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Sheng Peng: Mark Stone Has A Chance To Buck The Trend And Win A Selke For The Wingers

**This article was written by Sheng Peng of FearTheFin.com. Sheng covered the Golden Knights in 2017-18 and a portion of 2018-19 before moving to San Jose to cover the Sharks. You can read all of Sheng’s work here.**

By Sheng Peng

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s supposed to be the award for best defensive forward.

But left winger Nick Foligno knows he’s never going to win the Selke Trophy.

Foligno quipped, “I switch to center and maybe have a chance at it.”

That’ll help. Since 2008-09, just four wingers have finished in the top-six in Selke voting: Ryan Callahan was fourth in 2012, Marian Hossa was fifth in 2014, Max Pacioretty was sixth in 2015, and Mark Stone was sixth in 2017. Stone is also a finalist this year, the first winger to be so honored since Jay Pandolfo in 2007.

(This is ignoring David Backes, listed as a right winger, who finished second in 2012, and Henrik Zetterberg, listed as a left winger, who finished second in 2008. Both took over 1,000 faceoffs in their respective Selke finalist campaigns.)

The last winger to win the Selke was Jere Lehtinen in 2003.

What’s supposed to be a recognition for best defensive forward has become a centers-only club.

Hockey Hall of Fame journalist Michael Farber has voted on the Selke since “the time that Bob Gainey was winning it.” He offered, “Maybe if Mark Stone wins, that’ll restore a little bit of balance.”

***

Gainey, a left winger, won the inaugural Selke Trophy in 1978. Then he took the next three.

In fact, wingers like Gainey, Craig Ramsay, and Dirk Graham accounted for six of the first 14 Selke winners.

Farber pointed to three key reasons.

First, Gainey was a singular player.

“Anatoly Tarasov called Bob Gainey the perfect hockey player. He didn’t make mistakes,” Farber recalled.

Tarasov knew a special player when he saw one. He’s credited with establishing the Soviet Union as a dominant international hockey power in the 1950s.

Second, Gainey played in a different era. A defense-first forward stood out in an era where Marcel Dionne could score 135 points and finish 29 points behind Wayne Gretzky in the scoring race. This is exactly what happened in 1980-81, the last time Gainey won the Selke.

Farber noted: “The game, look at the ’80s, wasn’t what we have now. Quite often, there’d be a three-on-two one way, three-on-two the other way. Teams traded chances.

“So the emphasis on defensive hockey and the role of the centerman wasn’t the same that it is now.

“It’s much tighter. If you do give up odd-man rushes now, you make your coach apoplectic.”

Finally, Gainey played in an era when forwards, wingers included, were often used as “shadows.” That means a defensive player was assigned to follow the opposition’s top scorer all around the ice.

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Guest Post: Keep Calm And Carry On

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

There are Golden Knights fans everywhere, and we love every single one of them. So, today we present you with a Guest Post from across the pond, in the United Kingdom, where Scott Mackay urges his fellow VGK fans not to go crazy over just three games.

Welcome to the NHL, quite possibly the hardest league to win in world sports.

You have to put your body through 82 regular season games to have a chance to see the playoffs and even then you have potentially another 28 games to go. It’s a rollercoaster with ups, downs, sideways and loop the loops. The Golden Knights enjoyed a fairy-tale season and the fairy-tale was rode all the way until the final hurdle. That one just wasn’t our series, it didn’t go our way.

Us Knights fans have been treated to tremendous hockey under the worst circumstances of a year ago and this team became more than a hockey team, smashing records and proving to other fan bases that we are here to stay and more importantly bringing together a community.

At the time of writing, we are 1-2-0. Believe it or not, we have 79 games to go and to see people losing it on Twitter about how much this team ‘sucks’ is really quite worrying. C’mon guys get a grip, I understand that we should have won those games but that’s professional sports, you will win some AND lose some, it’s all part of the rollercoaster. We will be absolutely awful one game and win, we will be amazing another game and lose.

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Guest Post: Year One Through The Eyes Of The Fan

Year 1 was a magical one, starting with the Expansion Draft and ending with the Golden Knights appearance in the Stanley Cup Final. Today’s Guest Post from Alex Norwood walks us through the magical season through the eyes of a fan who was there from the beginning.

I, like many others, was very excited to learn who would dawn the Vegas Golden Knights jersey after being taken by the Golden Knights in the 2017 Expansion Draft. During the draft, there was a great amount of excitement to know who exactly, we as fans, would be cheering for during their first season as a team.

