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Golden Knights Lack Defined Roles Come Postseason

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

One of the most used cliches in hockey revolves around each team playing “their game” as opposed to adapting to their opponents. You’ll hear it from coaches, players, management, heck, even media and fans will jump on board insisting if their team plays the way they always play the opposition won’t matter.

Since Pete DeBoer took over as head coach of the Golden Knights the term “our game” has become a staple in his rhetoric before and after games. But does anyone really know what that “game” is?

Are they an offensive team? Defensive? Fast? Heavy? High-event? Low-Event? Puck possession? Rush reliant?

For the most part, the Golden Knights’ “game” is winning. DeBoer’s Golden Knights have amassed a 55-19-4 record, getting there in a variety of ways. Along the way, they certainly have developed into one of the NHL’s best defensive teams, as evidenced by the 2021 Jennings Trophy.

However, in both seasons with DeBoer behind the bench, the Golden Knights went out in a similar way. Against both Dallas and Montreal, Vegas fell into a scoring drought against a team committed to defending the center of the ice.

Which got me to ask, does the Golden Knights “game” not match up with this style of opponent, or do the Golden Knights not really have a defined “game?”

There are a million ways to define a hockey team stylistically, especially one like the Golden Knights. But there is one way to truly hone in on each players’ role inside of a team, and that’s by looking at usage. Every time play is stopped, the head coach and his assistants have a choice to make, which line and which pair are they going to put on the ice next. When you need a goal and the draw is in the offensive zone, who goes? When you are protecting a lead and the faceoff is in front of your own goal, who do you lean on?

These decisions help define a player’s role on a hockey team. Most players in the NHL have a specific skill set that lends either to being more adept offensively or defensively. Then there are the Golden Knights who seem to twist and turn with these decisions depending on who they are playing on any given night.

I went back over the past six playoff series and the regular season to try and figure out the offensive and defensive roles on this team. I broke each series down individually and used the 2021 regular season as a whole to give us seven data points on every Golden Knight.

Does each player start more or less than the team average in offensive zone draws? This will help show us which players are more relied upon for their offensive contributions and which are for defense.

For example, the Golden Knights took 215 faceoffs against the Minnesota Wild. 122 of those, or 56.7%, were taken in the offensive zone. Thus, any player with an offensive zone faceoff percentage higher than 56.7% is considered “UP” and anyone below is considered “DOWN.” Here’s the chart of each player for the past six series and the regular season.


What should jump directly off that chart for you is the fact that very few players are consistent across all six series and the regular season. There are actually just two players on the entire roster with the same result on all seven.

Shea Theodore is always given more offensive zone starts than the team average and Brayden McNabb is always given fewer. Those are defined roles and both players are excellent in them.

But look at the forward groups. The VGK 1st line was down in the regular season, but up for many of the playoff series. The Misfit Line was down last year and up this year. Then there’s the bottom-six, which is a mish-mash of everything.

There’s not a single forward on the roster that has a defined offensive or defensive role. Not Mark Stone, not Max Pacioretty, not Alex Tuch, not Tomas Nosek or William Carrier. Everyone’s role seems to change depending on the opponent.

Against the Avalanche, VGK leaned on the Misfits and the 3rd line to provide the offense. Then, against Montreal, the 3rd line was swapped with the 1st. Meanwhile, the 4th line, who are often described as the “role players” on the team, sometimes are given more offensive starts and others more defensive starts.

I understand this is an overly simplified way to look at this, but the point is clear even using just the eye test. The Golden Knights adapt their roles depending on who they are playing.

At times, it’s worked (see COL and CHI), but others it’s led to seven-game series that should have been wrapped up in five (MIN and VAN), and a pair of series losses to similar teams in similar fashions (MTL and DAL).

I’m not saying it can’t work, but what I am saying is that the Golden Knights don’t play the same game against every team they face. Roles change, responsibilities change, and in the end, the results have changed.

Most of the focus this offseason has been on VGK’s need for an elite scorer, but this exercise has me wondering if maybe they need a few defensive stars to free up the scorers they do have.

