Boehlke and Jason Pothier.

  • Considering using LTIR again
  • Looking over the obvious options (Martinez, Karlsson, Marchessault, Pacioretty)
  • Assessing the more unlikely options
  • Cookies
  • Cassidy’s comments on Eichel

And much more…

We are on iTunesStitcher, Spotify, and Google Play. Subscribe now!

Cassidy Vows To Help Eichel Learn How To Play Winning Hockey

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s no secret for the Golden Knights that if they want to have success, and ultimately raise the Stanley Cup, they are going to need to get the best out of Jack Eichel.

After being acquired from the Buffalo Sabres, Eichel was able to play in 34 games with the Golden Knights. He started out hot scoring five goals in his first 13 games including two game-winning goals. But he cooled off mightily down the stretch as he went scoreless in five of the team’s final six meaningful games and was held to just one point in that span.

Vegas lost all but one of those games and watch their playoff hopes slip right through their fingertips. Understandably, as a player whose career has been marred by regular season team failure, Eichel took the brunt of the blame. Over that span, he posted a -5 rating, missed all three of his shootout attempts, and was on the ice for seven goals against.

Fair or not, it didn’t look good for a player who has been criticized consistently over his career for being more focused on his offensive game than team success.

New head coach Bruce Cassidy is not shying away from the stigma that surrounds Eichel and he’s ready to step in and help.

You’ve got a high-end offensive player that hasn’t won and now he’s got to put the crest first. And I’m not saying he didn’t do that in Buffalo because I don’t know what happened there, but at the end of the day that will be the conversation. –Cassidy on TSN 1200

Cassidy elaborated in another interview.

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Pete DeBoer “Rattled” By Firing In Vegas

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

As the Golden Knights turn the page into a new era, the man in charge of the last one is doing the same himself. Pete DeBoer was recently named head coach of the Dallas Stars taking over a team that went one round further than the team he coached in Vegas this year.

In his introductory press conference, DeBoer shared his reaction to being let go from the Golden Knights this summer.

The Vegas one rattled me because I really thought as a coaching staff we worked as hard as we could with the situation that was handed to us this year. Getting 94 points out of a team that had lost 500 man games to injuries, I thought our coaching staff really worked hard to get that. To put it in perspective the other team that lost that many man games finished in dead last. I’m not going to lie to you, it rattled me a little bit that we were relieved of our duties. -Pete DeBoer

He went on to explain why he was so shocked.

I took the job in Vegas and thought I made an impact. We went to the conference final in the Bubble, went to the conference final, and beat Colorado the President’s trophy-winning team last year, and I thought we were building on that. We’re just starting to reach our potential and then had as disastrous an injury-filled year as I’ve experienced as a coach. -DeBoer

It’s actually fairly similar to the remarks Gerard Gallant made after he was let go from the Golden Knights in early 2020.

Usually you have an idea. You can feel something. But I didn’t have that. Maybe that was my own stupidity, I don’t know. I never felt like anything like that was going to happen. The Florida one I knew was coming, it was just a matter of when. I knew that from a meeting in the summertime. I had the feeling. This one I had no idea it was coming. I didn’t feel it coming at all. That was the toughest part. –Gallant to LVRJ in January 2020

DeBoer exits Vegas posting a record of 98-50-12 in the regular season, 22-17 in the playoffs (including three “round-robin” wins) and a 4-2 mark in series. These marks are all slightly better than Gallant’s 118-75-20 regular season, 16-11 playoff, and 3-2 series records.

Now, in walks Bruce Cassidy, who has enjoyed similar success as his two predecessors. However, all three have failed to deliver the one thing that matters to the Vegas Golden Knights.

And if he doesn’t do it, and do it quickly, he’ll probably be “rattled” or “shocked” in a few years too.

VGK Misses Out On Inexpensive Top-Six Option

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The first article of business was taken care of last week when the Golden Knights announced Bruce Cassidy as their next coach. Next on the list, improve the roster.

Earlier in the offseason, the Golden Knights were tied to KHL star Andrei Kuzmenko. The 26-year-old totaled 53 points in 49 games with SKA St. Petersburg this season and would have fit well with VGK’s shrinking cap room. Unfortunately, Vancouver was able to offer Kuzmenko more than just money.

That’s a big win for the Canucks. I really thought the two favorites were Vancouver and Edmonton. These were two GMs who had been after Kuzmenko for some time. There were a few teams, even some of the other ones in it who thought it would be Vancouver or Edmonton.-Elliotte Friedman on 32 Thoughts Podcast

Not only did the Golden Knights miss out on what would have been the perfect offseason risk, but they also lost Kuzmenko to a maturing team in their own division. The Canucks added another offensive weapon in his mid-twenties to an already bright roster.

On top of upside, Kuzmenko was brought in on an entry-level NHL contract. Not only will he be eager to play in a new league, the former KHL’er will be motivated to produce so he can strut into free agency. Sure, Vegas can take a run at Kuzmenko next summer but the value won’t be there.

Kuzmenko could only sign a one-year deal. So he needs a new contract for the next year. He knows he had to be in a good situation to set up that next contract. The one thing he had to be convinced of was he would be put in a situation where he would have a good run at another contract. At the very least Vancouver has to convince him of that. –Friedman on 32 Thoughts Podcast

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