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Golden Knights And Fort Wayne Komets Renew ECHL Partnership

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Vegas Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee announced the club has renewed its affiliation agreement with the ECHL’s Fort Wayne Komets. The Komets became the official ECHL affiliate of the Vegas Golden Knights in 2018 and are based in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The organization was established as a hockey club in 1952 and open their 68th season on Saturday, Oct. 12. Under the terms of the affiliation arrangements, the Golden Knights will be able to transfer players to and from Fort Wayne during the 2019-20 season.

The Komets finished the 2018-19 season with a 36-26-4-6 overall record, the sixth straight season with at least 36 wins. The team finished third in the ECHL’s Central Division standings with 82 points and qualified for the Kelly Cup playoffs. In the playoffs, the Komets fell to the Toledo Walleye in the semifinals, 4-2.

I’m sure you remember seeing this beautiful save by former Komet and Golden Knights prospect Zach Fucale on your social media timeline.

https://twitter.com/ECHL/status/1151572275918974977?s=20

Since the franchise joined the ECHL in 2012 the Komets are the only team to advance to the second round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs each of the last six seasons and look to qualify for the seventh time in the 2019-20 season.

Do NHL Players Resent Analytics?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Newly signed Canadien Ben Chiarot was forced to defend himself this offseason, as some analysts in Montreal weren’t impressed by the acquisition. Enhanced analytics have exposed some of the limitations to Chiarot’s game. Some expressed their opinions and it didn’t sit well with the former Winnipeg Jet.

“A lot of those analytics guys sometimes I wonder if they played a game of hockey. There’s more to it than what the analytics show with a lot of players. It doesn’t always give you the full picture. That’s something new that’s kind of come up over the last couple of years is the whole analytics. And then you get all of these new hockey experts that come up when they get all of these numbers. That’s just one part of the game and one to evaluate a player.”-Ben Chiarot, Canadiens Defenseman, TSN Montreal

Colleague and friend of the site, Sheng Peng from Fear of the Fin, views the game differently than most. He’s heavily influenced by deep statistics that predict or highlight a player’s ability to create, or limit time and space. Peng never played the game but understands it well, sometimes that isn’t enough. He’s had a few confrontations with coaches and players when asking analytically focused questions. Defensive pushback can make it difficult to get the responses Peng would like.

“The challenge is figuring out which players are open to the subject. There are players who are completely resistant, players that need it framed the right way, and players who are open.”-Sheng Peng, Fear of the Fin

Former three-time Stanley Cup winner Aaron Ward is involved with the next generation of NHL analysis, advanced player tracking. Ward genuinely believes player tracking will accurately evaluate strengths and weaknesses.

“Active players get lost in what the analytics say about them. You’re trying to dissect certain circumstances and understand how they react in that situation. It’s based on tendencies. As the science evolves… you’ll find new ways to break down players that maybe a benefit or a relevance for players in that role.”-Aaron Ward, TSN 690 Montreal

As much as Ward sees future improvement with chip tracking, he understands why players are sensitive to negative statistics of any kind. It’s tough for a professional athlete to recognize their inabilities.

“I think what happens is a player will come out and get an idea of how they played. When the numbers don’t fit it, and they don’t match the way you play, they immediately dismiss it.”-Aaron Ward

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Why Did Toronto Trade Garret Sparks to Vegas?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

While there’s no question who’s the number one goaltender in Las Vegas, talking heads in Eastern Canada are busy speculating if goalie Garret Sparks can someday be the numero uno on an NHL team.

“It’s very possible. Based on what I saw last year, I don’t think he has that potential. This is a guy who’s had great success in the minor league. He came into a very pressured situation in Toronto… he was thrown into a role, maybe a role he wasn’t ready for.”-Carlo Colaiacovo, Former NHL’er and analyst on TSN 690 Montreal

Sparks was acquired earlier this month via trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs, in exchange for a fourth round pick and David Clarkson’s dead money.

On surface it looked like a minor move to create some financial wiggle room for each team. What was lost in the deal was the expectations Vegas may or may not have for Sparks. We know George McPhee doesn’t like leaving a swap meet without a bargain, maybe the backup from Toronto was more than an impulse buy.

“With Dubas being a Sparks guy, because he had him in the minors. He groomed him. You never thought it would be a possibility but clearly he was a guy that they were willing to part with.”-Colaiacovo

For the past two seasons, when healthy Malcolm Subban has been Marc-Andre Fleury’s backup. Subban is 25-years-old and has never started more than 20 games in a season. Sparks is a little older and has less experience but let’s face it, he was brought in to compete for Fleury’s relief role. Like he did last year in Toronto. After a hot start to the season the former Maple Leaf created buzz around the fan base.

