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Golden Knights Massive Roster Turnover Not Abnormal… For Bad Teams

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It feels like the team that took the ice for the Golden Knights in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final is a distant memory. The group of players and coaches that led Vegas to one of the most memorable seasons in NHL history has been taken apart piece by piece over the past two and a half years.

Since that series, 921 days ago, the Golden Knights have a new head coach, new goalie, seven new forwards, and four new defensemen in their projected starting lineup. That’s half of their top-six forwards, half of their top-four defensemen, and more than two-thirds of their starting lineup replaced less than three years removed from a trip to the Stanley Cup Final. It seems like massive turnover, especially for a team that’s been good.

But how does it stack up with the rest of the league?

To answer that question, I went through the current rosters of all 31 teams and compared them to the 2017-18 season. To simplify the process, the only metric I used was total time on ice. The six forwards who logged the most time on ice in the 17-18 season were considered the “Top-Six,” the four defensemen with the most were the “Top-Four” and the next six forwards and two defensemen were considered “Starters.” The goalie was based on which goalie was considered the starter then to which is expected to be the starter now.

We’ll start with the easy ones, head coach and goalie. The Golden Knights have swapped both putting them among 14 other teams to have done so since 2017-18. Most of the 14 are bad teams like Ottawa, Buffalo, New Jersey, and the New York Rangers, but teams like Philadelphia, Washington, Carolina, St. Louis, and the New York Islanders are included. So, we’ll say that’s not that abnormal.

Next we move to the “top” groups, the top-six forwards and the top-four defensemen. Using the method of total time on ice, Vegas has retained just four of their top 10 players. Those are William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault, and Brayden McNabb. Of course, Shea Theodore missed a chunk of the first season and then eventually took over a role in the top-four from Colin Miller, so, it’s fair to say Vegas has kept five of the 10.

13 teams have kept five or fewer of their Top 6/4 players since 2017-18. The majority of these teams are bad. Ottawa and the New York Rangers were the only two to keep less than four, with Ottawa keeping just one and New York only two. Of the teams to keep four, they include Florida, Detroit, Vancouver, and Minnesota. Of those to keep five, we find Los Angeles and Buffalo. However, among these groups, there are some good teams; Pittsburgh (4), Colorado (5), Carolina (5), and Toronto (5).

On the flip side of that, the three teams to keep the most are three of the best in the NHL. The New York Islanders still have an incredible nine of their top 10 players from three seasons ago. Tampa Bay and Washington both have eight. Columbus, St. Louis, Edmonton, and Winnipeg each have seven.

Finally, we get to the overall roster. Again, this is based on the 18 skaters and one goalie with the most total time on ice from the 17-18 season compared to the current roster. The Golden Knights return seven of the 19 from their Western Conference Championship season.

That’s fewer than 18 of the 32 teams and equal to another five. Thus, only seven teams in the entire league have had more roster turnover than the Golden Knights. Those teams are Ottawa (1), New York Rangers (2), Pittsburgh (5), Florida (5), Toronto (6), Buffalo (6), Calgary (6). Between those seven teams, not even one has won a single best-of-seven playoff round in the past two seasons and only Pittsburgh has won one since 2017-18.

Let me repeat that, the seven teams tied with the Golden Knights in roster turnover have a combined one best-of-seven playoff series win in the past three seasons. Vegas has five.

Meanwhile, the teams with the least roster turnover, New York Islanders (16), Boston (12), Tampa Bay (11), and Winnipeg (11) have won a total of 15 best-of-seven series between them including five trips to the Conference Final, two to the Cup Final, and one Stanley Cup.

So, in conclusion, roster turnover in the NHL is not uncommon at all. In fact, the Golden Knights aren’t even in the top five for the most turnover in the past three seasons. However, that doesn’t mean Vegas is in good company with how much their roster has changed since they shocked the world in 2017-18.

There are only three teams to meet the following conditions, which have also been met by the Golden Knights. New coach, new starting goalie, less than 37% retained starting lineup, and 40% or less retained top 6/4. Those three teams are the Ottawa Senators, the New York Rangers, and the Florida Panthers.

