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Praise Be To Foley, Vegas Golden Knights Hockey Website

Author: Steve Carp Page 1 of 8

Carp: A Little More Work To Do

**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.**

The NHL trade deadline is 24 hours away and the first-place Golden Knights have put themselves in position to do something major to upgrade their roster. Whether they do or don’t remains to be seen but if we’ve learned anything from watching George McPhee operate, it’s that he’s not afraid to go big.

Sometimes it works, as it did with Mark Stone. Sometimes, it doesn’t when he was unable to pry Erik Karlsson from the Senators two years ago and wound up overpaying for Tomas Tatar at the last minute.

So far, the Knights have made three deals this season. They acquired Chandler Stephenson from Washington in early December for a fifth-round pick in 2021. Wednesday, they sent two second-rounders to Los Angeles to get defenseman Alec Martinez from the Kings. Friday, they moved Cody Eakin and his $3.85 million salary to Winnipeg for a conditional fourth-round selection in 2021.

Stephenson has been terrific. Martinez had a storybook start in his VGK debut Thursday with a goal and an assist in the win over Tampa Bay and with Eakin gone, it opens the door for another move while at the same time it is giving one of the younger players in the organization a chance to show what he can do. Saturday, that was Gage Quinney (more on him shortly).

Moving Eakin was a no-brainer. He was having a tough season and those who played with him also appeared to struggle if you want to believe the analytics. He was a pending UFA and it was unlikely the Knights were going to re-sign him. So to get something back, potentially a third-rounder, for him, was pretty good on Vegas’ part.

But the big thing was getting that $3.85 million off the books. For a team that was cash-strapped in terms of cap maneuverability, the Knights suddenly found themselves relatively flush. Now if they want to pull off something big, they may be able to do so though they may still have to be a bit creative if they want to land a really big fish, one that makes them a true Stanley Cup contender.

So what should they do?

The Erik Gustafsson rumors have heated up the last 24 hours after Gustafsson was held out of Chicago’s game with Nashville Friday. He makes $1.2 million and is a pending UFA so he would essentially be a rental. And while the Knights’ philosophy is to not engage in rentals, they might be willing to make an exception in Gustafsson’s case. He would likely come cheap and if Vegas wants to retain him long-term, he’s only 27 years old. He could essentially replace Deryk Engelland dollar-for-dollar if the 37-year-old Engelland, also a UFA, is not brought back. He’s a left-handed shot and as Ken pointed out Saturday, the Knights have a glut of those on the blue line.

Another option could be Toronto’s Tyson Barrie, another pending UFA whose price tag is considerably higher — $5.5 million (though half is retained by Colorado in a prior trade) — than Gustafsson’s. Barrie is a right-handed shot and he has proven track record of offensive capabilities. His final two years with Colorado, he had 14 goals each season and 57 and 59 points respectively. He might fit Peter DeBoer’s system nicely.

The question with Barrie is the ask-back from Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas. Could the price be too high?

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Carp: 40 Years Later, The Miracle Still Resonates

**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.**

Reunions can be a joyous occasion.

Every year around this time, anniversary stories get written about arguably the greatest upset in the history of sports. The “Miracle On Ice” at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y. should be at the top, or near the top of every sports fan’s list.

USA 4, USSR 3.

This coming Saturday, they’ll be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the event in, of all places, Las Vegas. Virtually all of the surviving members of the “Miracle” team will be at the Thomas & Mack Center during the afternoon where they’ll relive the events and no doubt stoke the patriotic embers inside every person who attends.

Later that day, they’ll be honored at the Golden Knights game against Florida at T-Mobile Arena. And you know the U-S-A! chants will be deafening.

They did something similar five years ago and like then, the players who attend the Las Vegas event are being well-paid to do so. Frankly, I don’t have a problem with that. If they can continue to cash in on their celebrity 40 years later, more power to them. And if you choose to support this with ticket purchases, jersey sales and other memorabilia that will be peddled, I’m fine with that as well. Have at it.