Either way, moving forward, the Golden Knights certainly have to figure out who they are, because at this point, they are a very good team that can’t get over the hump. That’s not good enough for me, nor should it be for The Creator, the front office, or Pete DeBoer.


VGK’s Best Postseason Players All Had One Important Thing In Common

Next Podcast #238: You Kind Of Just Accept It


  1. the hockey God

    nice stat break down, they are a “winning team” until the steak is on the table, then the dog gets it and runs away.

    Oscar Dansk has signed a two-year contract with Spartak Moscow of the KHL.
    Dansk appeared in one game with Vegas during the 2020-21 season, while spending most of the year in the AHL with Henderson. He posted six wins in 11 appearances with a 2.99 goals-against average and .902 save percentage as a member of the Silver Knights. Dansk has played in six career NHL games, while making five starts. He was slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

    from desert wasteland to northern ice lands, from the heat into the cold.

    good luck oscar.

    • the hockey God

      I AM SPARTAK !! (idiot senator from new jersey, what a putz)

  2. Robert Dallas

    I’ve always considered “play our game” to just be a cop-out phrase when they don’t know what else to say. They need to change their “game” if playing it is going to lead to the cup.

  3. Thg – who cares that he is gone what purposes does your post provide nothing!!!!! About as useful of all the bad ice baloney. On a more relevant subject have you lived on a boat in the past which I understand is your plan from a prior post. Where you are looking for a slip lots of nice restaurant with in walking distance. The ocean is about the only thing nice about California – not sure why anyone wants to live there in the land of the fruits and nuts. It was great to escape their tax situation which l tolerated for a number of years.

    • the hockey God

      who cares that he is gone .. just posting it. and BIM, BAD ICE MATTERS!!!

      have you lived on a boat in the past>no, I have not. I have two CA friends who have lived on boats. One in Long Beach CA marina on grand banks yacht , and other one in San Diego marina (his boat sunk). Last time I was on a boat I was 12, we rented a wooden rowboat. My dad put a 8 hp motor on it, he forgot to get rid of stray fumes. We rowed out into middle of a one of minor great lakes, the motor caught on fire. He told us to jump out, and a storm was coming in, we nearly got swamped by big yacht wakes coming in from brewing storm in process. But I grabbed a bucket, some lake water, and doused the flames. I used to ride the Balboa ferry all the time taking my bike across it for 10 cents, now it is one dollar and 25 cents. But none of that matters. I used to work on Long Beach pier, too. But that doesn’t count either.
      Where you are looking for a slip lots of nice restaurant with in walking distance>>>newport beach CA (i used to live there) by Cannary and Lido Island. If you know where that is.
      The ocean is about the only thing nice about California – not sure why anyone wants to live there in the land of the fruits and nuts >>I agree, newport beach is John Wayne country. I can deal with that.
      It was great to escape their tax situation which l tolerated for a number of years.>>same boat here. I lived there for thirty years. I am finding that the taxes here in NV are getting just as bad. My car registration is over 400 a year !! It’s more than CA. RE taxes are less than CA. But everything else is getting to be same as CA with goobnor sissypants following in gavin newsome’s footsteps. He’s expanding the government and looking for more ways to tax the crap out of us.

      • Mike StG

        Thg- interesting responses and story. One heads up on taxes: if you’re not retired then you will pay CA state income tax. Though living in NV my CA employer (located in the OC) wrongly took CA income tax from my paycheck for 5 years. I paid the state somewhere between $7-8K a year in income taxes. When that was corrected I’ve paid $0 in state income tax (NV) since. So in 5 years I paid CA close to $40k in income tax. CA sales tax can be a lot higher (as high as 10%) in some places but Newport is 7.75% which is slightly less that 8.1% in Clark County. Good luck on the move. I have friends who did the same thing as a retirement strategy and really love it.

        • THE hockey GOD

          thanks for feedback Mike ! CA took a large chunk out of me too, not only taxes but CA SSI disability ! Which I never saw a dime of ! Plus real estate prices are so high now, rent too. I used to live on beach for 300 a month !!! in 1979 ! Now it is more like 3000 a month and up !