As development camp and the preseason came to end, the horrific events of 1 October took place. It was in that moment, that the Knights showed they were not just a team, but that they were a part of the Vegas community.

On Nevada Day the Golden Knights played one of their best games of the year. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

What came next was unexpected for everyone, including fans of the Golden Knights. After great performances and two comeback wins on the road, it was time to play in front of the home fans, for real, for the first time, and it was not really about the game. Being in attendance for the Knights first-ever home game, for what the franchise did before puck drop, might have been the most moving moment of the season. It was not about hockey that night. It was about honoring those who lost their lives and those that put their lives on the line. At that point, everyone knew there was no chance of them losing their first home game.

After winning their third, and record-breaking game, the ride we were all unprepared for never ended. Nobody could have imagined an amazing 8-1-0 start to the season. As shocking as it was for the hockey and sports world, everyone in Vegas was witnessing the start of the most historic first season in sports history. It was already crazy to be a fan of a successful team, but what came next reassured us of what we were seeing.

After suffering three straight losses to Dallas, Minnesota, and Winnipeg, from November 28th to December 1st, the Golden Knights went on an unprecedented 13-game point streak which included six straight home wins. In the middle of that month-long run, I felt they were going to win no matter what. At that point, the team was 27-9-2 and the only thing I was worried about was that I did not want the loss column to go into double digits. And I, along with every Golden Knights fan, had completely lost my mind on how good this team really was.

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Guest Post: Paying William Karlsson

There’s not a Golden Knight fan in the world who hasn’t wondered what the future holds for William Karlsson. The 25-year-old is a restricted free agent at year’s end which means George McPhee has plenty of options. Kevin Horton dives into the numbers in our newest Guest Post.

Best part of a hockey game? Easy… the goals. Unfortunately, like most great things in life, they don’t come cheap. Per CapFriendly, at this point of the 2017-2018 season the going rate for an NHL goal is $318,437. That prorates the number of goals over an 82 game season. Basically, every time someone buries one in the back of the net it’s more valuable than the house you live in.

The shot he’s taking in this picture is probably worth $25,641. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The good news for us is that the Golden Knights employ William Karlsson who is about as cheap as an elite goal scorer comes. Karlsson entered the season on the final year of a 2-year $1,000,000 per year deal. That means Karlsson’s 39 goals so far have come at a rate of $25,641 per goal, good for the 3rd cheapest scoring price in the league behind only young stars like Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine ($21,512) best player in the world-Connor McDavid ($23,718) and Brayden Point of the Tampa Bay Lightning ($25,432.) If you standardize the individual numbers Karlsson projects to finish with a $23,345 cost per goal trailing only Laine, Point, McDavid and Auston Matthews ($21,352).

For comparison goals from higher paid perineal snipers like Alex Ovechkin, John Tavares, and Nikita Kucherov cost $198,277, $152,439, and $114,689 respectively. Karlsson’s goals are basically coming at over a 90% discount compared to league average and a 75% discount compared to the league’s other top goal scorers. That’s quite a bargain.

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Guest Post: Buyers Or Sellers

With the trade deadline exactly a week away, we get the latest Guest Post from local Las Vegan and fantasy sports guru John Di Bari.

Heading into their inaugural NHL season nobody really knew what to expect from the league’s newest franchise. The consensus was to temper expectations as expansion teams are historically somewhere between horrific on the low-end to mediocre on the high-side. However, once the rules for the expansion draft were put in place and fans and writers started digging through rosters and contracts and began to do their own mock expansion drafts, many started to realize that maybe the new kid on the block might be able to put together a respectable product in year one. Nobody was realistically thinking playoffs, or even a record well above .500. However, that was fine as most expected GM George McPhee to draft a bunch of skill players with a year or two remaining on their contacts with the expectation that he’d be trying to sell as many of them as possible at the trade deadline to acquire additional draft picks and young players.

It would be so much easier if McPhee would just tell us what he’s going to do. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Then, the damndest thing happened: The Golden Knights started winning. A lot. As of this writing, the Golden Knights sit atop the entire NHL with a comfortable 10-point lead in the Pacific Division. They lead the West in goals scored and goal differential and have the league’s best home record at 22-4-2 58 games into the season. As a fan and season ticket holder, this is a great thing. It’s well documented at this point, but is still worth noting that most of the early winning was done while losing their top 3  goaltenders. The team has been fun to watch, they find different ways to win each night, and barring an otherwise epic collapse, they seem to be a lock for the playoffs. Some current projections have the probability of them making the playoffs at 100% as they sit 14 points ahead of the West’s second wild-card with 24 games to play.