If I didn’t know better, I’d think the Golden Knights are in the midst of a complete rebuild, not trying to repeat what they did just two and a half years ago.

Teams with new head coach since 2017-18
Anaheim, Buffalo, Calgary, Carolina, Chicago, Dallas, Edmonton, Florida, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Nashville, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Ottawa, Philadelphia, San Jose, St. Louis, Toronto, Vegas, Washington

Teams with new starting goalie since 2017-18
Arizona, Buffalo, Calgary, Carolina, Chicago, Colorado, Columbus, Detroit, Edmonton, Florida, Nashville, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Vancouver, Vegas, Washington

Remaining of Starting 19Top 6/4
New York Islanders169
Tampa Bay118
New Jersey86
St. Louis87
Los Angeles75
San Jose76
New York Rangers32


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  1. Just another example of the absolute shit hole the VGK front office has put itself through. There was NO NEED for us to be in a position where in our 4th year we are burning bridges with star players and the face of the franchise.

  2. Tim

    When it’s all said and done Ken we’ll have 4 misfits left Tuch and Theadore who weren’t there at the start Karlsson and Carrier all others will be gone. They may extend Riley Smith after that it will be a new team for better or worse. For some reason management likes players over 30 believing they’ll take them to the promise land. Hopefully they don’t trade Glass and Krebs but you never know there may be another over 30 guy they just have to have, Like I’ve said before they did an amazing job forming this team after that besides Stephenson and Stone I question all there other moves. with all the draft picks and young kids we gave up how much better are we?

    • Tim – thinking about your comment they did an amazing team assembling the original knights, they did nothing other than take players other tea.s gave up. Not sure that is the definition option of amazing. They fell into a pile of s— and came out smelling like Rose’s. They succeeded because all the players had something to prove to themselves it sure wasn’t to make mgt look good. Is Gallant coaching anywhere yet l don’t recall seeing anything other than consideration from Seattle.

  3. Mikegron32

    Ken you spent an awful lot of research on this when there is one significant difference between VGK and everyone else… they were an Expansion Team! None of their big players were locked in to long term contracts in that first season. You will see that turnover slow down significantly as they’ve now got the players they want locked up.
    And please everyone c’mon, look at the players we’ve lost and try to tell me we’d be a better team than we are now .. Neal, Haula, Perron, Sbisa, Miller, Merrill, Eakin, Suuban, Schmidt
    And one last thing.. the team that beat us in the SCF is now on their 3rd head coach since that time

    • I knew people would try to make that point. So let me explain why it’s not a good one.

      VGK are not like any other expansion team in history. If they were, being in a category with the rebuilding teams (OTT, NYR, etc) would make perfect sense. But, if you remember, they went to the Cup Final the first season and have never missed the playoffs (or even been remotely close). The 12 players they’ve churned off the roster were all a part of a Western Conference Champion.

      Comparing VGK to any other expansion team in any other sport makes little to no sense.

      • The owner wants to win the Cup, not be good or “make the playoffs.” Thus, risks are taken. The goaltending wasn’t Cup worthy, and the scoring droughts have indicated that things need to be upgraded there if possible. Adding a top flight defender, well, most Cup winners have a couple of them.

        My two cents

      • Ken – not rocket science or brain surgery – they have gone from a TEAM and INDIVIDUALS year one who had something to prove together with a winning attitude and as you know certainly did that. To an assembly of just a team with a number of high paid individuals without a winning team mentality. Year three they were lucky to beat Vancouver and failed miserably in semi finals against a team Dallas who wanted more to win than Vegas could muster. You know as well as anyone year 2 should never have gone to game seven against a team that was down in series 3 to 1. All the tweaks ????? they have made certain hasn’t shown up in performance as they believe you can buy the CUP and that is not how it works.

        • I mean, it’s actually easier to do brain surgery than it is to prove the importance of intangibles in hockey but I get your point.

          • Ken – remind me not to put Doctor before your name if you believe brain surgery is that simple. LoL. Must admit you do have a sense of humor. What intangibles are you referring to? Mgt believes they can but the Cup – that’s not an intangible their action speak to fact,

    • sb

      Absolutely correct! This article was written based on an incorrect assumption. The Knights are an Expansion Team, not a long established Team that had prior years to assemble their Top 10. The Knights are only three season in business and are still establishing their Top 10, what every other Team has had years to do. The comparison is apples and oranges. The writer should consider retracting this article.