      • Thg – don’t know if your married or not but boat living maybe anolvety at first but gets kind of old and quite test as time goes on. The reason vegas is becoming like California is all the Californians moving here as you probably know. Like l said the only thing good about California is the ocean which l miss but not enough to consider moving back there. I know where it is and it’s not that far if the desire to spend a day or two is compelling. Enjoy the change let’s us know how your surviving. No BS however.

  4. Mike B

    I’ve said it pretty consistently since year one that losing players like Carpenter and Bellemare were going to really hurt. I believe those are the “role-players” you’re describing. Both were fantastic at defensive-zone draws and their lines could be trusted against top 6 forwards for the opponents. This created mismatches and really freed up our top scorers.
    The biggest need for this team is center depth. Period. Regardless of what “on paper” says, the most successful team in this franchise’s history had an embarrassment of riches when it came to center depth. Since, they’ve let go of one or two too many play-drivers in favor of “finishers.” With nobody to set the up when the center of the ice gets clogged, the offense has gone cold.

    • sb

      Nail hit on the head. No playmaking 1st line center, an assist man setting up wingers. Missing a crafty, puck handler center who can win O Zone PP faceoffs, run the PP. Having this guy moves Stephenson to Tuch/Roy line. Then VGK’s will have three scoring lines which is what’s needed to win a Cup. Scoring depth. Vegas is only one hi-end center away from being a true contender and getting over that hump. What does that guy look like? He looks like Eichel, plays like Eichel. Eichel is the only center who is remotely available to fill this spot. How to get there? Trade or buy out Fleury, Reaves, Holden. Don’t resign Nosek and Janmark. That gets you pretty close to $10 million. Cost? Three first rounders, Krebs and Dugan. One of the best centers in the game ain’t gonna be cheap, but this guy is worth it.

  5. Tim

    Talk about what we need all you want the 2022 Stanley Cup finals Tampa Bay versus Colorado. We can not make enough moves to overcome there talent in a 7 game series. We got lucky this year with Colorado they won’t make that mistake again. You can talk all you want about plugging this guy in trading this guy trading for this guy it’s not going to matter. In the last two years round three we weren’t competitive with Dallas or Montreal and you think next year will be different. This last series we proved our 18,000 fans didn’t mean shit Montreal whipped us twice at home. That game 5 was the most disheartening game for me we just gave up very sad. We’ve got an entertaining team that will probably win the Pacific which is better then most teams have done in our 5 year history.

    • Dean

      They also said that against Colorado this year, that we would not beat them. Yet our team showed up and the Stephenson line shut down their top line. I don’t think lucky had to do with that.

      • Daryl

        Yes VGK showed up, but COL also shit themselves in the foot several times. That series reminded me of the MTL series where VGK should have won but their own mistakes cost them

        • THE hockey GOD

          and the bad ice


          • Pauly

            More bad ice nonsense…easily the dumbest fan base in sports history

    • sb

      Two things overlooked here. Neither Tampa nor Colorado will be coming back with the same players. Both are seriously, SERIOUSLY in trouble with the salary cap and there’s no way they can resign all their RFA and UFA. Not even close. Same goes for Minn. Remember what happened to Chicago after winning Cups? The salary cap disarmed this Team. Same goes for Tampa, Colo and Minn for 2021-22. Take 10 minutes and study their rosters on Cap Geek and you’ll see the deep, deep holes these three teams are in with the Cap. Cap wise, VGK sit much better in 2021-22 than these three. These three will face big cap challenges over the next three to four years. Vegas is in a good spot cap wise.

      • Daryl

        There will be several teams with Cap issues. We don’t really know what players are going to be avail or not. VGK might be able to steal a player or two, hopefully a Center

  6. DOC (Go Knights Go)

    Ya know ….. I have been talking for two years now, about heart & effort.

    I saw lack of this from the Knights on a number of occasions, but this years playoffs showed we didn’t have that winning fortitude.

    You can’t advance or win the cup without playing like you WANT IT!

    The Knights need more “motors” & “heart” on this team and a teamwide attitude to play the friggin games hard from from start to finish, at playoff time!

    • Jeff

      No question. They did not have the heart of a champion. They did not have the desire to win the Stanley Cup. Until they have that attitude and spirit, which the misfits had, they will not be successful as far as the Stanley Cup goes.

