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Conditions That Could Impact Vegas And Western Conference

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This season the next projected superstar will be making his NHL debut in the same conference as the reigning champion Vegas Golden Knights. Number one overall pick Connor Bedard is expected to make an immediate impact for the Chicago Blackhawks, possibly realigning the Western Conference in 2023-24.

Sportsnet’s Divisional Changes of Impact

Atlantic: Bruins Lose Patrice Bergeron and Others to Retirement
Central: Connor Bedard’s Presence in Chicago
Metropolitan: Erik Karlsson Joins Crosby for Pittsburgh’s Last Dance
Pacific: LA Adds Pierre-Luc Dubois to Center-Stacked Lineup

Sportsnet explored four divisional offseason moves, including two that could affect the West’s eight postseason invites. Most believe it’s possible Bedard can get the Blackhawks closer to a playoff Wild Card position in 2023-24. While others have stated the best has yet to come from Dubois. There’s no question, Vegas is the team to beat but the West arguably got a little more competitive this summer.

As for the Golden Knights, there are several players or scenarios that could impact the 2023-24 season. Let’s examine three.

Eichel’s Conn Smyth Runner-Up Carryover

Since becoming a Golden Knight, Jack Eichel has averaged 0.90 points per game. Only Vegas captain Mark Stone edges him with 0.93 points per game average as a member of the Golden Knights. In the postseason, Eichel eclipsed his regular season average by contributing 1.3 points per contest. Clearly, his jump in production guided VGK to their dominant championship run.

If #9 stages a 100-point pace season expect a top-seeded team finish and possibly some Hart trophy votes for the top center. On the flip side, if Eichel struggles to keep up with the league’s best, Vegas will be scrambling for offense.

Hill Earns Starting Goaltender Salary

There’s no reason to believe Hill’s performance level will drop in 2023-24. The Cup-winning goaltender is surrounded by the same defense, same schematic-styled coach and enters the new season with a significant bump in pay. All signs point to Hill’s postseason brilliance carrying over into the regular season. Also, there’s unlikely to be any competition in camp. At this point, there’s no doubt as to who the starter for the Golden Knights is. That was settled this summer when the front office handed Hill a 200% raise.

If Hill cannot keep form, Vegas will initially suffer. It’s possible a slumping goaltender could cause the Cup champions to chase down first place all season. However, Vegas is blessed with one of the league’s best defenses and Logan Thompson is more than enough in net. Even in the worst-case scenario, the Golden Knights will stop enough pucks to secure a postseason position.

Ignoring Man-Games Lost

A year ago fans witnessed an injury-riddled Vegas limp to the finish line only to be disqualified for the postseason. The narrative last summer was ‘500 man-games lost’ and now it’s ‘they can stay healthy’ type optimism. It was painful watching the backend of the 2021-22 season but it ended up motivating the players. Several players mentioned the Golden Knights’ failed season was one of the reasons they succeeded in 2022-23.

Obviously, the eyes will be on Mark Stone after his gutty postseason performance. The captain played 22 playoff games after two back surgeries and broke his wrist in the process. The Golden Knights are deep enough to absorb Stone’s absence if he misses time, but it would be devastating if it carried over into next season’s playoffs.

The same goes for any of Vegas’ most vital players. Any injury to veterans William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, and Alex Pietrangelo, to name a few, would be difficult to repeat last season’s achievements. As they’ve proven, when Vegas stays healthy, they win.

Those are just a few storylines heading into the Golden Knights 2023-24 season. But there are plenty more. Of course, there’s the possibility of a championship hangover, having a target on their back, or not having enough recovery time. Don’t worry, there are dozens of season-long plots that we will overact to.

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17 Comments

  1. Pistol Pete

    Don’t see why if Vegas wins the Cup with Eichel getting “only” 66 pts in 67 games that he needs anywhere near 100 pts in the 2023-24 regular season. Remember his two play was a key part to the playoffs run. If he’s dominate in his end he’ll set up goals or score himself. Being effective in the defensive zone is more important than straight up offense. The whole point to defending effectively is that the scoring opportunities WILL come.

    • Pistol Pete

      As far as I’m concerned based on him buying into the 200 ft. game, Eichel is better than McDavid as it stands today. McDavid’s point and a half a game means diddly if he can’t help his team win. Eichel
      helped his team win a Cup by playing great in his end something McDavid has yet to do.

