**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.**
At some point, the hockey world will return to normal. When that point will be, nobody can say with any certainty as the coronavirus pandemic maintains its grip on the world.
But that time is coming, and when it does, it means charting a course for the future. We’re talking entry draft. We’re talking free agency. We’re talking salary cap. We’re talking scouting plans for 2020-21, both pro and amateur.
Right now, everything is at a standstill. There’s no junior hockey being played. There’s no minor league hockey. There’s no college hockey. There’s no KHL, and most of the other European professional leagues have either finished or canceled the remainder of their seasons.
The Golden Knights are no different from the other 30 NHL teams. They can’t travel which is fine because there’s nothing to travel to. They are going to have to rely on the work their hockey ops and scouting staffs have been doing since last August.
The good news? They have more time to analyze the information they have gleaned. There’s no rush to make a hard decision on a player. The majority of their work is already completed.
The NHL has not decided whether to delay the draft, which is currently scheduled for June 26-27 in Montreal. In all likelihood, the draft will get pushed back. How long? Again, that remains to be seen.
But George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon have an opportunity to use the data at their disposal to really hone in on a particular player and see what the pros and cons are. Scouts can go through their reports, rewatch video of a player and either confirm their analysis or perhaps alter a couple of things.
McCrimmon is up at his cottage in Manitoba and he remains in communication with McPhee along with his hockey staff.
The bottom line is the Golden Knights should be better prepared for the 2020 draft than they were for the first three they participated in. McCrimmon said Saturday the work continues despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
The amateur scouting staff is an obvious area where we’d be the most impacted. We’d normally be getting our final readings on most players in competitive settings. But I think we’ll prepare very well. Our guys have been all over the world doing their work and we’re prepared. It’s hard to speculate. First, the world has to get healthy. We don’t know how the dates will fall in line. -McCrimmon
The hockey ops and scouting departments are loaded with really smart people. Misha Donskov is a whiz when it comes to analytics. Tom Poraszka and Andrew Lugerner are great capologists. Vaughn Karpan has been terrific as the team’s director of player personnel and department heads Bob Lowes, Wil Nichol, Scott Luce, and Vojtech Kucera and the scouts have followed the directive of McPhee in scouring the globe for players who fit the organization’s philosophy.
Of course, every team will say they have a great hockey staff. So what makes Vegas’ unique? There has been stability for the most part. Most of the scouts have been with the organization from the first season. All of the department heads were in place the first two months of the franchise’s existence.
They also have developed a chemistry within them. The scouts know how to write their reports a certain way as outlined by McPhee and McCrimmon early on. There’s no waste of energy and resources in having to redo what has already been done. So working efficiently because of their familiarity with each other is big.
These may be little things, but McCrimmon will tell you it’s no different than when a player makes a smart play on the ice which may go unnoticed but ultimately helps you win a game.
We have a great staff. They’re tremendous, hard-working people and the continuity within certainly helps. I don’t know if it gives us an edge over the other teams but we certainly are pleased with the quality of the people we have working for us and the job they have done and continue to do. -McCrimmon
Obviously, there are challenges during these tough times. Hockey is not considered an essential enterprise by Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak so it means being creative in terms of meeting. Travel has been virtually shut down. People are being told to stay in their homes and not gather in groups. I’m guessing most VGK employees are not coming in to work at City National Arena right now. McCrimmon is operating from north of the border. The players and coaches are self-quarantined. McCrimmon said no one has needed to be tested for the coronavirus at this point.
Fortunately, technology has long been in place to have everyone in one place at the same time. As long as there’s a laptop and a wifi signal, the Knights can hold their meetings via Skype or some other platform and conduct their business in an efficient manner.
Last week we did a lot of work with our pro and amateur scouting staffs. We understand where we sit in the big picture. -McCrimmon
While it’s important to look to the future, there’s also the present to focus on. Are the Knights going to sign Providence’s Jack Dugan soon? Are there other NCAA free agents they have been pursuing and are looking to sign after they landed UMass defenseman Jake McLaughlin the other day? Are there European free agents to consider bringing on board?
No urgency there. We’ve had good lines of communication with Jack. At the appropriate time, we will look to do something. -McCrimmon
And when the Knights finally finish this season, they’ll have their own free agents to deal with. Nobody knows what the salary cap will be for 2021. The projections of $88 million don’t seem realistic given the lost revenue from the NHL hitting the pause button on its season last week. So it’s hard to plan what to do with unrestricted free agents Robin Lehner, Tomas Nosek, Ryan Reaves, Jon Merrill, and Deryk Engelland along with RFA’s Chandler Stephenson, Nick Cousins, and Nic Roy.
Obviously, Lehner will be front and center when it comes time to make decisions on UFAs and RFAs. But as is the case with everything else, the Knights will have bought some more time to contemplate what to do since they could still be playing on July 1 when free agency normally commences.
And right now, time is everyone’s most precious commodity.
**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.**