    • Tim

      Doc you were always defensive when a poster was critical of the Knights I’m glad as they say praise the lord you saw the light. We love the Knights but there not the team management tries to portray. Winning is about talent but heart and motor are a close second and third. We’ve seen it the last 3 years. As you recall we had the Sharks down 3 – 1 and loss yes in game 7 we had a bad call but it never should of went to game 7. Last year and this year the coach and team had no answer how to beat Dallas or Montreal. Like I said game 5 at home and we were manhandled was the final straw enough of this nonsense of winning the Cup it ain’t going to happen. Kelly always puts a positive spin on everything but were way past that bullshit now.

      • Al Bundy of Hockey

        Doc and Jeff, you have to really understand what the system that Dallas and Montreal is intended to do. Maybe you guys do. The system is designed to frustrate teams and specifically the talented players. VGK could have been at 110% vs everyone else’s 99% and the result would be the same when there are no coaching adjustments made. You absolutely CAN NOT skate the puck thru the neutral zone. The system makes excellent players look like they aren’t trying. If you noticed, the 4th line for VGK really wasn’t impacted by the system because they are essentially not allowed to carry the puck in EVER. They know that if it isn’t a clear cut odd man rush, they have to get it in or they sit or miss the next game.

        Vegas has the horses…they would have been competitive vs Tampa…no doubt. This falls squarely on the coach.

        • DOC (Go Knights Go)

          Sorry, can’t agree Bundy.

          • Al Bundy of Hockey

            Can’t agree about what part?

            If you know hockey, I can’t believe you could disagree about the trap.

            As for the horses, there is some debate there of course. I’m a firm believer in even B horses buying into a system is waaay better than A horses with no buy in. Take the turn around Trotz pulled off in his 1st year in NY. No Tavares and went from worst to 1st in GAA and made playoffs.

          • Al Bundy of Hockey

            Throw in what Gallant did in yr 1…all system driven buy in

      • DOC (Go Knights Go)

        Now Tim …. I was critical of others when they said ridiculous things.

        Need to go back and read the many posts I had that were critical of Knights in a common sense way.

        Anyway, who cares.

        • Tim

          Doc these post we do are just for fun your health is more important so hang in there and as I do take it one day at a time.

          • DOC (Go Knights Go)

            That’s all I can do Tim.

            No choice there!

    • Daryl

      In year 1, VGK had a bunch of players who had something to prove. They played with heard!!! VGK doesn’t have those players anymore. You can be the best player in the world, but if you don’t play with heart, your skills mean nothing.

      • sb

        Year 1 had scoring depth and productive PP. That was the difference in 2017. No Haula, Perron, Neal nor 43 goals from Karlsson. VGK are down 50 goals per season. PP dropped from 25% to 17%. We liked it better when Year 1 team won 5 to 4. 2021 team is considerably stronger on D and in the nets, but weaker on offense. For the offense to perk up, some cash (either $7 or $5 mil) must come out of the goalies salaries.

  7. Pauly

    We need Lehner to shoot off some fireworks

    • Blitz

      As someone who appreciates dark humor. I say to you sir, bravo!

  8. Al Bundy of Hockey

    A thorough but slightly irrelevant analysis. DeBoers has not been able to adjust to teams that sit back and play pseudo traps.

    Vancouver barely left their zone – squeaked by
    Dallas – lost
    Habs – lost

    • Bryan Kelly

      You have to go back in history of previous teams DeBoer coached. Devil’s in 2012 could not score against the Kings and did not get into the playoffs again until he was in San Jose. If you go back to the 2011-2014 Devil’s press, it was always the Devil’s could not get their power play going. Same with the VGK. In the end, the common denominator, the coach.

      • Al Bundy of Hockey

        Exactly. Deboers PP record

        15-16 22.6
        16-17 16.7
        17-18 20.6
        18-19 23.6
        19-20 17.5
        20-21 22.0

        • Blitz

          Holy crap! Wow! What’s next year, the 16 or the 23? Shoot me either way.

  9. DOC (Go Knights Go)

    Look, I think PDB is a good coach. Should he share some of the “”blame”, sure.

