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Golden Knights Being Disrespected In National Power Rankings

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have won seven of their last nine games. They’ve won on the road, they’ve won at home, they’ve beaten bad teams, decent teams, and good teams. They’ve won both ends of a back-to-back. They’ve allowed two or fewer goals in six of the nine games.

They’ve done it all without Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, William Karlsson, Zach Whitecloud, and at times. Alec Martinez. And this isn’t even considering Jack Eichel (or Alex Tuch before the deal)!

Vegas sits 16th in the NHL standings despite playing a roster that at times has sat below the salary cap floor.

Around here, I don’t need to tell anyone how remarkable this run has been and beyond that what it means for the future when players do start making their way back into the lineup. But apparently, I need to alert the national media because the Golden Knights are being insanely disrespected in the power rankings.

NHL.com’s Super 16 is a weekly column that lists the best 16 teams in the league by compiling votes from 14 of their writers. Vegas did not make the cut in the most recent installment and only appeared in the rankings of six of the 14 writers. The highest spot they garnered was 13th.

Sportsnet came out with their latest power rankings on Thursday and the Golden Knights came in at 24th. ESPN is even worse… 26th!?!

Bleacher Report has Vegas at 21. The Seattle Times has the Golden Knights at 22, just three spots ahead of the Kraken.

To borrow a phrase from the late great Vince Lombardi, “what the hell is going on out here?”

Literally everyone knows the Golden Knights are so much better than they are being ranked right now. You can point to the results, but really, they’ve been better than anyone could have imagined given the injuries.

I’m not trying to make the argument for the Golden Knights to be #1, or even in the top 5, but bottom third of the league? C’mon. 21st? 24th? 26th?

Do better national media. Do better.

Jack Eichel Downplays Idea Of Participating In Olympics

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

Since the news of the blockbuster trade, everyone in Vegas is sitting on pins and needles waiting for the return, and debut, of Jack Eichel in a Golden Knights jersey.

With surgery scheduled for tomorrow in Colorado, Eichel’s timeline is expected to be around three months which would have him looking at a return to play sometime in February.

This year, however, the NHL’s February schedule is unique. The Golden Knights do not have a game between February 1st and the 25th. That’s due to the league taking a break for the All Star Game (which is in Las Vegas) and the Olympics.

Eichel is one of the best American-born players in the world and would be a shoo-in for Team USA if he were available to play. He has expressed interest in the past, but obviously, the injury throws a wrench in the works.

As recently as a few days before the trade, Eichel said in an interview with ESPN that it is a goal of his to make it back and play in the Olympics. Since the trade though, it seems to be a bit more of a longshot.

I would love to be there, I would love to represent our country. The organization in Vegas just made a commitment to me and I want to make that same commitment back, so I’m not going to rush anything. –Eichel on Spittin Chiclets

He reiterated that when being interviewed during the Golden Knights/Kraken game on ESPN.

Representing my country is something that I take great pride in. Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity at some point, who knows? I just want to keep things short term at this point and take care of my health, get back to 100%. -Eichel on ESPN

This all must sound pretty good from a Golden Knights perspective. The last thing Vegas wants to see is Eichel playing in a different uniform and suffer another injury that would keep him off the ice any longer.

The Olympics will likely be littered with Golden Knights players, but it appears the newest one will not be among them.

Jack Eichel’s Business Sense Built For Vegas

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s rare for an NHL player to request a trade. But when you’re an upset 25-year-old franchise center being forced to undergo an undesired medical procedure, things change.

When he went to them with a trade request, they took it very personally. There are people that can say I understand that this is business and the people don’t understand that. Jack Eichel saw this is as business. –Elliotte Friedman, 32 Thoughts Podcast

Let’s face it, that type of acumen fits well with an organization that’s moved on from fan favorites, bought cap space for little return, and purchased the biggest names in the sport. We’ve learned early on in the franchise’s existence that it’s a fish or cut bait mentality. And there’s nothing wrong with that as long as they continue to make the playoffs.

