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2020-21 Pressure Index: Defensemen, Goalies, Coach, Front Office

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Yesterday we tackled the Pressure Index for the forwards, now we move on to the rest of the roster and the front office.

Alex Pietrangelo

The Golden Knights franchise is not new to working in new players, and more recently, new stars. Some have thrived immediately, others have taken some time. With Pietrangelo, he’s going to have to have it figured out pretty quickly or this team is going to struggle along with him. Dealing with the new environment, first time with a new team, and the pressure to perform having signed the mega-deal all add up to the new guy feeling some heat, but he’ll have plenty of built-in excuses plus $61 million to relieve a lot of it. Pressure Index: 5

Brayden McNabb

The likely partner for Vegas’ newest superstar has been one of the steadiest players in Golden Knights history. It’s hard to believe anyone would be a bad match for Pietrangelo but any failures Alex has early will be blamed at least in part on his partner. Throw in the fact that as a pair they’ll be playing against the opposition’s best players every night and likely starting a majority of their shifts in the D-zone and it’s a tall task for anyone. Simply put, McNabb has to have a great season or his place as VGK’s most reliable defensemen will be lost quickly. Pressure Index: 6

Shea Theodore

No one has higher expectations for the 2020-21 season than Shea. After a masterful postseason most believe Theodore’s name should be in the mix for the Norris trophy this year. The statistical expectations most have for Theodore are probably unrealistic though. He was able to post 19 points in 20 games in the playoffs which leads many to believe he should be pushing 80 points in the regular season. His career-high is just 46 in 71 games. Maybe he can reach the insane numbers he’ll be projected for, but more than likely he’ll be looking at about a 50 point season with 10-15 goals. He needs to drive offense consistently for this team to succeed. There’s no reason to believe he won’t, but the weight of expectations will be heavy. Pressure Index: 8

Alec Martinez

Like McNabb, his role is based on making his partner great. If Theodore is struggling, everyone will point the finger at Martinez. He’s been the perfect partner so far for Theodore to this point and has even put up strong offensive numbers to go with it. From a personal standpoint, the responsibility of playing with a star young defenseman is a walk in the park for Martinez, but from a team view they’ll need him to be very good all year long or the trade of Nate Schmidt is going to haunt on the ice as much as it has off it. Pressure Index: 3

Zach Whitecloud

Whitecloud has played more playoff games than regular season games in his career so he really shouldn’t feel too much heat playing a full season at the NHL level. However, the regular season can be a grind and he’s going to be expected to be his same reliable self every single night during it. He’s handled quite a bit through his short professional career though. With his style of play and the role he’ll be in, there’s not really much to worry about from a personal or team standpoint with Zach. Pressure Index: 2

Nick Holden

The pressure may come quickly for Holden as one of the potential options for the Golden Knights to become cap compliant could be to place him on waivers out of training camp. Thus, despite signing the extension at the deadline of last year and playing all but one playoff game in the bubble, Holden will have to be at his best right away to force the front office to make a different choice. Pressure Index: 6

Robin Lehner

Finally, Lehner has the stability he’s been looking for, but he also signed a contract with a team that literally just threw the face of the franchise to the side because he struggled for about a month while dealing with a personal tragedy. Lehner has to be elite, immediately, and has to stay elite for the entire season. He has mentioned the “no-politics” attitude of the Golden Knights organization and now as the clear-cut starter, he’s the one up against it to keep his that job. He has always thrived under this pressure, so none of this should be viewed as a negative for him, but that doesn’t mean the pressure isn’t there in bunches. Pressure Index: 9

Marc-Andre Fleury

There’s a real chance he doesn’t ever see the ice again in a Golden Knights uniform, despite what Kelly McCrimmon has said in the past. If he does though, this will be the least amount of pressure Fleury’s ever been under in his career. He’s the backup and there’s really no one stumping for him to win the job back. Plus, if he does perform at the highest level, it might just make him even more tradeable which is seemingly not what he wants. He’s been caught up in a tangled mess and has no power to get himself out of it. Pressure Index: 0

Pete DeBoer

It’s been a bit of a mixed bag for DeBoer since he took the job in Vegas. It was all great at first as he rescued a season that could have headed in the wrong direction, then got his team prepared to take advantage of the weird playoff format and smoked through the first seven wins of the playoffs. When the team hit a wall he couldn’t push the correct buttons to bust through it. Now, he comes in with a team expected to dominate the Pacific Division and be among the best in the entire NHL. It’s a high bar and he’ll have to coach his team to a nearly flawless season to avoid criticism. It’s way too early for his seat to be even remotely hot, but any sign of flailing from this team during the regular season will look bad on him and then anything short of a Stanley Cup Final appearance will be considered an abject failure. It’s exactly what any coach would ask for in an opportunity. It’s also what puts coaches on the road to being fired even though it’s not their fault. Pressure Index: 8