    But so do the players, especially the “leadership guys” Stone (C). both Petro & Patch (past Cs), and a few others.

    I’m more concerned about the McGMs. They need to stop looking to always make the big noise, and go for quality, affordable players that actually meet our needs!

  10. Miri

    Agree with Mike B above and DOC’s last comment. On paper, the teams have improved each year if all of the starters are healthy and playing up to their potential. Unfortunately, I think the team has less quality depth now throughout their ranks than they did in year 1. Hopefully, we will get back to that point as some of the younger players develop. One thing I would hate to see over the off-season is for the team to make a lot of moves. They still have a very solid team, capable of winning the Cup. Because of the salary cap, some changes are inevitable. But I hate to see them go overboard.

    Like other Knights fans, I was disappointed to see the team exit the playoffs when they did. And like everyone else, I have my own theories about what they might have done differently to have possibly advanced to the final round. But at the same time, I also think that some of the harsher critics need to remember just how much luck goes into winning a Cup. Look at the Avs and the Penguins. Both excellent teams this past season, who both expected to go deep into the playoffs. But the Pens lost in the first round and the Avs in the second. Look at Boston these past two years. Great teams that also lost in the semi-finals. Winning a Cup takes a lot of skill and dedication and having the coaches push the right buttons at the right times. But it also takes a certain amount of luck, and there’s no getting away from that.

    • Daryl

      As a Pens fan, I was worried about them getting past the first round simply because of goaltending. I personally don’t think Jarry is a very good goalie. The Pens are basically a goalie away from going to the Cup. COL shot themselves in the foot time and time again. They lost because of their own mistakes similar to how VGK lost to MTL.

      I agree luck plays a big part… but sometimes that luck is generated, which VGK did not do

  11. Richard Santomauro

    VGK should be making the playoffs the next several years with the roster they currently have plus/minus a few.

    I see a deeper problem with this organization and it begins with the fact that we essentially have 2 GM’s. One of them should go, and it should be McKinnon in my opinion. He can take DeBoering with him. Ken states it very well, “no one really knows what DeBoer’s game strategy is. I don’t even think DeBoer knows what it is. It’s obvious from the stats provided in this thread that there is simply no consistency that can be pointed to. Even worse, DeBoering has shown no ability to adapt or even show improvement in areas that badly need attention. You can talk about the players all day, but it is the coache’s responsibility to implement strategies that improve the team roster.

    DeBoer inherited a playoff caliber team and has failed to improve it in anyway despite roster moves. It’s basically the same from a performance perspective as year 2.

    The season is normally 82 games, and in the playoffs you have to win 16 games to be crowned champion. Sure, you might win 50 during the regular season, but keep in mind that teams are allowing a lot more time and space during the regular season. DeBoer hasn’t won a thing in his career and McKinnon’s legacy and fame is the championship he brought to the Wheat Kings in Junior Hockey. Give me a break. Give VGK fans a break.

    Get rid of the dead weight behind the bench and in the front office. Show the players and fans some respect by doing so. At the same time, issue an apology to Gerard Gallant for the disrespectful way you treated him after panicking in Season 2.

    That’s exactly how I feel. Pretty consistent.

  12. Arnold Rothstein

    ARnold the BRAIN here.

    MTL 3 TB 2 (OT)

    THE FIX WAS IN ! I said it before, the MAYOR of TB was the big tell.

    IT was like taking Candy from a BABY, the wise guys made some coin yesterday.

    IF the hurricane zips through, it is likely that TB postpones the home game. This is good for TB as they are starting to look tired, hitting three , or was it four, posts is a sign that the team is rushing things. They will have better match up on home ice.

    Based upon simple logic , wins and losses. VGK WAS six wins away from the STANLEY CUP, with HAB win, they are now five away. With every HAB win they get closer, and with every TB win they get farther away. So if the HABS win three more games, VGK would be two wins away from SC. IF HAbS win one more game it would go to four, and if TB wins it would go back to five. VGK is basically one more win away from SC than they were last year.

