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Staying Positive About The Golden Knights 2020-21 Season

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The day after Thanksgiving is usually reserved for sleeping in, leftovers, unnecessary spending, and the annual NHL Thanksgiving Showdown. This year unfortunately, basketball and football will have to fill your lazy-day sports void. But don’t get down, your gut will bounce back into shape next week and there’s a hint of positivity from the hockey world.

I have no doubt we’re going to have a season. –NHL Executive to Bruce Garioch, Ottawa Citizen

A January start date is very unlikely, but the league nor its players are giving up on a faceoff a month later. And it’s not just fans waiting for the other shoe to drop.

In Garioch’s latest article, the Ottawa scribe wrote about the silence around the league, especially after last week’s COVID breakout surrounding the Golden Knights and other organizations. Normally, things would be heating up. Early season deals are made, coaches are fired, and fanbases are fully engaged. It’s time to forget what could’ve/should’ve been and deal with reality.

It’s got to make sense… If we’re able to play it’s going to be more about player supply and player development this year than anything else. Without fans in the buildings, it’s certainly not going to be about any meaningful revenue. So yes, we’re going to want to know what the NHL is doing before we finalize what our plan is going to be. -Scott Howson, AHL CEO & President

Everyone around the sport understands the NHL needs to act first before minor leagues can make their decision. A lost season would impact a lot of people, including the players. They lose out on salary, statistics, milestones, but most importantly, a year from their careers. Older guys won’t get that season back. A layoff of a year or more allows extra time for prospects to develop, mature, and steal jobs. In other words, they do not want to skip a season.

It’s understandable why the owners are hesitant to start a season without a packed house of screaming fans. They’re losing money by the day, but owners also understand that a cancelled season could damage them more.

According to several sources, a few owners have suggested to Bettman that the league might be better off financially if it shuts down next season, since playing in empty arenas could be crippling to the bottom line. The NHL is still very much a gate-driven league in comparison to a league like the NFL, which draws most of its revenue from media rights. Bettman responded that the NHL can’t lose a season because it’s too damaging in the long term, as the league has learned before in lockout seasons. –Report by Emily Kaplan & Greg Wyshynski, ESPN

Each side will need to come to an agreement, take their financial lumps, and create some type of a shortened regular season. If it’s a February target, the league will need to decide how the 2020-21 season will play out relatively soon.

The landscape is — there’s a lot of unknowns associated with where we’re going in the immediate future…Hopefully things, with all the positive news associated with vaccines and a hopeful climate that could potentially exist that we get back on track. But we have some ground to cover. -Don Sweeney, Bruins GM to Associated Press

Everything we hear or read from around the league tends to be positive, giving fans reasons to believe that their favorite players will suit up and eventually play a 2020-21 season.

What starts with me is: Let’s get the season started… I’m up for however it looks. Whatever the league and the PA think is the best way to get us back playing, whether it’s with fans, some fans, no fans, TV being (more) relevant, if you will. Whatever it takes to get this season going and get it in place. -David Poile, Predators GM to Associated Press

Normally, when a season doesn’t begin on time it’s due to some bitter work stoppage. Players, GMs, and owners are on opposite sides with little motivation to give in, but this is a unique situation. The comments from various league general managers give a sense that collectively the NHL is placing its product and their fans first.

The league and the players discussed this week and there is something on the table that if we can start on time this is what it’s going to be. It’s going to be a 60 game season, in your own arenas, MLB style schedule like back-to-backs in your own building, and an all-Canadian division. –Elliotte Friedman, Sportsnet

It may not seem like it but there is real anticipation around the league. Certain GMs are being vocal now, spreading the word to fans and to the players. Since the players union and league office are ghosting each other a bit, it’s good that Poile, Sweeney, and others are giving us hope with their optimism. I think they speak for most NHL managers out there, and they help represent one side of the coin. Hopefully, things can quickly develop from there.

As fans, positive thinking is all we can do at this point, and pound down another turkey sandwich.

Golden Knights Prospects Highlighted in Sports Illustrated Top 100 Collegiate Players

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Hockey is officially underway. It might not be the Golden Knights but the NCAA is doing their job to help fill the void until the big boys return to play.

https://twitter.com/umichhockey/status/1328153574786949120?s=12

In celebration of the start of the 2020-21 college hockey season, Sports Illustrated profiled the top 100 NCAA players to watch. The Golden Knights were represented by five of their own prospects in SI’s list.