Kelly McCrimmon/George McPhee

Push, push, push, and then push a little more. That’s been the M.O. of this front office since the 2018 Trade Deadline when they missed out on Erik Karlsson and acquired Tomas Tatar. Every chance they’ve had to upgrade the team they’ve taken no matter the repercussions. As they’ve pushed, they’ve undoubtedly created a team that is worthy of being called a Stanley Cup favorite but until a collection of players assembled do it, the repercussions remain in focus. This team has to be incredible, from start to finish of the regular season and then the entire way through the playoffs. They must win the Western Conference and then they have to at least come extremely close to winning the Cup. Anything less and the questioning of the front office will ramp up even more than it did moments after the Stars scored in OT. They are still dealing with the goalie mess, they’ve created a locker room that looks very different than it did when this same team made a run to the Final, and they’ve fired a players coach in favor of a rival. It’s all in the name of winning, which they absolutely should be expected to do. If they don’t though, there’s going to be nowhere else to turn to point the finger. That’s the definition of pressure in professional sports. Pressure Index: 10


2020-21 Pressure Index: Forwards


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  1. Buckeye63

    If the VGK doesn’t win the Stanley Cup this year, say goodbye to the Front Office duo and DeBoer. I thought it was a bad move to name McCrimmon as GM anyway

  2. Tim

    I don’t believe the Splash Brothers are going anywhere. They’ve created a great team and atmosphere here in Vegas. You never know which star there in the hunt for which makes it exciting. They’ve made a few bonehead mistakes but they’ve also made some great moves. The DeBoer move will always be a head scratcher but it is what it is. We’ve never had the luxury of a high draft picks so picking at the later part of the draft you need to get lucky or be a shrewd trader hence the pickups of Stephenson and Roy. The way we overcook and don’t trust our young draft picks all relates to winning a cup now so enjoy the Silver Knights games I know I will. It will be fun watching them develop until we trade them for some other 28 year old established player. We’ve been down that road to many times to not think it won’t continue. Overall it’s a great team great owner great city and fan base what’s not to like. I figure if we win a cup in less then 50 years we’ve out did Toronto, Buffalo and a lot of other teams so keep the faith.

  3. norm sunday

    Management and goalie rating is spot on. Despite McCrimmon babbling on about Fleury, I probably will be traded either before the trade dead line, whenever that occurs, or before the season starts for some whoop ti do player they think they need.
    Good article. The other ratings are reasonable.

  4. Mikegron32

    You crack me up Ken. Question: what would the pressure index be if the locker room looked exactly the same as it did year one? PDB was never a rival. He is a coach. You think Michigan wouldn’t hire Ryan Day in a second if they had the chance? People love to rip the Tatar and Gusev trades. You know why GM traded them? Because the “players coach” would never bench one of his guys.
    It’s literally impossible for a front office to do a better job than GMKM have done in the first 3 yrs of a franchise. You and your angry lynch mob go ahead and run them out of town when we don’t win the cup next year … I can’t wait to see who comes in and does a better job

    • Coyote

      Yeah, you’re correct, Mike. We’re so awesome because of the moves these gentlemen have made that we’ve won the cup each year. The NHL may as well hand us the cup for next season already. No controversy with this young team has ever happened. And, the few blights on this team are all Ken’s fault because he writes about the Golden Knights fairly instead of praising them every day for their pure awesomeness.

    • sb

      Absolutely correct Mike. This Management Staff is outstanding. Who would have ever dreamed a first year Team would be in the Finals three wins away from winning the Cup. Management takes intelligent risks to ‘win the Cup now’. Absolutely would rather have this Management than so many of those who stand still with mediocre Teams miles away from the Cup.

  5. Tim

    To all above posters and Ken only one team wins the cup 30 don’t so were in good company. With Colorado on the doorstep and Vancouver on the rise and always tough Dallas and St. Louis you have to be good and lucky. I don’t think DeBoer’s offense will get us a cup as proven in the Vancouver series where we were extremely lucky and in Dallas he was out coached and didn’t have an answer. You adapt or you lose.

  6. jason mason

    DeBoer and Lehner should both be a 10. Just because. Read your Lehner reasoning again and explain how he didn’t land in a place with “no politics” when he’s the, unintentional on his part, center of the politics going on with the goalie position. I’ll let the “personal tragedies” stuff just hang there for someone else to cherry pick. Fleury should be getting a less than zero number considering what DeBoer expects of him.

    I give DeBoer fewer games than Gallant got to win the cup, that’s how high the temperature is in the front office. More than a few guys should be squeezing out diamonds by July.

  7. Miri

    This article states : “[MAF is] the backup and there’s really no one stumping for him to win the job back. “ Not sure how Ken defines “no one” or “stumping,” but I believe that a large majority of the fan base is pulling for Flower to do just this and are doing what they can to let the front office know (while having nothing against Lehner other than that he is not MAF.)

  8. If performance is really the determining factor regarding the goalie situation ( which anyone watching can see except PDB for whatever reason) l wouldn’t count MAF out as history shows Lehner is no better and probably doesn’t bring the same culture to the team. I know ken your not a supporter of MAF but your not part of the team so try to be more o objective.

  9. sb

    The Managment Team has performed first rate since Day 1. They have put together the most successful first three year Team in professional sports history. Look at the record of achievement in three years. It seems incredible that anyone complain about these results. The Owner demands to win NOW. The two managers carry out the Owner’s direction.

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