Here’s an excerpt from an article written last week by SportsNet’s Mike Johnston:

Sparks made 20 appearances this past season. During his first 10 outings the Elmhurst, Ill., native went an impressive 6-2-1 despite posting a less-than-stellar .905 save percentage.

In early January, though, he took a puck off his head at practice that resulted in a concussion and his season went downhill from there.

“I felt I was finally starting to build some momentum and get my chance,” Sparks said. “I just felt like I got cut down, and it’s hard to regrow after you get your progress chopped off like that.”

His final 10 appearances were rough as he went 2-7-0 with a .899 save percentage and eventually wore out his welcome.-Sportsnet.com

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Nikita Gusev Traded To The New Jersey Devils For Future Draft Picks

Vegas Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee announced today, July 29, that the Golden Knights have acquired a third round pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft and a second round pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for forward Nikita Gusev.

We did our best to accommodate Nikita and his salary request but were unable to do so. He is a good person, a good player and we wish him well in New Jersey -George McPhee

When you have a roster comprised of players who are deserving of a certain salary range you are not always able to make room for everyone. This is the reality of having a good team in the salary cap world. After this trade, we now own nine picks in the first three rounds of the next two drafts. These picks will help boost our organizational depth and add to our pool of prospects. Although we were not able to make this work I am really happy with where we are at with our roster. -McPhee

Gusev was signed by the Golden Knights to a one-year, entry level contract on April 14, 2019. The team acquired Gusev’s rights during the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft from the Tampa Bay Lightning. He was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the seventh round (202nd overall) in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

How Important Were Faceoffs To The 2018-19 Golden Knights?

The importance of winning the faceoff battle has been a three-year reoccurring argument here at SinBin.vegas. In my opinion, it’s all about possession. When a center wins a draw his team has immediate control and should safely get the puck out of their zone. Or create an offensive push towards the opponent’s direction. Whoever wins the possession battle, should dictate the game.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Faceoffs are probably one of the most underrated stats in this league. If you can start off with the puck, your much better off. And you’ll have better scoring chances. – Nate Schmidt

On the other side of the discussion is Europa Ken.

He’s not concerned with a lost draw if Vegas’ forecheck, shooting percentage, and rebound control are positively effective. For the most I agree, but remember a forechecking attack begins with the puck, and there’s a good chance it was possessed by a winning faceoff.

2018-19 Golden Knights Faceoff Percentage Breakdown

  • Record when winning 51% or more Faceoffs: (20-11-2)
  • Record when losing 51% or more Faceoffs: (14-16-3)
  • Record when Faceoff % is 50/50: (9-5-2)

While it’s clear the Golden Knights have a better record when they win more faceoffs, the formula isn’t as simple as you’d think. At first glance the numbers support my argument, but looking deeper, the higher the FO% didn’t guarantee a Vegas victory. In five separate games, Golden Knights’ centers won 60% or more from the dot. Their record was (1-4). Even furthering the madness, Vegas was (2-2) in games they lost more than 60% of draws.

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Will Deryk Engelland’s Role Be Reduced in 2019-2020?

Now that the wait is over and fan favorite Deryk Engelland signed his new contract to stay in Las Vegas, it’s time to discuss his future impact. First off, let’s note that Engelland will receive less money in 2019-2020 but will have a chance to make up for it.

At 37-years-old you’d assume his overall presence would begin to drop off. After all, his time on ice dwindled from 20:17 ATOI in 2017-18, to 19:53 ATOI in 2018-19. I’m being sarcastic, that’s not much of a difference. Same can be said for his penalty kill minutes, it’s virtually equal to VGK’s first season and I could argue he was as good if not better in 2018-19.

Just take a look at Engelland’s 2019 Postseason penalty killing performance.

Game 1: 4:26 PK Minutes (Game Leader), 1 Goal/5 San Jose Power Plays

Game 2: 9:19 PK Minutes (Game Leader), 1 Goal/8 San Jose Power Plays

Game 3: 4:16 PK Minutes (Team Leader), 1 Goal/3 Power Plays

Game 4: 4:31 PK Minutes, 0 Goals/4 San Jose Power Plays

Game 5: 3:15 PK Minutes (Game Leader), 1 Goal/3 San Jose Power Plays

Game 6: 2:45 PK Minutes, 0 Goals/2 San Jose Power Plays

Game 7: 7:56 PK Minutes (Game Leader), *4 Goals/9 San Jose Power Plays

Total: 36:28 PK Minutes, 5 Goals/34 Power Plays, 0.13 San Jose PPG when Engelland was on the ice.