Eichel had his own put up or shut up moment last offseason when he requested a trade.

The Pegualas saw Jack Eichel the same way the fans did as a US born savior of their team. When he asked for a trade they saw it as a betrayal… they were so hurt and so disappointed, I have no doubt it made the situation harder. –Friedman, 32 Thoughts Podcast

Eichel felt like he was doing his part but the Sabres organization wasn’t doing enough for him. Lack of supporting characters and a messy front office were bad enough but not allowing Eichel to chose his own medical procedure led to his cold but calculated demand.

He did a lot of research into the two surgeries and why one was better than the other and why he chose the disc replacement. It was almost like he was saying I earned the right to the make the decision. –Friedman, 32 Thoughts Podcast

In 375 games with Buffalo, Eichel registered 139 goals and 355 total points. Not only did he earn the right to make decisions but the Sabres ownership backed that up by offering an $80M extension in 2017. After handing over large sums of money like that, it would suggest the Sabres wanted Eichel to have a voice in the organization. The player felt it was taken away by barring him from a selective surgery or his choice.

Eichel credited all of his agents, I think over the last couple of weeks Brisson and Berry really turned up the heat. They knew they had a really unhappy client and they were turning up the heat anyway they could. –Friedman, 32 Thoughts Podcast

On top of his high end skill that will undoubtedly win Vegas more hockey games it’s the possibility of handling a pressure filled boardroom organization like the Golden Knights. Eichel has proven he’s willing to pause his career for what’s best for himself. Not many players would’ve held steadfast like the newest Golden Knight but he put himself first and the team second. And that’s completely fair.

However, when the surgery is done and his neck has healed, Eichel is strictly in the business of winning a Stanley Cup.

Iole: Draft Has Allowed VGK To Acquire Superstars, Now It Needs To Solidify Depth

This season, diehard VGK fan and legendary combat sports columnist Kevin Iole will be delivering columns a few times a month on Sundays. Today, Kevin wants the focus to shift off Jack Eichel, and on to another, cheaper center.

Drafting well is the best way to build a contender in the NHL and it’s the best way to remain one. Teams can’t build a championship team exclusively through free agency, though it is a tool. And teams aren’t going to trade their way to a title either, though, again, it’s a tool.

The Golden Knights have been outstanding traders, and their free agent moves have worked.

But it’s all been buoyed by a trait that is far underappreciated: Their ability to draft and develop well.

And yes, I’m serious.

Let’s look at it: Were it not for a smart draft pick in 2017, there’d be no Max Pacioretty. The Knights were able to land the prolific goal-scorer they needed on their first line because they did exceptionally well to draft Nick Suzuki at No. 13 in 2017.

There’s no Mark Stone without a few picks later the selection of Erik Brannstrom. He hasn’t turned out to be the player either the VGK or the Ottawa Senators thought he’d be yet, but he’s only 22 and players develop differently than others. In a draft that produced Miro Heiskanen and Cale Makar at Nos. 3 & 4, plenty of teams felt the VGK got a steal grabbing Brannstrom at 15.

The Eichel Watch wouldn’t have ended in the VGK’s favor on Thursday were it not for the shrewd pick of Peyton Krebs, who dropped from No. 10 on the final ranking of North American skaters to the 17th overall choice because he was injured at the time.

Obviously, Alex Tuch was the key component in the deal that sent Jack Eichel and his injury neck to the Golden Knights, but ever since word leaked out that the Knights were interested, the word was that there was no deal if Krebs wasn’t involved.

In the end, the Knights sent Tuch, Krebs, a Top 10-protected 2022 first-round pick and a 2023 second-round pick to Buffalo for Eichel and a 2023 third-round pick.

Now that the deal is done, there will probably be further casualties when — if — all are healthy to get the team salary cap compliant. Fairly and accurately grading this deal will take years.