On the surface, that all sounds well and good, but is it? For a single season, the answer is obviously yes, but as a brand new expansion franchise that is supposed to be building towards sustained future success and develop their farm system, the waters get a little muddied. What about the plan to move these expiring contracts and stockpile more picks and youngsters? One would assume that McPhee will want to push forward with the plan and move some of the players who have contracts set to expire at the end of the year. It’s better to get something for them rather than allowing them to walk away for free after what would essentially be a 1-year rental. On the other hand, one would also assume that owner Bill Foley will want to push for the playoffs and start to recoup some of his 500-million-dollar investment. At the end of the day, it will probably be some combination of the two strategies, and since Foley signs the checks in the building, I’ve got to think that if he wants to push for the playoffs, McPhee will have to go along with the boss. In a recent interview with Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski, Foley made it sound like he was definitely looking to add pieces at the deadline and push for a deep playoff run.

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Guest Post: VGK – Expansion Success And The Florida Context

It’s time for a perfectly timed Guest Post. Today we get a post from a Florida Panthers fan who is enjoying the ride of the Golden Knights while also feeling the agony that their success has brought the Panthers. Here’s the Guest Post from Jeff Hwang.

Somehow, 49 games into their inaugural 2017-18 NHL season, the Vegas Golden Knights have the best record in the NHL at 33-12-4 (1.45 pts. per game), and have matched both the 1993-94 Florida Panthers and Mighty Ducks of Anaheim for the most wins in a franchise inaugural season.

The Panthers and Mighty Ducks had 84 games to get there.

Oh what could have been in Florida. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

VGK is 2nd in the league in goal scoring per game, and 6th in the league in goals against. And in fact, once you back out Maxime Legace – the 4th-string goaltender who has played about 14 more NHL games this year than most anyone else would have wished for – VGK goalies are an absurd 27-6-3.

As a hockey fan and a 10-year Las Vegas resident, I could not be more excited about VGK’s initial success and future outlook; on the other hand, having grown up in Ft. Lauderdale as a Florida Panthers fan, it could not be any more painful to wonder how good the Panthers would be right now with Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith, instead of Alex Petrovic and a 4th-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.

Which is to say nothing of Gerard Gallant, whose mid-season firing last year as the head coach of the Panthers was something no Panther fan was happy with.

Perhaps strangely, the Panthers are the perfect team with which to put VGK in proper context. The Panthers have everything VGK doesn’t – a true No. 1 center and No. 2 center (Aleksander Barkov and Vincent Trocheck); an elite winger (Jonathan Huberdeau); and a franchise defenseman (Aaron Ekblad). And yet Gerard Gallant is the head coach and Marchessault and Smith are the wingers on the top line of the team with the best record in the NHL, while the Panthers are struggling just to get into the playoff picture.

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Guest Post: Vegas Golden Knights Christmas List

You thought they were going to be in 1st in the Western Conference and have 48 points, didn’t you? (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

On Christmas Eve, this one needs to explanation. So, I won’t write one. Here is the newest Guest Post from our guy John Owens.

When Santa is making his list (and checking it twice), he’s going to find that the Golden Knights have been quite nice this year. A little too nice, frankly.

So it stands to reason that the team should have some good tidings coming their way. While The Creator probably feels like his stocking is pretty full right now, what’s Christmas without some presents? Let’s have a look at 5 items on the Vegas Golden Knights’ Christmas list.

1. Health In The New Year (Between The Pipes)

It really is remarkable that Vegas sits atop the Western Conference standings, not only because they are an expansion team, but also due to the fact that they have encountered the worst luck with health at the goalie position of any team in the league. Ken wrote a great post on how Maxime Lagace saved their season, and it’s hard to disagree. It’s fairly rare to even see your organization’s fourth goalie come in for an emergency relief spot sometime during the year but to get 13 starts is pretty unheard of, and Max kept the team afloat.

That being said, both Flower and Suub are back and have played well, but it’s not a great look when your franchise goaltender who has just returned from a lengthy absence due to a concussion is out here making saves with no helmet. Of course, he emerged unscathed, but these boys need to take care of themselves the rest of the way. Hopefully forgotten (undefeated) Oscar Dansk can come back healthy as well to provide depth because as we’ve seen, you never know when you might need it.