  4. DC

    Well if it wasn’t apparent before that Vegas is trying to buy its way to the Stanley Cup before, it is now. Trading off star players, signing elite players at prices that make you eject good players, treating players like pawns, dropping player morale, low player esprit de corps, cold and business like. I predict this ain’t gonna work.

    • It doesn’t “work” for 30 teams every year. You have good odds at being correct. But trying is all a team can do. I like an owner and management that tries to win it all.

  5. bob dell

    To me the riskiest thing they have done is change coaches. I’m still not sure that was the best move given the person they picked. If they get off to a bad start, look for another move.

    The organization wants to win the cup the fastest than any other team in history so they are going to be different than anyone else in history. Nothing wrong in that if it works. And the players know if they want to stay, they have to perform.

    Vegas loves its team but its never had a season like the Kings had last year. That will be the real test.

    • Tim

      bob dell I agree with you on the coach Gerard Gallant had his faults but he was a Vegas Golden Knight. Pete DeBoer is a Shark and I’ll bet 80% of the fans don’t like him that’s a sad thing to say about your coach but it’s true. Who knows with Gerard Gallant what went on behind close doors were management making moves he didn’t like? We all know he was a players coach maybe he lost objectivity being so close. When we had San Jose down 3 games to 1 and lost the series especially when he didn’t call time out and the Sharks raked up 4 goals on Eakins 5 minute penalty. Last year we got off to a slow start which probably sealed the deal to fire Gallant sad to say but I miss him. DeBoer will never be considered a Golden Knight he will always be the Sharks coach that we beat consistently while he was there coach.

  6. I think it’s fair to say Vegas didn’t get all the pieces they wanted or needed from the expansion draft. They outperformed everyone’s expectations, but it still wasn’t the team GMGM envisioned as the final product.
    Team building like that takes time and lots of moves.
    The teams sustained success and future outlook, in spit of those moves, should be validation for what they’ve done.
    Just because we’re doing thing differently from other winning teams is not always a bad thing.

  7. sb

    What can be said about the Golden Knights? This team is the most successful third year team in the history of North American professional sports. Complain about the Management that has assembled this team and its accomplishments? Vegas Knight fans should be praising them, not ridiculing them. Vegas odds makers give them the second best odds for the Cup in 2021. There are 25 other teams and their fan base that would love to trade places with Vegas.

  8. jason mason

    Chemistry actually matters in putting a team together in my opinion, and moving players too frequently out of a seemingly desperate desire to win the cup can create issues where none existed before.

    Players from the 1st season played perhaps with a bigger need to prove something, and that in itself can build a togetherness that is hard to duplicate when you achieve so much and then dismantle the thing that brought the together. And it puts an image on the teams management/front office that anyone is expendable, even if the team wins. Let’s see how the new big contract defenseman works out if he’s not putting his name on the cup next year, and who gets thrown under the bus for any team failures.

    An earlier comment mentioned preferring perhaps “seasoned” older players. How can that possibly be true if one of those players has his name on 3 cups and his new hangout is the curb? If the VGK install a revolving door on their locker room don’t expect much in the way of loyalty or chemistry to build where it matters, whether they win the cup or not.

  9. the president Elect- Hockey God

    hockey, due to salary cap, among other things is subject to massive over hauls and changes.

    it has always been that way since BETTMAN took over, no more dynasties like

    deal with it progressive snowflakes, i mean regressive because there is nothing progressive about it

  10. I really don’t know what to think, losing a lot of our guys hurt. That said, alot of people here have stated that “team chemistry”, “team morale” will be hurt. Let me say something, Stone, Patches, Smith, Carrier will never let our morale drop, these guys are professional’s. Not one guy wants to lose,be embarrassed, not one. That said, it’s really a mystery how we will play, we need the younger guys to step up, Glass, Kolesar, Krebs, Hague, Dugan, etc !!! To me, that’s a key !!

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