But if the Knights don’t win the Stanley Cup with Eichel on the team during the term of his $10 million a year contract, then even if he turns into the next Connor McDavid, the deal will be a bust of epic proportions.

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Golden Knights Continuing To Allow High-Danger Chances At Alarming Rate

One of the hallmarks of the Golden Knights since Pete DeBoer has taken over as head coach has been their commitment to defending. Whether it’s blocking shots, chipping the puck out of the zone, backchecking, or simply being disciplined in their own end, VGK’s defense had been a tough nut to crack for two plus seasons.

Then, this year, it’s all changed. Of course, they are missing a number of key players who make an impact defensively including Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, William Karlsson and Zach Whitecloud, but both the advanced stats and the eye test are telling a scary story.

No team has allowed more shots, scoring chances, or expected goals against per game at 5-on-5 than the Vegas Golden Knights. Mind you, this is the team who won the Jennings Trophy a year ago for least goals scored against.

However, it’s a negative stat the Golden Knights actually sit in 2nd place that has me even more concerned with than the above numbers. Vegas’ Sunday opponent, the Detroit Red Wings are the only team worse than the Golden Knights when it comes to allowing high-danger chances. Vegas is conceding an absurd 14.5 high-danger chances against at 5-on-5 per 60 minutes of hockey this season.

Last year, the Golden Knights were in the middle of the pack in this category, allowing just 10.3 per game, more than four fewer than they are now.

I went back through each individual period this season, last season, and last year’s playoffs to chart how many high-danger chances the Golden Knights were giving up per period. The numbers are scary.

HDCA20-21 Regular20-21 Playoffs21-22 Regular
07.1%14.0%6.7%
122.0%12.3%3.3%
220.2%26.3%20.0%
322.6%21.1%13.3%
47.7%8.8%16.7%
511.9%8.8%13.3%
64.2%3.5%6.7%
71.8%3.5%13.3%
82.4%7.0%3.3%
90%0%0%
100%0%0%
110%0%3.3%
0-372.0%73.7%43.3%
4-623.8%21.1%36.7%
7+4.2%10.1%20.0%

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Boehlke: My Thoughts On The Jack Eichel Trade

Well, it happened.

In a way, I kind of always knew it would because, in the end, this is Vegas we’re talking about.

Jack Eichel is a Golden Knight.

So is Alex Pietrangelo. So is Mark Stone. So are Max Pacioretty, Robin Lehner, William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, Shea Theodore, Alec Martinez, and Jonathan Marchessault.

For now.

As much as I want to let myself get excited about the idea of one of the best players in the world coming to Las Vegas, I just can’t get my mind off the bigger picture.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Like everyone, I hate the fact that we have to worry about mathematics as much, if not more, than hockey when it comes to discussing our favorite team. Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs, and a 1st for the great Jack Eichel!?! That’s an amazing deal for Vegas. And it would be if that’s all there was to it.

It’s a lot like the Mark Stone trade, except unlike that one, the Golden Knights do not have the cap space to make this one happen on its own. In fact, in an alternate reality in which everyone was healthy, the league wouldn’t have even allowed the deal to go through. But, with Eichel, Stone, Karlsson, and Pacioretty all unavailable to play, the Golden Knights were allowed to make the deal and operate almost $10 million over the $81.5 million salary cap.

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San Jose An Example How To Turn Around Canadian Road Trip

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It was a tough start to their four-game road trip. Travel, time zone change and adding insult to several injuries, the Golden Knights were forced to cover Austin Matthews and Mitch Marner without another impact player. The Maple Leafs’ high-end talent took advantage of a beaten up Golden Knights lineup and eventually cruised to a 4-0 victory.

Their best players were on tonight. It was one of those nights, and with the lineup we’ve got right now, we’re going to have to red line every night in all areas in order to compete, especially against good teams, and that’s a real good team. -Pete DeBoer

Sure, the odds were stacked against Vegas but it was all but over after the second goal of the game. The Leafs are an excellent 35-2-3 when Marner and Matthews score in the same game, so it would have been nearly impossible for even a healthy Golden Knights roster to win under those conditions.

