I probably don’t need to remind you the Vegas Golden Knights are an expansion team, but I may need to remind you that as an expansion team, they are going to operate differently than any other team you’ve ever been a fan of before.
The goal is the same as everyone else in every other sport, to eventually win the final game of the postseason and be crowned the ultimate champion of the sport. However, with an expansion team like the Golden Knights, there’s an understanding by the people pulling the strings that it may not be realistic to do that right away.
One of those people pulling the strings used the word “balance” to demonstrate that point in a recent interview with the VGK Insider Show on Fox Sports Radio.
There’s a lot of hockey to be played. There’s a bigger picture to mindful of. There’s a balance that we are going to try to strike where we want to be very competitive, where we want to continue developing players and improving day to day, but at the same time, the goal is to one day bring a championship to Las Vegas, so those are all the different elements of building this franchise. -Kelly McCrimmon, Assistant General Manager
The balance he’s talking about is between being good now and being good in the future. That balance is at the heart of every single roster move the Golden Knights make. It started with the signing of Reid Duke, continued through the Expansion Draft, free agency, Training Camp, and it will affect every trade, signing, waiving, or anything else the front office does to the Golden Knights roster.
The challenge for fans, and writers for that matter, is that the balance is constantly changing. With every day, every move, and every game that goes by, the plan shifts. Sometimes slightly, sometimes drastically.
It ties back really to the template that was used for Expansion. If you understand the rules of the CBA, which can get a little bit tricky, we didn’t have access to very many players that were waiver exempt, that they could be sent to the AHL without having to clear waivers. We were able to select some good players but they all, for the most part, had to be able to go through waivers. So that made managing our roster a little trickier than it will be for our team in the future and that it is for the day to day for most of the other teams in the NHL, and I’m not complaining about that, it’s just one of the realities. It has put us in a situation where probably some frustration from fans asking why we are doing what we are doing, but there’s a bigger picture in mind. -McCrimmon
Bigger picture and balance. Those are the two factors in the middle of everything, and while fans focus is understandably on the W’s the Golden Knights keep racking up on the ice, the guys behind the curtain remain unphased.
The question is, how many of those W’s will it take before the balance shifts a bit from the future to now and the bigger picture becomes taking a run at the Cup sooner rather than later?
It’ll pain most to read this, but no matter how many wins the Golden Knights amass, it probably won’t be this year. But, if they keep playing well, and more and more players shift themselves from being future assets to pieces of the Golden Knights core, the timeline will undoubtedly shift forward.
You have a 5-year plan, you have a 1-year plan, you have a 3-year plan, you have a month-to-month plan, and it changes every day. -McPhee
The hard part is going to be able to figure out which move falls into which plan, and when/if the “changes” occurred. Those answers will probably forever remain a mystery, or at least until the “George McPhee: How I Built The Golden Knights Into A Stanley Cup Champion” book hits the shelves, but I promise, we’ll keep trying to guess every step along the way.
Oh, and if that book needs an author, I know a guy who might be good for the job.
**I highly recommend you listen to the entire Kelly McCrimmon interview on Fox Sports. Linked it above, but here it is again if you missed it. It really is must-hear stuff for a Golden Knights fan.**
Great post, Ken!
I had a thought while I was listening to your mammoth podcast (which I still haven’t finished yet, by the way): if we continue with the original plan for longterm success, i.e. trading away all of the pending UFA’s, would we really fall off that much? Couldn’t we continue to push for a playoff spot, or would removing the likes of Neal, Perron, Sbisa, etc set us back that much?
If all the UFA’s go, here’s what our potential roster could look like after the trade deadline (I’ll keep Stoner and Engelland since I doubt they get moved either way):
Haula – Eakin – Smith
Leipsic – Karlsson – Tuch
Lindberg – Shipachyov – Hyka
Carrier – Bellemare – Nosek
Schmidt – Theodore
Hunt – Miller
Merrill – Engelland
Stoner, Reinhart (scratch)
I don’t know about you, but that still seems like a competitive roster to me.
PS. My biggest fear about being too good this year, is that we REALLY need a high pick in the 2018 draft for the best long-term outlook of this franchise.
Hmmm….I guess that just gives you another reason why Shipachyov keeps getting dumped to the AHL. GMGM: “We’re too good right now, and we need a high pick in ’18. Until we’re bad enough, the Shippy ship keeps on sailing to Chicago.”
Not sure how much trust should be put in this GM vision. He made bizarre picks in the expansion draft Loading up on defensemen and passing on high quality goal tenders. Did this with the stated goal of acquiring the top assets to move for more value (illogical). Then has already moved defensemen for garbage late round picks because they aren’t worth much. Keeps focusing on long term entirely when he’s got an amazing team this year that is playing the most inspired it ever will in Gallant’s demanding system. Has done nothing to fix the goaltending issue. He needs to focus more on now because this team is good. It’s not about win a cup or bust. You need to build a following in Vegas and making the playoffs year 1 with a good, winning team will do that.
Tanking and sucking for 3 years to hope we’ll build for the future to “win a cup” is a risky strategy more about luck than skill. You don’t want this nascent franchise to be the next Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia 76ers. That’s exactly how you lose interest from Vegas.
If this GM gives up UFAs and a lot of our quality players at the trade deadline for future assets, I will be seriously pissed and he would be a fool to do that. Focus on the team this year. The Pacific is not a strong division this season and it is very plausible to be top 3 this year. Who knows in future seasons when supposedly we’ll be a cup contending juggernaut. Take your window. Don’t F it up with the blinders on for one strategy.