These guys weren’t really able to financially capitalize on their accomplishments back in 1980. Of the 20 guys who were on the top of the podium at Lake Placid, 13 went on to play in the NHL, the best being defenseman Ken Morrow, who won four Stanley Cups with the New York Islanders and was George McPhee’s college teammate at Bowling Green prior to playing on the blue line for Herb Brooks.

Together, this group shocked the world and Americans who didn’t know a blue line from a red line, suddenly became hockey aficionados.

You can argue about Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson in 1990 in Tokyo being the bigger upset. You could try to make a case for the New York Jets beating the Baltimore Colts in 1969 in Super Bowl III. Some may say Leicester City’s winning the English Premier League championship in 2016 was the greatest upset ever. You might even try to cite No. 16-seed Maryland-Baltimore County’s beating top-seeded Virginia in the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament as the biggest.

You can try, but you would be wrong.

No, what happened in Lake Placid on a chilly, and I believe snowy, Friday night on Feb. 22, 1980 trumps everything. How? It changed an entire nation’s view of a sport. It was cool to play and watch hockey. It wasn’t just Canada’s game anymore.

Of course, the U.S. had shocked the world 20 years before at the Winter Games in Squaw Valley, Calif., when it won the hockey gold medal, beating Canada, the Russians and Czechoslovakia in what was the first “Miracle On ice.”

But let’s go back to what happened right before they lit the flame at Lake Placid in 1980.

You probably forgot what took place at Madison Square Garden when the Soviet Union beat the Americans 10-3 in what was the final tuneup for the Olympics. And as the tournament began, the idea that a bunch of college kids could beat the Russian pros, guys who had taken NHL teams to the woodshed, was preposterous.

The fact the U.S. managed to get to the medal round itself is a miracle. They scored in the final seconds on a goal by Bill Baker to tie Sweden 2-2. If the Americans lose that game, there is no “Miracle.”

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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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Carp: The AHL In Vegas? An Interesting Proposition

**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.**

Before the NHL accepted Bill Foley’s $500 million and let him join their exclusive club, I floated the idea to him about the possibility of putting his American Hockey League affiliate in Las Vegas.

After all, the perfect venue was right down the street from T-Mobile Arena in the Orleans Arena. It sat around 7,000 for hockey. It had free parking. The concessions were fairly priced. He probably could cut a decent deal with Boyd Gaming on the lease.

Best of all, he could get players to transfer back and forth from the parent club without having to get on a plane to do so.

Foley didn’t think it would work. He thought the franchise would be better served having its farm team in another location.

Of course, no one back in 2016 had any idea what was going to happen a year and a half later. The Golden Knights took the league and the city by storm and had unprecedented success on and off the ice. Suddenly, there were people on waiting lists to purchase season tickets. And even as the team jacked up the price of season tickets, most of the subscribers have stayed loyal.

So now there was a glut of hockey fans who go gaga over the Golden Knights but can’t get into T-Mobile Arena. It is indeed a fortress, accessible only by financial largesse to a privileged few.

What to do?

Bring another team to town. Play at the Orleans for a couple seasons until your rink in Henderson is built for the AHL team. Use the guys you already have under contract with the Chicago Wolves. Hell, the fans already know who all those guys are. It’ll be an easy transition. They could play in a division with Ontario, Bakersfield, Stockton, Tucson, San Diego, Palm Springs (when Seattle launches in a couple of years) and yes, San Jose.

Sounds good in theory, doesn’t it?

Sure does, especially If you’re Kerry Buboltz, the team’s president who continues to come up with creative ways to separate you from your money so they can pay Mark Stone $9.5 million annually for the better part of this decade.

Would this AHL in Las Vegas/Henderson idea work? My thinking to Foley was it would be an affordable alternative for those who couldn’t go to an NHL game, like the Wranglers were while cultivating more fans for the Vegas NHL team.

Yes, I knew it would cost more to go to an AHL game instead of an ECHL contest. But if you could take your family to a game at the Orleans for under $100, that would help make it work.

