**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2021 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**
These days, we tend to mock decisions, using the phrase, “How’s that working out?”
So feel free to ask about Mark Stone’s captaincy of the Golden Knights. How’s that working out?
Pretty damn good I’d say.
When the Knights traded for him a couple years ago, I said in this space that he should be the team’s first captain. Not right away, but eventually. Some of you questioned that idea, which of course was your right. And a few of you even made some valid points.
But here we are, more than halfway through the 2021 season and Stone is leading, both in the dressing room and on the ice. He’s putting up the kind of numbers that gets you votes for the Hart Trophy, which goes to the NHL’s Most Valuable Player.
Peter DeBoer is stumping for him. Others around the league are saying his name too. Stone? He’s too busy scoring goals and making plays in his own end to deny the opposition from scoring to worry about it.
With March wrapping up, Stone has had an amazing month. He has 8 goals, 14 assists, five of which came in one game against Minnesota on March 1 which helped him earn NHL First Star honors on March 8. His 22 points in March are the most by a player in a single month in the brief history of the Golden Knights and there are still two more games left — Monday and Wednesday vs. the Kings.
He also has had one fight, a +6 rating, and his team is still in first place in the West Division with 47 points, one more than Colorado after Saturday’s 3-2 OT win over the Avalanche. He remains a constant presence in the lineup, having missed only one game this season. He leads the NHL in game-winning goals with seven so he has shown a knack for delivering in the clutch.
Normally, we’d be talking about Stone for the Selke Award, which goes to the NHL’s top defensive forward. He should definitely be in the discussion for that. Maybe he actually wins it. But he absolutely should be in the Hart conversation, though my guess is he’ll likely come up short when the votes are counted.
Still, a lot of hockey remains to be played so let’s see how Stone’s play holds up over the second half of the season. The Knights have 24 games left and barring any further interruption, those 24 contests will be played over a 41-day span. Not a lot of time to rest and recover.
But Stone has kept himself in great shape and he was ready when the bell rang in January. He appears to have embraced the responsibility that comes with wearing the ‘C’ and while we’re not in the room and privy to what goes on and what’s said, I’m pretty confident that Stone’s presence is felt and that if he feels a need to say something, he does so.
He has not shirked his media responsibility, even though with the locker room closed, we don’t have the access to him we normally would. But he’s a fairly regular participant on the team’s Zoom media calls and has been very honest and open when we get him.
My favorite thing about watching Stone isn’t his exuberance when he scores or when the team wins. It’s watching his high hockey I.Q. at work every shift.
We’ve all talked about how uncanny it is to see that long stick of his get in the way of a pass or a shot and help short-circuit the opposition’s attack. I try to watch him without the puck, how he anticipates and reads the play and is always a step ahead by being in the right place at the right time to make his next move, like a chess grandmaster.
He was obviously paying attention growing up in Winnipeg, listening to his coaches, watching games on Hockey Night In Canada, picking up things that the good players did, and applying them to his own game.
Of course, he was blessed with some God-given talent. But his hard work is why he’s a highly productive NHL player. And the respect he has received, both in Ottawa, where he was wearing an ‘A,’ and now in Vegas where he has the ‘C’ justifies management’s decision to make him the franchise’s first-ever captain. He has not only earned that right, he has performed admirably while doing so.
**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.**