*You all know why there’s an asterisk

So just on defensive special teams alone, Engelland’s return is a positive one. However, the issue could be on even-strength. How will the Golden Knights coaching staff deploy the elder statesmen this season? Is it possible Jon Merrill, Nick Holden(if still on the roster), or Rookie d-men see more time on 5v5 than in 2018-19. That direction would balance Engelland’s minutes under 18-19 minutes a game. Which could be more beneficial for the team.

A big part of my game is killing penalties-Deryk Engelland

Another element to Engelland’s 2019-2020 usage will be who he is paired up with. Over the past two seasons, it’s been a consistent dose of Engelland and Shea Theodore. I’d assume with the uncertainty of the younger defenseman, that pairing would remain the same to start training camp and the season. That doesn’t mean it will stay that way, and frankly I don’t think it will. With the possibility of a rookie in the lineup nightly, Vegas may want to break in the young blueliner with an experienced, reliable defenseman like Engelland. It worked for Theodore.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In a perfect world, Engelland would see less even-strength minutes and continue to be a rock on the penalty kill. Keep in mind the Golden Knights paid him less money to stay which could be a sign the organization sees Engelland playing a lesser role this season. Or it’s just another shrewd business move by the front office.

Either way, subtracting 5v5 minutes means fresher legs on the PK. It’s an easy, obvious approach to distribute minutes and get the most out of the 37-year-old in 2019-2020. It’s almost too obvious if a half-wit like me can figure it out. Clearly he’s valued and trusted on the ice by the coaching staff which would lead you to believe they expect the same #5 out there. And how can you fault them after two successful seasons with Vegas?

Most Offer Sheets Get Matched, Now What?

GM George McPhee isn’t much of an offer sheet guy.

I’ve never signed an offer sheet.-George McPhee

And never has been.

In McPhee’s more than 20 years as a GM he’s neither handed out nor had to match an offer sheet.

The Golden Knights front office lead spoke earlier in the month about the ineffectiveness of adding players through the offer sheet process. The compensation (both to the player and to his former team) is entirely too much for a team to take the risk. In McPhee’s mind, it’s a meaningless ploy that hasn’t made much of an impact in free agency.

I don’t know what will transpire going forward, but historically they’re matched. Teams find a way to match, and will find other ways to address things in the organization if you’re in a pinch. -McPhee

After a failed offer sheet by the Montreal Canadiens this offseason some are calling to rip up offer sheets altogether.

I don’t think we’re going to get any more offer sheets. The Montreal example is an important one to remember. The Montreal offer sheet wasn’t even a realistic offer sheet… it didn’t go the full amount it could’ve gone. It was an easy one for the Carolina Hurricanes to match. –Michael Traikos on TSN Ottawa 1200

If the offer sheet process ends in a team matching the offer 99% of the time then it’s really time to amend or cut the procedure. Only thirteen offer sheets have been accepted in NHL history and the last time a team didn’t match was twelve years ago. Edmonton unwisely gave Anaheim a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round draft picks for Dustin Penner.

More offer sheets would add a little spice to the NHL. Having players switching teams this early would be interesting but we’re not going to see it if you have to give up so many picks. -Traikos on TSN Ottawa 1200

In fact, not only do offer sheets rarely get accepted but they are rarely offered. Prior to Montreal’s to Sebastian Aho, the last time a player was given an offer sheet was in 2013. And, of course, it was matched.

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National Analysts Give Mixed Reviews on the Golden Knights Offseason

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

ESPN, Sportsnet, and NBC Sports graded all 31 NHL team’s offseason thus far, and unsurprisingly, many weren’t impressed with what George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon have been up to.

On NBCSports.com, the Golden Knights were ranked #22 on their power rankings, and two names were the reason for the low mark.

Vegas Golden Knights. They are going to miss Colin Miller, and might really miss out on Nikita Gusev if they move him before they even realize what they had. –Adam Gretz, NBCSports

Greg Wyshynski of ESPN took a much more global approach while looking at Vegas’ offseason. It really doesn’t matter who’ve they’ve lost, or added, if the Golden Knights’ stars play at an elite level, they’ll be a Cup contending team.