Where it really works is from a hockey standpoint. A defenseman goes down, an AHL callup could drive 10 minutes from the Orleans to T-Mobile. The AHL guys can live in Summerlin and practice at City National Arena or the team’s under-construction rink in Henderson. George McPhee could still pull his creative strings to clear salary cap space and the team would save a ton on travel costs. They can scout the organization’s players more often. They can regularly interact with the AHL team’s coaching staff. It would certainly streamline things.

However, would it work at the turnstiles? Could you turn a profit by owning your own AHL team? Currently, the Knights have a partnership with the Wolves, who are independently owned. The Wolves are staying put, though they’ll get a whole new roster of players from their next NHL affiliate once Vegas pulls its players out of Chicago.

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Carp: Out Of Sight, Not Out Of Mind

**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.**

The Golden Knights were last seen together last Tuesday in Boston. We’re not going to see them again until Friday in Raleigh.

For some of you, this has been tough, not being able to watch your favorite team, or even attend a practice.

It’s been tougher on coach Peter DeBoer, who had all this time at his disposal but was unable to get his team on the ice for what would’ve been a mini-training camp. The NHL’s CBA doesn’t permit teams to practice during the All-Star Break or during a team’s mandatory mid-season hiatus.

Instead, DeBoer likely spent the time away from the team getting familiar with the way the team operates. He probably has huddled with his staff to go over some of the things he tried to institute in his first three games on the bench after taking over for Gerard Gallant in Ottawa. He got his personal affairs in order and perhaps started looking for a place in Summerlin for he and his family to live.

But it’s going to be a while until things get a sense of normalcy to them or the Knights become whole again. In fact, there’s a good chance we don’t see this team the way it was initially constructed much, if at all, the rest of the season.

Let’s start with this Friday against the Hurricanes. Marc-Andre Fleury will not be in net as he opted to take that game rather than sit out the contest vs. the Bruins for his one-game suspension after opting out of the All-Star Game Saturday. So you’ll see Malcom Subban on the ice at the PNC Arena with either Garret Sparks or Oscar Dansk backing him up.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Then there’s William Karlsson. Will he be ready to go against Carolina Friday? Or is he going to need more time? While Wild Bill tends to his injury, DeBoer has to continue to shuffle things around. He’s had Chandler Stephenson centering for Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault the first three games of Karlsson’s absence from the lineup. Will that continue? Probably, given Paul Stastny’s game has perked up since being reunited with Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty.

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Carp: Despite His Struggles, Golden Knights Missing Wild Bill

**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.**

Seeing Peter DeBoer behind the Golden Knights’ bench Thursday in Ottawa wasn’t the only shock to the system. Not seeing William Karlsson on the ice may have been a bigger shock.

After all, Karlsson had never missed a game in his NHL career. He was the one reliable factor the Knights had, whether it was Gerard Gallant or DeBoer coaching him. We’ve been so accustomed to seeing No. 71 on the top line for the most part that we probably have never given it a second thought.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

But Karlsson’s out with an upper-body injury. He’s listed as week-to-week, which in Knight-speak means we might not see Wild Bill for quite a while. And that’s not a good thing in terms of the team’s short-term success.

We all know Karlsson’s been struggling offensively. You need only look at his game log to know he has had a tough season when it comes to putting the puck in the net. He has just 10 goals and last lit the lamp back on Dec. 13 against Dallas. Yet despite his lack of alacrity for scoring goals, his 34 points ranks him fourth overall, behind Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone and Reilly Smith. He has managed to still contribute offensively despite his goal-scoring struggles.

Chandler Stephenson is doing a serviceable job as Karlsson’s replacement. He’s been a great acquisition for the Knights as he has shown tremendous versatility and an ability to fit in wherever whichever coach, first Gallant, now DeBoer plays him. But Karlsson is an important part of this system and to be without him for any significant length of time is not to Vegas’ advantage.