The focus now shifts to how the road trip finishes.

Big ask tonight when you look at what we’re dealing with. I think our effort actually wasn’t an issue. I thought we didn’t execute against a team that puts a lot of heat on you, and they put a lot of pressure on us in tough areas. -DeBoer

This season the Golden Knights are 2-2-0 on the road with three upcoming games to improve their record. Stealing 4-6 points over the next three games would send Vegas back home with their heads held high.

A couple of weeks back Pacific rival San Jose Sharks swept their trip to Eastern Canadian. Unlike Vegas, San Jose’s first matchup began in Montreal and ended in Toronto. Against the Canadiens, the Sharks scored two in the first four minutes to ignite a 5-0 victory. Montreal was/is reeling and San Jose pounced on them in several different ways. The Golden Knights have enough weapons in their current lineup to win in a similar fashion.

The Sharks received two goals from rookie Jonathan Dahlen, one from defenseman Erik Karlsson and two on the power play. Between Alex Pietrangelo, Shea Theodore, Alec Martinez and Nic Hague, the Golden Knights have plenty of options from the blue line. Without piling on, Vegas can’t rely on their power play but they may have enough offense to win a low-scoring affair. Now would be the time for 20-year-old Peyton Krebs to start contributing and registering points. The 2019 1st rounder is young and learning on the fly but he’s pointless through nine games this season and has just 10 shots. Vegas could really use his offensive skill as one goal could change their road trip. No matter who’s in the lineup, there should be plenty of motivation to squash the Canadiens after last season’s six-game semifinal defeat.

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Dispelling Two Potential Reasons For The Never-Ending String Of Injuries

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When the Golden Knights take the ice tonight, they’ll be without Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, William Karlsson, Alex Tuch, Nolan Patrick, and Zach Whitecloud (and potentially Mattias Janmark). That’s a little more than $29 million worth of salary on the shelf or about 36% of the salary cap.

Amazingly, until Karlsson misses a game, the Golden Knights are not the team suffering from the most salary cap money lost to injury. The Pittsburgh Penguins have been without Sidney Crosby, Evgenii Malkin, Marcus Pettersson, Brian Rust, Kris Letang, and Tristan Jarry for an insane $36 million missing due to injury.

Nonetheless, with Crosby returning to action and Jarry and Pettersson expected to return from the COVID-19 list soon, the Golden Knights will take the injury crown by the end of the week.

The elephant in the room continues to be a lingering question about why the Golden Knights are seeing so many injuries.

One theory is Pete DeBoer’s “non-negotiable” commitment to blocking shots. The Golden Knights currently lead the league in blocked shots per 60 minutes with 18.1, nearly two shots better than every other team besides the New York Islanders. Vegas has blocked 147 shots in eight games, just two blocks behind the Red Wings who have played nine games and the Ducks who have played 10.

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Iole: Enough With The Eichel Talk, Go After Another Familiar Center

This season, diehard VGK fan and legendary combat sports columnist Kevin Iole will be delivering columns a few times a month on Sundays. Today, Kevin wants the focus to shift off Jack Eichel, and on to another, cheaper center.

There is a balancing act that every NHL general manager must play, and trying to play it has to be causing Golden Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon plenty of agita.

Jack Eichel, exactly the type of player the VGK have missed throughout its existence, is available on the trade market. When such a player was available in 2019, McCrimmon went out and landed Mark Stone.

When another such player was available as a free agent in 2020, McCrimmon opened owner Bill Foley’s wallet and signed Alex Pietrangelo.

Many websites, which are in the business of getting clicks and not necessarily reporting accurate news, have linked the VGK and Eichel. It’s obvious why, but it’s also just as obvious why it doesn’t make much sense for the Knights to do it.