  2. Pistol Pete

    Due to his size it may be challenging for Bedard at the onset of his being in the NHL. Huge step from the Juniors especially when you are small. I know, great shot great everything except size. How good will he be in his end? Think we mostly agree how critical that is.

  3. Jailbird

    What you said regarding injuries, Jason, applies to every team in the league. We found out first hand what that does to a team and we missed the playoffs. Making playoffs/winning the cup takes talent,luck and staying away from major injury to your top players. We had all this last year and won the cup. The new season will belong to the teams that can do the same. Hopefully our Knights will be one of them.

  4. Jake

    I pity the fools who doubt Vegas!

    • Emmanuel

      I hate it when a plan falls apart:

      1. Offense is still middling to suspect.
      2. If the most irreplaceable player on the team, Pietrangelo, gets seriously hurt EVERY pairing weakens.
      3. “There’s no reason to believe Hill’s performance level will drop in 2023-24“. Uhhhhh his career history……

      Dont get me wrong theyre NOWHERE near a bad team but
      If all 3 things happen its a repeat of 2 years ago. People dont realize how competitive the league is, doesnt take much to move up or down.

      • Jailbird

        I respect your right to give your opinion Emmanuel, but I couldn’t disagree more.

      • JW

        Agreed. Look at VGK goalie situation past cpl yrs- almost completely determined by injuries. Hill’s SC playoff performance was fantastic & deserves to be LV legend. But conceding the #1 netminder spot is a bit ridiculous. LT had a great season (earning him a start in All-star gam) In my book LT & AH r #’s 1 & 1a. What wld be so terrible about having a 2G rotation?

  5. Sorvino

    Connor Bedard got selected for a shitty organization unfortunately for him. I watched the world Junior championship and he is an incredible talent. No matter how good you are though, unless you have proper coaching and talented teammates to play with, you can be in non-playoff purgatory for quite some time. Just ask Jack Eichel.

    • Pistol Pete

      If Bedard is not good in his own end he won’t matter for as much as he could and probably not all that much overall.

  6. I firmly believed that in order for VGK to be elite last year Eichel HAD to approach 40/100 for us to compete for the Cup…let us rememeber he was out for 11 games and was not his usual dominant self for at least 5 games after that so it is possible he might have attained that last year….this year i will hope for good to great numbers from him…but as great as their line was in the playoffs i have my doubts it will translate into the 82 game season…i dont see or probably want barbashev to play hells bells each and every shift every night as that is not sustainable for a first line player..though i have my doubts they are good enough to be a first line but thats another story for another day…I think there will be many moving parts during the season either due to injury or a different chemistry in the lineup…in any case cant wait for the puck to drop for the defending champs!!!

    • Pistol Pete

      Eichel was out 15 games total (66 pts in 67 games). Point a game is good enough imo. Look for him to
      build on his great defensive play. Gaining possession in the D zone leading to O zone entries.
      His or ones he set up. Cassidy drives the 200 ft. game requiring all forwards to play it. Sure injury free makes a big difference but five man defense will continue to part of the team identity Cassidy built. Don’t know why all GM’s don’t emphasize this with their coaches. It’s said defense wins Cups. NHL 101.

      • LVsc

        You have it exactly right, PP…..good team defensive structure wins cups.

        Edm and TOR are good examples of the opposite.

        16 team playoff wins is the goal….not 100 reg. season individual player points scored.

  7. They said Lafreniere was a once in a lifetime talent going first overall.. just saying.

    • Tim

      Larry as you mentioned Lafreniere is on his way out of New York so using the term generational sometimes doesn’t work out. I wouldn’t mind picking the kid up and trying to rejuvenate his career.

      • Pistol Pete

        Lafreniere absolutely could be a diamond in the rough and with 47 G/44 A in 216 games (.42 pts/game) it’s not like he has not scored (note more goals than assists) just not as hoped based on his #1 pick expectations. Turing 22 just after the season begins. Left winger. Me says the right team, the right coach.

      • Murat Pierre-Toussaint

        Las Vegas Golden knights baby and we will win it again next season boys and girls . Don’t hate on them boys and Eichel is way better hockey player than your speedy boy David Mc chucker.

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