Let’s start with the fact he is responsible in the defensive end of the ice. He is +4 overall and averages just over 19 minutes of ice time per appearance. He wins battles at both ends of the rink and he’ll block a shot or use his stick to break up a pass.

He has developed into a very good penalty killer. And while the Knights’ overall PK hasn’t been great (they’re tied for 21st in the NHL at 78.9 percent), Karlsson has teamed with Smith to do a nice job.

He’s also been good in the face-off circle this year. In the 49 games he has played to date, Karlsson is winning 51.2 percent of his draws. He has never been above 50 percent in his career. In his first year with the Knights, he was 48 percent. Last year, it dropped to 47 percent. So that’s a marked improvement.

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Carp: Carrier Delivering The Goods

**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.**

Right now, there’s not a whole lot of positive things happening with the Golden Knights. A three-game losing streak and a sudden lack of offensive productivity will do that to a team.

But I would like to point out one good thing that may be flying under the radar, that being the play of William Carrier.

When Chandler Stephenson was acquired by the Golden Knights last month, he was referred to as a “Swiss Army Knife” due to his versatility. Carrier may not have as many tools as Stephenson, but he has proven to be a versatile cog in the Knights’ machine.

The 25-year-old left wing has displayed some offensive prowess over the first half of the season and is projecting to having a record year scoring-wise. Carrier has five goals and eight assists so far.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

But the number I’m most impressed with? His games played. The Knights have played 48 games to this point. Carrier has been in the lineup for every single one of them. That’s a far cry from his first two seasons in Vegas where injuries forced him to miss significant amounts of time.

His ability to stay in the lineup has been huge. Coach Gerard Gallant is playing him up and down the lineup and wherever Carrier lands, that line seems to perk up, save for Saturday when virtually everyone was a no-show in the 3-0 shutout loss to Columbus.

Every line we put him on seems to be the best line on the team. -Gallant on Jan. 4

Carrier’s still playing his usual physical game, even though his total number of hits are down from a year ago. He’s currently third to Ryan Reaves and Brayden McNabb. He’s still one of, if not the, fastest player on the ice for the Knights. He’s still winning footraces and battles for 50-50 pucks. But he’s being more offensive-minded and his underrated passing skills are starting to gain notice. He had a beautiful backhand pass to Paul Stastny that led to a goal in the 5-4 overtime win over the Blues. His forechecking has helped keep plays alive in the other team’s end and while he may not be garnering assists, Carrier’s value for making plays in the offensive zone should not be overlooked.

That what I used to think of him, seriously. We’ve been with Will for two and a half years but this year he looks more confident. He’s going to the net, he’s carrying the puck and he’s making plays. He’s 25, coming into his own and playing great hockey. … We like what he’s doing, he’s working hard, and he’s got a lot of speed. I don’t think he’s hitting as much as he did in the past but he’s playing great hockey. –Gallant 

The fact he’s involved in fewer collisions no doubt has helped his durability and allowed him to remain in the lineup. Consider his first year with the Knights he was injured twice — in Nashville and at Washington and he appeared in just 37 games. Last year, he got hurt at Anaheim and again against Winnipeg and was limited to 54 games.

Assuming all remains well, he will set a personal high for games played next month when the Knights are in Florida to play the Lightning and the Panthers.

Where does Carrier best fit in? I still like him on the fourth line playing with Reaves and Tomas Nosek. They make things happen and they put pressure on opposing defenses. But from an offensive skillset standpoint, I also like having Carrier play with Stastny, a veteran playmaker who knows how to set up his linemates and provide them with quality scoring chances. They seem to work well together when Gallant pairs them up.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Carrier is still going to take the body, regardless of who he skates with. He’s still going to try and blow by defenders using his speed. It’s a question of how much do his offensive numbers rise playing with more skilled offensive players? And is that the right thing for the team?

Saturday, he played with Keegan Kolesar, who was making his NHL debut, and Stastny. Predictably, they didn’t do much.