At #24 was Vegas’ newest 1st round prospect Brendan Brisson (Michigan), 2018 draft pick Brandon Kruse (Bowling Green) was listed at #25, and another 2018 pick Peter Diliberatore (Quinnipiac) ranked #31. Defensive prospect Layton Ahac (Ohio State) came in at #43, and lastly, goaltender Isiah Saville (Nebraska-Omaha) was slotted in at #54 by Sports Illustrated.

For some of the Golden Knights prospects, this is a big NCAA season. Junior Peter Diliberatore has his eyes on capturing Quinnipiac‘s second school title, while Layton Ahac and Brendan Brisson chase a Frozen Four title for their Big Ten schools. All three universities are ranked in the nation’s top 15 teams.

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Behind The Scenes Look At Golden Knights and Stars Series From “We’re Not Going Home”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Playoff “Photographer” @BadSportsArt)

It’s always interesting to get a behind the scenes look at an NHL playoff series, especially from this year’s playoff bubble. Although the Golden Knights last played 60 days ago, this week we got some visual details from their series with the Dallas Stars.

The Stars released an “all-access journey” through their 2020 postseason run, and spent time focusing on the Western Conference Finals (the entire show is embedded below). In “We’re Not Going Home,” Dallas sounded extremely confident heading into their seven-game series with Vegas. The Stars were vocal about the Golden Knights’ easy path to the Conference Final.

They haven’t played a fucking team like us boys. Their first two rounds, it was pretty fucking easy. Send a fucking message early. They played two light teams, they’re in for a rude awakening.-Jamie Benn, Stars captain in “We’re Not Going Home”

Of course, Dallas’ Captain was confident at the time after his team beat Calgary in six, and Colorado in seven. It wasn’t just the players either, Dallas’ coaches felt comfortable with the matchup after watching and studying Vegas’ previous series.

Dallas assistant coach, and former LA Kings head coach, John Stevens questioned if Vegas had been pushed enough by Chicago or Vancouver. Stevens believed if the Stars played physical, and their rugged brand of hockey they would advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.

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Golden Knights Keep Up With 2020 NHL “Oddity”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In a year where strange is normal, the NHL was no exception and did their part to add to the madness. Unusual statistical occurrences happened over the 2019-20 season, and the Golden Knights were one of those teams in on the action.

There were 125 multi-goal comeback wins, the most in NHL history through 1,082 games (the amount of games played this season instead of 1,271). This is my favourite stat here today because I came across some commentary this season about “hockey today” being less entertaining (less physical, too fast to follow, copycat styles), yet the game itself gave us great drama. The most multi-goal comeback wins EVER. When your team is down in today’s NHL, they aren’t necessarily out.-Justin Bourne, Sportsnet

It really is a remarkable statistic. Just over 1,000 games played and 125 instances where a team comes back to win from a two-plus goal deficit. Early multiple-goal leads in this league won’t always ensure a victory. I guess that’s why we’re constantly told by coaches and players the need to “play the full 60.” Damn, I miss hockey cliché speak.

To add to the oddity, the Golden Knights achieved the feat twice in the regular season, both against the same team.

VGK Comeback Wins Trailing By 2 Goals

1/4 vs. STL: VGK wins 5-4 in OT/Trailed 3-0 in 1st Period
2/13 vs. STL: VGK wins 6-5 in OT/Trailed 4-2 in 2nd Period

Then, in the playoffs, Vegas did it again to St. Louis!

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Alex Tuch Tells Spittin Chiclets How He Improved His Speed

One of Alex Tuch’s most noticeable skills is his speed. Arguably one Vegas’ fastest players, Tuch revealed that he wasn’t always quick on his skates. The 24-year-old forward had to develop a more effective way to use his stride to gain advantages on ice.

I wasn’t that fast in Minnesota. I worked with a guy out of Rochester, Francois Methot. We broke down my stride completely. Tore it down, everything was different. If you want to go technical, it was the crossover or the lateral crossover. –Alex Tuch on Spittin Chiclets Podcast

Learning how to improve any element to an NHL players game isn’t shocking, but training to skate faster is something that most players can’t successfully achieve. Tuch was built with high-level talent but clearly felt the need to work on his wheels to secure a spot on an NHL club. Which he’s cemented in Vegas.

I would call them quick starts, like when you start from a stop position. He would show me the angle that I needed to be at, how straight your legs got so you push. We kind of broke it down, and after you get it down it’s all about repetition so he bagged me for two months straight. I completely retrained… I continue to do stuff like that in the summer so I’m trying to get faster. –Tuch on Spittin Chiclets Podcast

Tuch clearly knew he needed to become a faster, more powerful skater in order to be a successful pro, and he fully dedicated his entire offseason to doing so, using the same methods studs like Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel use in their offseason training.