The Knights would be responsible for a pro-rated portion of Eichel’s $10 million salary this year and then $10 million a year through the 2025-26 season. They already have Stone signed at $9.5 million, Pietrangelo at $8.8 million, Max Pacioretty at $7 million, William Karlsson at $5.9 million, Alec Martinez at $5.25 million, Shea Theodore at $5.2 million, Jonathan Marchessault, Evgeni Dadonov and Robin Lehner at $5 million apiece and Alex Tuch at $4.75 million for next season.

Even if the cap rises, and reports are it may jump minimally to $82.5 million, that would be $71.4 million with Eichel for next year for 11 players. So they’d have $11.1 million to spend on the rest of the group.

That becomes problematic because Zach Whitecloud’s $2.75 million extension kicks in and between Whitecloud, Nolan Patrick and backup goalie Laurent Brossoit, they will account for more than half of the extra, at $6.275 million combined.
On top of that, we haven’t exen discussed the acquisition cost, which will be enormous.

So it seems fanciful, at best, to write Eichel into the VGK’s lineup for the next four-plus years.

There is a player who is perfectly suited for the VGK, won’t cost nearly as much and who could give them that No. 1 center without breaking up the current roster that would make them a more solid Stanley Cup favorite.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Tomas Hertl would look fantastic between Stone and Pacioretty, and would allow Stephenson to slide down the lineup where, as Pete DeBoer noted after Friday’s up-and-down win over the Ducks, he gets favorable matchups.

Hertl is in the last year of a deal with the Sharks, and is making $5.625 million. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent in the summer.

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Motive In Eichel Trade Must Be Winning The Cup, But There’s Reason To Believe There’s More To It

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Jack Eichel to Vegas rumor mill will not stop churning. The latest installments come from a pair of very well-connected sources, Frank Seravalli of DailyFaceoff.com and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. (Click their names for the link to each rumor.)

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about the Golden Knights, it’s that they are not afraid of making the splash move. So as long as there continues to be smoke, we have to consider the possibility of it turning into a full-blown fire.

I have a major concern with this move though that I have never had with any of the previous superstar pursuits in the past. It really has little to do with Jack Eichel himself or even the package the Golden Knights might have to give up to get him. Instead, it has everything to do with motive, or at the very least, a thought lingering in the background.

If you go back to the trade for Tomas Tatar, or the following ones that brought in Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, Robin Lehner, Alec Martinez, and Evgenii Dadonov. Consider the signings of Alex Pietrangelo and Paul Stastny or the re-signings of Mattias Janmark, Shea Theodore, William Karlsson, and Alex Tuch. In every case, the goal of the move was clear, it was direct, and it was incontrovertible.

The Golden Knights were trying to win the Stanley Cup.

Sure, we can toil over the cost of the trade, the price of the contact coming in, the age of the player, the fit, the talent, the need, you name it, but never has anyone been able to say “is there something more to this than making the team better?”

We’ve never even discussed it because it’s never been up for debate.

With Eichel, it is, or at least, it will be if the trade does end up taking shape.

The reason for that is the situation the Golden Knights are currently in, as well as the history of how we’ve gotten to this place.

I don’t need to recount the entire story because if you’re here, you probably know most of it, but I’ll just remind you that the Golden Knights were three wins from winning the Stanley Cup in 2018, and since that moment, they’ve never come closer.

Over the past two years, they’ve made some bold decisions and have dealt with a pandemic. However you wish to assign a percentage of the blame to each of those, the fact of the matter is a large section of the Golden Knights fan base has been alienated in the previous 24 months.

The team doesn’t feel the same to a lot of people. And I can’t even begin to think I know the entire pulse of the locker room or the offices at City National Arena, but I’m fairly confident in saying, it’s not the same as what it used to be.

Now, facing what could be a challenging season due to a rash of injuries and a fan base that simply isn’t showing up in droves the same way they have before, there’s a chance the focus might shift, even if it’s just ever so slightly.

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