No one is saying that Carrier is going to make a run at the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer. But with 13 points, he’s even with Tuch and ahead of Cody Eakin, Cody Glass, Nosek and Reaves. Yes, the two Codys missed significant amounts of time. But the fact is Carrier is having a very good season and the fact he hasn’t missed a game all year is a victory, both for him and the Knights.

**Steve Carp is the author of “Vegas Born — The remarkable story of the Golden Knights.” Follow him on Twitter @stevecarp56. All of Steve Carp’s work here on SinBin.vegas is presented to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm. For over twenty-five years, the Jimmerson Law Firm has been widely recognized as one of Las Vegas’s preeminent full-service law firms. Specializing in high stakes business, civil and family litigation, the Jimmerson Law Firm has an unparalleled track record of winning when it matters most. To reach the Jimmerson Law Firm, call (702) 388-7171 and tell them SinBin.vegas sent you.**

Carp: Dugan Will Be Worth Waiting For

**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.**

Well, that was a crazy 72 hours of hockey, wasn’t it?

Between the Golden Knights win over the Flyers Thursday, the come-from-behind overtime victory over the Blues Saturday, and the Fortress Invitational Friday and Saturday, there was no shortage of memorable moments.

Today, I’m going to focus on the college hockey component.

When the Golden Knights drafted some prep school kid from upstate New York in the fifth round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft in Chicago, I admit I was mildly intrigued.

The buzz was still palpable from the day before when the Knights took Cody Glass, Nick Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom in the first round. So as the next wave ensued, which included Lucas Elvenes, Jake Leschyshyn, Jonas Rondbjerg and Maxim Zhukov, hearing Jack Dugan’s name called wasn’t setting off any Mark Stone-like celebrations in my mind.

Dugan was already committed to play college hockey at Providence. But he thought it was cool to be drafted by an expansion team, even though he wasn’t quite sure what that meant to his fledgling hockey career.

Would he be an afterthought? Would he be traded? Would he get a legitimate shot to play in the NHL with Vegas?

Friday, there was Dugan, skating in T-Mobile Arena, not with the Knights, but with the Friars, who were facing Army in the Fortress Invitational. He received a warm reception from those who were in the building, perhaps a sneak preview of what could come in March.

He didn’t disappoint, scoring against the Black Knights in a 3-1 win.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Saturday, in storybook fashion, Dugan scored the game-winner in a 3-2 shootout victory for the 16th-ranked Friars over No. 2 Cornell. He also had a beautiful assist earlier in the game.

Now a sophomore, Dugan leads the NCAA in scoring with 37 points (7 goals and 30 assists). The right wing has filled out physically, standing 6-foot-2 and weighing 194 pounds. He is well-spoken, confident, and focused on winning games for his school. Yes, he has an eye toward the future. Yes, he’d find it cool to be the recipient of the Hobey Baker Award, which is given each spring to college hockey’s best play, something no one at Providence has ever accomplished. But he’s really looking forward to making Las Vegas his home and having a stall in the Knights’ locker room at the T.

That’s my goal, to play in the NHL. That’s what I’ve been working toward my whole life. -Dugan

Dugan’s got great hands. He’s got a very got shot. He skates well and he’s strong. All of that was on display Friday in Providence’s win over Army. Fittingly, Dugan scored the first goal of the tournament, a power play goal that saw him slot the puck through the goalie’s five-hole.

He was shaken up after taking a hit in the second period but he was back on the ice for his next shift, displaying some of that toughness he prides himself on.

The Knights had several people, led by owner Bill Foley, watch Dugan play. Wil Nichol, the team’s director of player development, keeps the closest tabs on Dugan. And Nichol has been impressed with the way Dugan is coming along.

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Carp: Bill Foley – Las Vegas’ Sports Figure Of The Decade

**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.**

As the decade comes to an end, it got me thinking recently about who was the person who had the biggest impact on sports in Las Vegas in the 20-teens.