2. Continued Success At Home

Is the “Vegas Flu” a thing? I love a good conspiracy, so let’s say it’s a thing! I certainly think it’s at least a factor. Currently sitting at 15-2-1 at home, the Knights have passed many tough tests, and are feeding off the T-Mobile Arena energy. Here’s a quick wish to keep that going.

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Guest Post: Golden Knights Arrive First, In First-Class Style

It’s been a while since we’ve had a Guest Post on the site, so we are glad to welcome one back here today. Today’s topic is jerseys, or sweaters if you are that guy. Our man AJ Lee is here to say, the Golden Knights have the best jerseys in expansion history.

So here we go…

It would have been so easy to go so wrong.

After all, this is Las Vegas we’re talking about. Tragic looks abound. Uniform designers for the first major pro sports franchise in Sin City, the Las Vegas Golden Knights, must have been sorely tempted to go for a look that was, shall we say, Cirque du Power Play.

Siegfried and (Patrick) Roy.

Puck be a lady?

Subtlety being what it is in Nevada, the charter members of the Knights roster should be grateful they aren’t wearing sharkskin sweaters or fishnet socks.

Yet, in terms of jersey design, the Knights didn’t simply clear a low bar. They went top shelf.

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Guest Post: Nine Points In Nine Games

Recently the guys at The Hockey News basically called the Golden Knights the worst team in the NHL. We didn’t want to agree, but we also aren’t exactly ready to go out on a limb and disagree either. Many spoke out on Twitter/Facebook with a much more optimistic outlook. One such person is our guy Mike DeKalb, and he’s ready to make a prediction I (Ken) think is madness.

Here’s his Guest Post called “Nine Points In Nine Games.”

What can I say? I’m an optimist. I truly enjoy looking for the most positive aspects of my daily life, and working to enhance them as best I can. This outlook also applies to sports very well – I feel that there is no greater drama than what is found in the sports world, and the best storylines usually make for the best games – so bringing forward hope and confidence will only amplify the experience of the sports fan.

By finally having a team of their own, the hockey fans in Las Vegas should feel a similar sense of good fortune. I know it’s easy to focus on the negative stories surrounding the Golden Knights – the ongoing drama involving the TV deal, the avoidance of the local market during the team’s “road trip” through the Rockies, the doomed history of virtually every other NHL expansion season in the modern era – but for one month, I’d like to see this fanbase instead turn their attention to the blissful joy of anticipation.

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Guest Post: McPhee Is No Hinkie

The next Guest Post comes from one of our most outspoken fans. If you read the comments, our Twitter feed, or have ever attended a Golden Knights/SinBin.vegas sponsored event, you’ve probably heard from Jerry. He goes by the name PhiSig150 and he has a lot to say about the idea of tanking vs respecting the process it takes to win in professional sports.

The recent NHL expansion into Las Vegas was an armchair GM’s dream come true. The Golden Knights have never signed a free agent to a horrendous contract. The Knights likewise have never been swindled out of young prospects or potentially high draft picks in a lopsided trade. Vegas was a completely blank canvas onto which an amateur GM could paint their masterpiece of the perfectly constructed roster. Wannabe front office personnel spent the months leading up to the Expansion Draft imagining which players they would select and concocting various trades with other teams to allow them to protect certain players. I know from first hand experience. I was one of those nerds. SinBin.vegas and CapFriendly.com let us indulge in our fantasies even further by hosting a contest that let fans pretend to be not only McPhee but the other 30 GMs as well. Each fan was able to create his or her own protection list for each team and then conduct a mock draft on behalf of the Golden Knights. I spent more time doing research for this contest than I care to admit.

Once the expansion draft came and went most fans were satisfied with the Knights mixture of solid vets, promising prospects, and future draft picks. There are a few fans, however, that feel that the club is trying to put a bad team on ice to lose games on purpose or what we NBA fans have come to call: tanking. Teams tank in an attempt to land a high draft pick with the hope that, that prospect will one day turn out to be the next Crosby or McDavid level superstar. Some Knights fans have argued that they pay good money for tickets and that Vegas is a nontraditional hockey market so McPhee needs to put a winner on the ice as soon as this upcoming season. McPhee drew further ire from the win now crowd by trading away players like Marc Methot and Marcus Kruger, two players who could contribute on the ice immediately, for future draft picks. In their minds McPhee has already thrown in the towel on the season and gone into full tank mode. While I wish this truly were the case, McPhee hasn’t done anything in his long history as a GM that would suggest he even knows how to tank and the word definitely isn’t in Foley’s vocabulary. McPhee is no Sam Hinkie.

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