Vegas Golden Knights: If Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny and Mark Stone play like they did in the playoffs, the Golden Knights will have a new top line. It makes sense, as the trio of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith has been successful because the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. … Where does Alex Tuch fit in? He was fourth on the team in scoring last season (and could have been first with a full 82 games), but comes into this season penciled in outside the top-six. –Greg Wyshynski, ESPN

SportsNet’s Luke Fox was extremely high on VGK’s offseason so far, especially how they were able to negotiate multiple team-friendly deals.

George McPhee continues to impress. Securing a 26-year-old William Karlsson — a top-two centre whose defensive attributes don’t get enough credit — through his prime at under $6 million per season should look like a steal a couple of years from now. The trading of Colin Miller was a necessary cap casualty, and getting two years of 28-year-old playmaker Brandon Pirri (12 goals in 31 games last season) for a hair over the league minimum was my favourite bargain buy on Canada Day. –Luke Fox, SportsNet

For the most part, analysts have been kind to the Golden Knights and their offseason decisions. The main reason for that is the core of the team is intact and under contract. Colin Miller has been brought up by several outlets as a big-time loss, I think most of us would disagree.

However, as far as we’re concerned here at SinBin.vegas, the Golden Knights offseason gets a grade of incomplete. Their offseason will be judged on one move and one move alone.

Golden Knights Organization Offer World Class Training to Prospects

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

One heavy point of emphasis for Golden Knights prospects at Development Camp was the importance of their strength and conditioning regimens.

Cody Glass spoke with us about his strict diet that was designed by the Golden Knights organization. At first, he had trouble eating his nutritional menu but soon realized it was for his own good.

It’s always been a struggle for me to put on weight. Gary Roberts has been helping me along the way. I went to him last year and he’s just given me tips on how to be a better player and a better professional. It all starts with eating healthy. It sucks at first but when you get used to it, it’s a lot better and it’ll help down the road. -Cody Glass

The Gary Roberts he’s talking about is a former NHL player turned into a well-known strength and conditioning guru. He’s helped proven NHL’ers like Connor McDavid and Mark Schiefele get faster and stronger. Over the past few years, the Golden Knights have tapped Roberts’ resources to help develop their pipeline.

Focusing on working on developing my legs. Adding muscle mass while maintaining my speed. I do a lot of cardio and muscle mass type workouts. I’m always talking to Wil Nichol and Gary Roberts about stuff that can help my game. They’ll talk to me throughout the year and give their input on what I should add to my workouts and regiment to help get to that next level. -Brandon Kruse

Jack Dugan will begin his sophomore year at Providence College this fall, but both GM Kelly McCrimmon and assistant coach Mike Kelly agreed he looked like a grown man, not a college student. That’s because Dugan has followed the guidance of the Golden Knights training staff since his draft date.

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3rd Line Success Comes Down To Tuch

Will they sign him? Will they trade him? What in the world is going to happen with Nikita Gusev?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

That’s just about the only thing anyone wants to talk about regarding the Golden Knights. However, the key to the 3rd line isn’t Nikita Gusev, it’s actually Alex Tuch.

Tuch found himself on the 2nd line for a majority of the year last year, but in the first year, he played mostly on the 3rd line with Cody Eakin. That appears to be where he’ll end up again, and whether it’s with Gusev, Brandon Pirri, or someone else, Tuch’s offense should be enough to make that a solid line.

Alex Tuch – 2017-18
78 Games Played
37 Points (15 goals, 22 assists)
Record w/ Tuch in lineup: 48-23-7
Record when Tuch scores a goal: 12-2-0
Record when Tuch registers a point: 23-7-0
29 Points (13 goals, 16 assists) in 48 VGK wins
8 Points, -12 in 23 VGK losses
4 Game-Winning Goals

Alex Tuch – 2018-19
74 Games Played
52 Points (20 goals, 32 assists)
Record w/ Tuch in lineup: 39-28-7
Record when Tuch scores a goal: 14-5-0
Record when Tuch registers a point: 26-10-2
38 Points (13 goals, 16 assists) in 39 VGK wins
12 Points, -14 in 28 VGK losses
6 Game-Winning Goals

Over his two seasons with Vegas, the 23-year-old has averaged .59 points per game, which jumped significantly to .70 points per game in 2018-19. There’s no reason to believe it won’t increase again. If Tuch can climb close to a point per game than the third line won’t be an issue in 2019-2020 no matter who he plays with.

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