I thought about Don Logan, the president of the Aviators who kept baseball going and was able to preside over the construction and opening of the beautiful Las Vegas Ballpark in Downtown Summerlin.

I thought about Mark Davis, who decided to bring his Raiders here from Oakland rather than return to Southern California.

There was Jim Murren of the MGM who built T-Mobile Arena and brought the WNBA to town. There was Brent Lashbrook, who brought professional soccer back to Las Vegas.

I couldn’t ignore Pat Christenson, the president of Las Vegas Events who was able to keep the National Finals Rodeo here and has positioned the city to host NCAA championships in the next decade.

But of the short list of candidates, there really was only one person who belongs at the top:

Bill Foley.

The man responsible for bringing major league professional sports to town and who has made the Golden Knights a worldwide brand in three years is my Las Vegas Sports Figure of the Decade.

When Foley first thought about buying a hockey team in 2014, few, if any of you knew of him. He was living in Florida as chairman of Fidelity National Financial. He had numerous businesses in Montana, California and abroad.

Nobody knew much about Foley. He had been paired with the Maloof brothers by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to investigate the possibility of the league expanding to Las Vegas.

You know the rest of the story.

But Foley is significant for more than just bringing hockey to Southern Nevada. He is responsible for the vision that is the Golden Knights, from the culture to the distinctive logo, to the marketing and the colors and the blueprint for success that he devised and stuck with.

He has hired the right people on both the hockey side and the business side and allowed them to do their jobs. Yes, he is involved but he’s not your typical meddlesome owner. He trusts George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon. He trusts Kerry Bubolz and Brian Killingsworth. He trusts Gerard Gallant.

He has given his players everything they need to succeed and then some. A lot of it never makes it to the public’s eye but ask anyone who has played here and you won’t hear a negative word about Bill Foley.

He also justified Bettman’s faith in him. Remember, the NHL was considering Quebec City along with Las Vegas in 2016. You may also remember Foley asked you to put down deposits for season tickets on a team that didn’t even exist the February before. So there were no guarantees that this would happen.

But Bettman’s instincts proved right. Foley was the person to lead expansion into Las Vegas. And he has delivered virtually every time.

He is a personable chap. He’s friendly. He appreciates and loves the fan base and they love him back. He’s accessible to the media. In short, he’s not your typical billionaire owner.

He’s also a man who gets it. When the horrible events of Oct. 1, 2017 unfolded down the street from T-Mobile Arena, Foley mobilized his organization, pivoted 180 degrees and put on the appropriate pregame ceremony to honor the 58 victims nine days later. That West Point education served him well in that moment. He was a true leader.

He’s also proven to be a decent actor. The team has featured him in a couple of videos and I’m not sure how many NHL owners would be willing to do that. Or any professional sports owner for that matter.

But that’s Foley. He never takes himself too seriously.

What he does take seriously is winning. Any time this team loses, it doesn’t sit well with him. He’s proud of the inaugural season and the run to the Stanley Cup Final. But it still pains him to have seen Alex Ovechkin skate around the T with the Cup.

He’ll always be bitter about the way the team’s season ended in Year Two. No amount of apologies from the league will ever change that.

He will spend money to improve his roster. He will reward his players by paying them well. He gives McPhee and McCrimmon what they need to be successful in terms of hiring staff. That’s what a good owner is supposed to do.

And spend he did. He put his money where his mouth was: a then-record $500 million to join the NHL. And he didn’t even blink in doing so. He had faith in the Las Vegas market and he was rewarded.

And if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, look what Seattle is doing as it prepares to join the league as its 32nd team in 2021. It’s as though it used the Foley-VGK playbook in structuring its operations.

So as we head to the Twenties, will the “Cup in Six” prediction made by Foley three years ago come to fruition? Will it take longer? Will it ever happen?

The hockey gods will likely determine that. But one thing I know — with Bill Foley owning this team, I like the Golden Knights’ chances of winning the Cup more than I think they won’t.