When you have that full extension you try to get the biggest strides possible. By getting those big strides you’re really going faster. I know McDavid has that speed, McKinnon and those guys but if you want to see a guy who has probably the longest, smoothest stride you like at my former teammate Jack Eichel. His stride is insane. –Tuch on Spittin Chiclets Podcast

Even after his hard work paid off in developing new skating techniques, #89 further worked on his stride. To be one of the fastest players in the league, Tuch realized he has to stay vigilant and use the tools he learned from his skating sessions in Rochester, NY.

I wasn’t only doing it on the ice. Whenever I was doing sprints or any off-ice workouts were all about the full extension, were all about that angle of acceleration. I continue to do stuff like that in the summer, so I’m trying to get faster. –Tuch on Spittin Chiclets Podcast

Golden Knights fans see Tuch’s speed and skating ability on full display every game. His long strides cut through traffic with grace and power finding open space to breakout or cut behind the net. What seems like god-given talent, is actually hard work paying off.

If a 1st round talent like Tuch can improve his skating after being drafted then it’s possible the guys in the local men’s league can as well. So, tell Fitzy and Sully not to give up their ECHL dreams just yet.

OHL Bodycheck Ban Could Signal Fight Ban Coming To NHL

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

During the 2019 playoffs, Ryan Reaves talked about why his game was suitable for the postseason. One thing he didn’t mention was fighting.

I play physical but I know how to stay within the limits of the game and not take penalties and hurt the team. Otherwise, I think I’d be out of the league by now. It’s tough to stay in the lineup, especially in the playoffs if you’re taking a bunch of penalties. Especially, when you’re not a top goal scorer. -Ryan Reaves, 04/19/19

In three seasons with the Golden Knights, Reaves’ fight total has cut in half since his arrival. Overall, fighting in the NHL has dropped significantly. This isn’t new. Player safety and roster management are the biggest reasons behind the decrease. However, it now seems that cutting back on fights may be just the start.

Reports out of Canada are that the OHL is considering banning bodychecks when they return to play. With the continuation of the pandemic, health officials in Ontario determined checking could lead to massive COVID-19 spreading.

It’s highly unlikely the NHL heads down that path any time soon, but they could easily use the pandemic as a way to completely eliminate fighting from the game if they so choose.

While Reaves and the rest of the league drop their gloves less and less, the league continues to reexamine its existence in the sport. With the pandemic looming, and the start of the season nowhere in sight, fighting in hockey may have finally met its match.

2000-01: 0.56 Fights Per Game
2005-06: 0.38 Fights Per Game
2010-11: 0.52 Fights Per Game
2015-16: 0.28 Fights Per Game
2019-20: 0.23 Fights Per Game

Ryan Reaves Fights Per Season
2010-11: 8 NHL, 12 AHL
2011-12: 13
2012-13: 7
2013-14: 10
2014-15: 8
2015-16: 5
2016-17: 6
2017-18: 6
2018-19: 3
2019-20: 3

It’s clear the Golden Knights continue to extend Reaves for other elements to his game. According to Vegas President George McPhee, fighting isn’t necessary in today’s game, but he values a player that skates with a threatening presence.

I think we all enjoy where the game is right now. I don’t care if I ever see another fight again but I like having the threat of a fight in the game to keep people honest… and can sometimes keep the temperature down when you need to keep it down because we’re carrying sticks and it’s a physical game. -George McPhee to Our Line Starts Podcast

The next conversation is how to punish players if they do get into a brawl. It may not look like a fight but sometimes one can break out in other sports. Normally, the players involved are ejected and suspended. That could be a direction the NHL will take. Pandemic or not, fighting was being phased out of the game, but now it’s closer than ever before.

If the NHL believes fighting can lead to infecting other players with coronavirus they’ll cut the chord on dropping the mitts without hesitation. Of course, their main concern is player safety, but with a tight schedule ahead no one can afford cancellations and postponements. With that in mind, the league will find the best measures of protection.

Which means it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise if we’ve seen Reaves’ last fight.

The Golden Knights And The Success Of High Cost Teams

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The St. Louis Blues did it, same with the Washington Capitals, so why can’t the Golden Knights do it? I’m not only talking about winning a Stanley Cup, but doing it with one of the highest payrolls in hockey.

