Today’s Guest Post comes from Kevin Iole. Kevin is a columnist for Yahoo Sports. He was a sportswriter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal from 1990 until 2007. He covered the Las Vegas Thunder for the entirety of the team’s run in Las Vegas, and did a little bit of work covering the Las Vegas Wranglers. A lifelong hockey fan whose favorite players were Eddie Shack, Battleship Kelly, Steve Durbano, and Gary Rissling before Mario Lemieux came along, Iole was born and raised in Pittsburgh. He was a diehard Penguins fan and a season ticket holder for about 10 seasons. He is a Vegas Golden Knights and Henderson Silver Knights season ticket holder along with his wife, Betsy. He became a Golden Knights fan early in the inaugural season and counts the Knights as his No. 1 team witih the Penguins No. 2. His ideal outcome would be the Knights winning the Cup 4-3 over the Penguins every year. Other than hockey, Iole loves Basset Hounds and owns about 40 VGK jerseys, many of which need new nameplates.
For a franchise whose motto ought to be, “Stanley Cup or bust,” the Golden Knights only got marginally better this offseason.
Sure, the defense is better after essentially swapping Nate Schmidt for Alex Pietrangelo, as well as continued growth from Zach Whitecloud. This, though, is a team that lost in five games in the Western Conference finals and the only change in its forward lineup will be that its No. 2 center will be replaced by an injury prone and unproven 21-year-old.
But the forwards are worse and the goalies are the same, so will the difference from Schmidt to Pietrangelo mean that the Stanley Cup will be toted down Las Vegas Blvd in 2021?
Oh, I like the Knights’ chances of having a parade better than the Sabres or the Senators, and probably even better than the Penguins, Devils and Coyotes.
So much could go so wrong for this team.
It starts with William Karlsson, the only true elite (or close to elite) center on the roster. If he gets hurt and is out for any length of time, it’s a disaster of epic proportions.
The Golden Knights’ depth at center is nonexistent, and it could withstand a Pietrangelo absence far more than it could a prolonged Karlsson absence.
Peyton Krebs is a promising prospect, but relying on a 19-year-old in one of the most important spots on the team — and a 19-year-old who is less than two years removed from tearing his Achilles tendon, remember — is not the stuff of which Stanley Cup champions are made.
If Chandler Stephenson regresses and plays next season like he did in the first half of the season with Washington rather than the way he did after he was traded to the Golden Knights, it will seriously imperil their Cup chances.
I could go on and on, but you get the point.
This team is close, though, and it has the ability to make a move that could, in fact, make it the Cup favorite. It won’t be popular, of course, but Kelly McCrimmon already told us that the popular moves aren’t always the wisest moves. But the path the Knights should take, and I’d argue must take, is clear: