**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.**
In their brief existence, the Golden Knights have won four individual NHL awards — all in 2018: William Karlsson took the Lady Byng, Deryk Engelland the Mark Messier Leadership Award, Gerard Gallant the Jack Adams, and George McPhee the General Manager of Year.
Will Mark Stone’s name be added to the list this summer?
The Captain is worthy of the Frank J. Selke Trophy, which goes to the top defensive forward, and he should be in the conversation for the Hart Trophy which goes to the league’s MVP.
The latter might be more problematic, given Edmonton’s Connor McDavid likely has a lock on that. The Hart is supposed to be for “most valuable to his team” and it’s hard to argue against McDavid. But Stone has certainly been Vegas’ MVP this season. Yes, Max Pacioretty has more goals. Yes, Marc-Andre Fleury has been sensational in net. But when you look at the totality of it, who has done more for this team than Stone?
He leads the team in scoring and is tied for ninth in the league with 57 points. He is an excellent penalty killer. He uses that long stick to break up opposing scoring opportunities before they ever manifest themselves. He blocks shots and plays the body in his own end . He’s a +26, third in the NHL among forwards. In other words, Stone checks all the Selke boxes.
Yet, for all the good things he has done for the Golden Knights, it might not get recognized around the league when it comes to the Selke. The good folks in Canada who vote for this may not be paying close enough attention to what’s going on here, though I have faith in my Professional Hockey Writers Association brethren that they are in tune with what’s happening beyond the North Division.
That said, McDavid’s Edmonton sidekick, Leon Draisaitl, is going to get a lot of consideration, as will Florida’s Aleksander Barsov and Boston’s Patrice Bergeron (a four-time Selke winner), and Brad Marchand. Some might try and make a case for Ryan O’Reilly in St. Louis, Joel Erikkson-Ek in Minnesota, and Martin Necas in Carolina.
But here’s why Stone should be strongly considered, if not the outright favorite, for the Selke. He’s been making great plays all season. But in Wednesday’s 5-2 win over the Avalanche, a game everyone can agree was huge for both teams, Stone delivered.
Watch him here as he sets up Pacioretty for the fourth goal early in the third period:
It all starts with him blocking a shot, then winning the footrace for the puck, creating the 2-on-1, and patiently waiting before slipping the disk across to Pacioretty.
Then there’s his penalty killing. We all know how dangerous the Avs are with MacKinnon, Makar and Co. But Stone did great work in the 3:45 of ice time he accrued while on the PK. Colorado went 0-for-4 on its power play and it only adds to his Selke candidacy.
Stone has 28 blocked shots. He is not afraid to sacrifice his body for his team. That’s the kind of selflessness you would expect. And to that point, I wouldn’t even bother asking Stone what it would mean to him to win the Selke. His response would likely be, “I have different trophy I want to win.”
I’m guessing the Selke’s not even on his radar. Hopefully, he is on the radar of the voters who will decide who wins in July.
A half-full Fortress
Saturday was a big day in Southern Nevada.
Clark County approved expanding the limits of occupancy from 50 to 80 percent while reducing social distancing from six feet to three feet. Throw in some of the loosened restrictions from the CDC for those who have been fully vaccinated from COVID-19 and we’re starting to see signs of life returning to some degree of normalcy after 13+ months.
But for Golden Knights fans, normal takes on a different meaning.
In the VGK world, normal is a full Fortress — 18,000+. It means congregating in Toshiba Plaza. It means the pregame march with the cheerleaders, the Golden Knight, and Chance.
So when will we be back to normal? Sooner than you think.
The team submitted a plan to Clark County and the Southern Nevada Health District to allow more people inside T-Mobile Arena. And with the playoffs a couple of weeks away, the hope was to allow at least 80 percent in for the games in May, going to full capacity in June and beyond.
Saturday, the county approved increasing capacity to 50 percent for the final three home games (Friday and Saturday vs. St. Louis and May 10 vs. Colorado). So instead of 3,950, we’ll see close to 9,000 in The Fortress.
Even with the 20 percent — 3,950 — in the building, you can hear and feel the difference from earlier in the year when no one was allowed. The fake crowd noise piped in didn’t make for much of an atmosphere. But once the fans were able to come back in, it was a different story.
The Knights are 19-4-2 at home. They enjoy a big home-ice advantage. The players have acknowledged the crowd helps create energy for them. So imagine what it would be like with 18,000 or somewhere in that vicinity for the playoffs?
It would be great, no question. It will also be expensive. Traditionally, teams increase the price of tickets for the playoffs and the Knights are no exception. If you are offered a chance to attend, be prepared to pay considerably more than the norm.
Of course, you don’t have to buy the tickets if you don’t want to or can’t afford it. A lot of folks are still hurting financially and are out of work.
The team knows this. Yet it still has a business to run. It has been tough financially on them this year with projected losses of around $120 million. But even if there was no pandemic to impact the bottom line, the Knights would still be charging you more to attend a playoff game, just like it did the first two years.
Hopefully, those who have the means will be able to purchase playoff tickets and fill The Fortress, assuming the county and the team can reach an agreement for June playoff games and allow full capacity (or at least 80 percent). It would be a big step back toward normalcy, even if you have to keep your mask on while inside.
**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.**