With that said, Foley does have some explaining to do on one matter — when’s Ken going to be able to purchase his VGK third jersey? But don’t let that preclude the man we call “The Creator” here in SinBin Land from getting the accolades he so richly deserves. He’s Vegas’ Sports Figure of the Decade, third jersey or not.

**Steve Carp is the author of “Vegas Born — The remarkable story of the Golden Knights.” Follow him on Twitter @stevecarp56. All of Steve Carp’s work here on SinBin.vegas is presented to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm. For over twenty-five years, the Jimmerson Law Firm has been widely recognized as one of Las Vegas’s preeminent full-service law firms. Specializing in high stakes business, civil and family litigation, the Jimmerson Law Firm has an unparalleled track record of winning when it matters most. To reach the Jimmerson Law Firm, call (702) 388-7171 and tell them SinBin.vegas sent you.**

Carp: Well, Well, Look Who’s In First Place

**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.**

As is my morning habit, I check the NHL standings online at NHL.com to see who’s doing what.

Saturday, I clicked on to the “standings” tab, then clicked on to the “division” tab and lo and behold, the Golden Knights were tied for first place in the Pacific Division.

The Knights, Edmonton and Arizona all have 44 points. The Coyotes have a game in hand on the Knights and two on the Oilers and the Knights and Arizona meet at T-Mobile Arena next Saturday. Both teams will be in action on the road Sunday, the Knights at San Jose, the ‘Yotes in Detroit. The likelihood is nothing will change other than both teams will have picked up two points and remain tied at the top.

So how did Vegas get to this lofty spot?

There are several factors involved. Let’s look at them:

The defensive system change

Make no mistake about it. The move a few weeks ago to go from playing man-to-man to zone coverage by the team’s blue line corps has resulted in much better play, both individually and as a group.

Where before the Knights’ D would find themselves chasing opponents all over the ice in their own end and leaving the front of the net exposed, now they let the play come to them. They’re doing a much better job of keeping the front of the net clear to allow the goaltender to see the puck and that’s huge.

They’re also not backing up in their own end and allowing opponents to get Grade-A scoring chances. They’re winning more one-on-one battles and with the forwards doing a better job of coming back and supporting them, the Knights are transitioning out of their own end much better.

Individually, the change has had a profound impact. Deryk Engelland was struggling earlier in the year and even I thought it would be smart to sit him to save him for later in the season. But he has adjusted nicely and now, you can’t get him out of the lineup.

Engelland is skating much better, probably because he’s exerting less energy chasing opponents all over the ice. He’s being more assertive offensively. He has been getting pucks to the net with his wrist shot, something in his repertoire which is underrated, and that’s creating rebound chances for the forwards.

And he’s back to having a little bite to his game. He has been more physical and more ornery, kind of like the Engelland I remember back in his ECHL days with the Wranglers.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Brayden McNabb was also struggling early on, probably in part to not having his regular partner on the ice with him as Nate Schmidt was out with a knee injury. But Schmidt has been back for a while and the duo are in sync once again. Like Engelland, McNabb has benefitted from the system and he has been back to his steady and reliable self.

Nic Hague is starting to figure things out at the NHL level and I like the way he uses his long reach effectively and handles the puck in his own end. He’s making better decisions with the puck and while he still gets caught out of position occasionally, he seems to be working well with Shea Theodore.

The other Nick — Holden — had sat for a while. But since Gerard Gallant recently put him back in the lineup, he has done a solid job. Overall, the D corps has had a renaissance the last several weeks as they’ve figured out how to perform within the tweaks to the system.

Yes, they’ll turn the puck over from time to time, make a bad pinch or simply get beat by a good play by the other side. Overall, though, the defense has played markedly better of late.

The Stephenson trade

As I wrote last week, the acquisition of Chandler Stephenson is looking like a winner for George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon.

Not only is Stephenson fitting in, he’s contributing offensively with three goals and five points since he joined the team on Dec. 2. He’s already exceeded his offensive output with Washington this season prior to the trade (three points).

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