2019-20 Highest NHL Payrolls (per CapFriendly.com)
Arizona: $85.1M ($3.59M LTIR)
Toronto: $95.2M ($13.7M LTIR)
Dallas: $82M ($525K LTIR)
St. Louis: $83.2M ($1.75M LTIR)
Vancouver: $83.9M ($2.42M LTIR)
*** 9. Vegas: $81.8M ($668K LTIR)

LTIR= Long-Term Injured Reserved

The Creator is a rare owner driven to win and willing to spend to the limit, and he’d probably spend over it if he were allowed. That’s why the Golden Knights owner is considered a fan’s owner.

We all know about the cap jam Vegas is in and there’s no doubt they’ll fix it by the next time they play. It’s might’ve cost them a lot, but it’s hard to question their elite-level talent and championship-caliber roster. The Golden Knights are not only a highly rated team but they’re also built to win championships.

Cup Winners (Payroll Rank)
2019-20: Tampa Bay (18th)
2018-19: St. Louis (7th)
2017-18: Washington (3rd)
2016-17: Pittsburgh (6th)
2015-16: Pittsburgh (6th)

With the exception of the reigning Stanley Cup champions, the past handful of winners were in the upper quarter of the league’s salary threshold. When the Capitals beat the Golden Knights in 2018, Washington boasted a $75.3M cap hit, while Vegas was #18 on the list with a $68.7M payroll. Clearly, a difference in cost and expensive talent helped result in a five-game Capitals win. Washington’s high-priced talent paid off and could’ve been a motivating factor towards the Golden Knights direction of signing league stars to big contracts.

This year, all ten of the highest cap teams made the postseason, but I think it’s safe to say we can throw out the 24-team bubble playoff format. Going back to 2015-16, teams in the top 10 have no missed the playoffs often.

Highest Payroll Teams To Miss Playoffs
2015-16: Vancouver (2nd), Toronto (9th)

2016-17: Philadelphia (2nd), Arizona (4th), Detroit (7th)

2017-18: Chicago (2nd), Dallas (7th), Detroit (8th), Vancouver (9th), St. Louis (10th)

2018-19: Detroit (1st), Edmonton (4th), Anaheim (8th)

Although it’s happened over the years, it’s a small percentage of teams (13/50 since 2015) that missed the postseason. Also, many of those teams were mismanaged or at the end of their playoff windows.

Assuming the Golden Knights remain within the top ten highest payrolls next season, fans should confidently expect them to clinch a playoff berth. And possibly go on another deep run. Vegas’ window was open before but after this offseason, it’s wide open right now.

NHL Owners Are Prepared For 48-Game Season

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

While GM’s across the league convened via Zoom, NHL owners continued to stew about lost revenue. Any time money is the main topic, fans should be worried.

They don’t have any idea at this point what the specifics are, other than they’re still hopeful for early January. There are some who are starting to think that’s a stretch for the start of the 2020-21 season. That will be the target Commissioner Bettman continues to be focused on. -Darren Dreger, TSN Vancouver

Speculation from numerous hockey reporters has suggested the NHL is working on either a 60-game or 48-game season. However, it’s a work in progress as the league and owners aren’t necessarily on the same page.

Commissioner Gary Bettman would love to see a 60-game series to maximize revenue and provide as much content to the league’s television partners. The owners on the other hand are extremely worried about generating income, especially if they can’t sell tickets to attending fans.

The owners are worried about the economics. Before the NHL drops puck on 2020-21, I’m pretty sure Commissioner Bettman is going to present ownership with two or three scenarios. Specific again to the dollars. ‘Here’s how much we’re going to lose if we don’t play, at all. Here’s how much we’re going to lose if we play without fans. Here’s how much we’re going to lose if we wait until we can plug a percentage of fans in the building.’.. What we know is, we’re going to have to deal with it in every sense for the foreseeable future.-Dreger, TSN Vancouver

With the operating costs of arenas and practice facilities on top of player salaries, it’s a serious concern for most NHL owners. If they can’t make a buck without fans in their buildings, owners prefer a shorter season to cut back on wasted expenses.

I keep hearing from ownership side that they’re a little more adamant about February 1st. There appears to be two sides of start dates, Jan. 1 and Feb. 1. Maybe by March 15th, we can put six thousand people in your building. The owners will be saying I’d rather have to wait six weeks for that rather than ten weeks. Why don’t we just push back a month. There are enough teams that are thinking that they would like to push back a month.-John Shannon, TSN Vancouver

Beyond agreeing on start date for the 2020-21 season, the league will be under pressure to wrap up and award the Stanley Cup by early to mid-July. In the United States, NBC has exclusive rights to the NHL and the Olympics. The latter is a real money-maker for the network. The NHL has essentially been told that when the Tokyo Olympics begin the league won’t have a network to air their games.