    ARNOLD the BRAIN Rothstein,

    • knights fan in minny

      heads up arnie the men in the white coats are coming to get you

      • DOC (Go Knights Go)

        HA HA

      • Arnold Rothstein

        terrific I like Good Humor Ice Cream ! Who doesn’t ? Thanks of heads up. I like the chocolate covered vanilla bars.

  13. Arnold Rothstein

    terrific I like Good Humor Ice Cream ! Who doesn’t ? Thanks for heads up. I like the chocolate covered vanilla bars.

    • knights fan in minny

      no arnie you dont understand white coat guys with a strait jacket try to follow along i know its hard for you and your half a brain get help clown

      • Arnold Rothstein

        i understand good humor vendors wear white suites, thanks for pointing them out..

        • knights fan in minny

          you are a moron you know what i am talking about you nut case

          • Pauly

            You should have a go at some CBJ fireworks, since you are as dumb as that dumb ass goalie…how embarrassing…

          • Arnold Rothstein

            i am eating my ice cream bar right now

  14. knights fan in minny

    look the black mouth is back how brothers and kids killed in the windy city this past weekend you better save your people boy soon there wont be many of you left

    • Pauly

      You are being replaced, pure and simple

      • Daryl

        You are wiping out your own race, plain and simple.

        • Pauly

          Pure ignorance- look around you racist pig – my race is breeding with so many white women – guess what those kids look like? Do you know why? SUPERIOR GENETICS…

          You are being replaced thru breeding! So happy!!!

          • Arnold Rothstein

            it is well known documented fact that cross breeding between two races, much like creating designer “doggy breeds”, creates more genetic issues including but not limited to spread of sickle cell anemia, obesity, greater percentage of diabetes, poor health, multigenic diseases, Mendelian diseases ( Sickle cell anemia, Thalassemia, Cystic fibrosis, Colour blindness, Haemophilia, Skeletal dysplasia, Muscular dystrophy, Phenylketonuria). Not to mention derivative chemical dependency from parents including weed addiction, crack and other drug addictions. Most of which lead to pre mature death. Also, premature pregnancies are common. But the most egregious impact is the passing of the gene to female gender known as gluteus maximus. aka big buttocks, and inherent onset at puberty. Another leading cause of depression and pre mature death. One final , and additional pass through, is the trailer park trash factor in which all the females exhibit. As that trait is what drive them to breed in first place, due to upbringing in that environment in the first place.

            Just reporting the facts, so before you all go BLM and racist , know the science, and don’t hate the poster.

            So all in all it is not a good thing as noted from all above negative factors.

            Arnold the Brain.

          • Daryl

            Yeah they are looking lighter and lighter. Pretty soon you will turn into what you hate lol. Come get ya some haha

          • knights fan in minny

            the only genetics you and your people have is i cant work the white man holds me down i need free stuff i dont get out of bed before noon

  15. Pauly

    Oh its a great thing! Rids this country built on slavery and racism of the white majority, and guess what? We brothers like the big butt!

    • THE hockey GOD

      funny but you got it backwards,

      when I first moved here, my neighbor was black, a pastor !

      And he moved out ! Didn’t like non black people, and made it well known.

    • knights fan in minny

      and the malt liquor

  16. Pauly

    You ignorant redneck! The founding fathers (all racists) broke away from England BECAUSE THERE WERE RUMBLINGS IN ENGLAND THAT SLAVERY WOULD BE ABOLISHED

    • Daryl

      Is that what BLM taught you lol.

      • knights fan in minny

        pauly is to stupid to learn daryl he just likes the free stuff

    • knights fan in minny

      thug boy look at all of your bros who were shot or killed in chicago and mpls over the 4th your race is vanishing fast maybe you and rev al can get together and get a hold on your thugs it is still funny the blm lady fleeced your people took the money and built spendy houses in white neighborhoods dont you stupid people ever learn its a thugs life pauly

  17. knights fan in minny

    thug boy look at all of your bros who were shot or killed in chicago and mpls over the 4th your race is vanishing fast maybe you and rev al can get together and get a hold on your thugs it is still funny the blm lady fleeced your people took the money and built spendy houses in white neighborhoods dont you stupid people ever learn its a thugs life pauly

  18. knights fan in minny

    and the malt liquor

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