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Pietrangelo Signing Reaction, The Untouchable Reilly Smith, Kicking The Tires On Taylor Hall, Steven Stamkos And The Ripple Effect Of It All

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It was the biggest signing of the offseason, changing the landscape of the NHL. When Alex Pietrangelo signed his seven-year deal with the Golden Knights the league wildly reacted to the deal and its effect on the franchise.

They don’t lack for boldness. The end of the road map for them, like every team is the Cup. Their path seems to be a lot more direct. I don’t know if it’s going to work. They’re dancing on a wire… The Stastny thing I guess opens the door for Cody Glass. If you take Stastny and Schmidt out of the lineup and just put in Pietrangelo, I don’t know how much better they are. I think Pietrangelo is really good, but you’re taking on two pretty important players. I really don’t know what to think of it.-Ray Ferraro, TSN on TSN1050

Another pundit, however, understood the mindset of the Golden Knights front office aggressive nature.

They’re a no nonsense franchise. They’re all about winning. That’s what Mr. Foley their owner is about. They make no bones about it. George McPhee is all about that. Kelly McCrimmon’s about that… They hate San Jose. They don’t dislike San Jose, they hate San Jose. When Pete DeBoer got fired by San Jose, the team they hated the most and probably the coach they hated the most they hired him because they thought he gave them the best chance to win. They’re about winning they don’t worry about all the other stuff, the window dressing. It’s not everybody gets a trophy in this league. They’re a hard edge organization.-Pierre McGuire, NBCSN to TSN1200

By this point Golden Knights fans are aware of the front office’s hard edge, win at all costs mentality. The massive commitment to Pietrangelo proved that, as well as the difficult decisions to trade Nate Schmidt and Paul Stastny.

I heard the deal in Vegas was going to be 7x$8.5M. It came out 7x$8.8M. It’s got the no move protection. I’ve been told it has the protection that Pietrangelo wanted. The buyout protection later in the deal it’s there, in the form of a signing bonus. I heard it was a grind… I do think there were some other teams that wanted to get in on Pietrangelo but I don’t think Vegas was going to let that happen. No matter how grindy the negotiations got, he was their target, he was the guy they wanted. I think Vegas was always Pietrangelo’s first choice.-Elliotte Friedman, 31 Thoughts Podcast

Friedman relayed some of the information he gathered surrounding Pietrangelo and gave detail to why certain players in the organization were irate hearing their names circling around the rumor mill.

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Backloaded Deals Might Be A Trend This Offseason

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

If there’s one thing we’re starting to learn to count on it’s that there will never be a shortage of comments from NHL agent Allan Walsh. While he’s seemingly done discussing his client Marc-Andre Fleury’s future (for now), Walsh explained a way a team like Vegas could entice a high-end free agent by paying them more later than now. It would allow a front office to go out big game hunting, potentially attracting a veteran free agent like Alex Pietrangelo.

I’ve never seen this kind of activity. The only time that compares to what’s happening right now was in 2005 when we were opening free agency after losing a whole season to the lockout… In 2005, teams had the ability to use two compliance buyouts and take money out of the system and that doesn’t exist right now. There’s a lot of teams right now that are bumping up against the top of the upper limit and still have a number of their own players to sign. Let alone look at the free agent market and see who they can be in on to bring on board and into their city. -Allan Walsh, NHL agent

The Golden Knights are one of those teams up against the cap but unlike other clubs, it won’t stop them from adding players they desire. Vegas is desperately trying to move certain players to free up cap space but the organization can get creative when talking about real salaries as their owner is never afraid to spend to make his team better, something many other owners are not.

While the hunt can’t begin until officially until tomorrow, Vegas has probably been sniffing out their competition. Sources have told SinBin.vegas that the Golden Knights intend on making a real effort to sign Pietrangelo. With the uncertainty of the cap, their internal budget, and the players’ demands, Walsh explained how a club like Vegas can entice an attractive UFA to ditch their old club for Sin City.

There’s an escrow cap this coming season in 2020-21 of twenty percent. There’s a ten percent deferral that will be deferred until three, four and five years from the coming season. If you can defer money, and by that I mean put the money into the outer three years of let’s say a six-year deal, the escrow cap in those years is six percent. That means you will get your negotiated face value of the contract up to six percent that you could lose to escrow. That’s a huge difference. -Walsh

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