The next Guest Post comes from one of our most outspoken fans. If you read the comments, our Twitter feed, or have ever attended a Golden Knights/SinBin.vegas sponsored event, you’ve probably heard from Jerry. He goes by the name PhiSig150 and he has a lot to say about the idea of tanking vs respecting the process it takes to win in professional sports.
The recent NHL expansion into Las Vegas was an armchair GM’s dream come true. The Golden Knights have never signed a free agent to a horrendous contract. The Knights likewise have never been swindled out of young prospects or potentially high draft picks in a lopsided trade. Vegas was a completely blank canvas onto which an amateur GM could paint their masterpiece of the perfectly constructed roster. Wannabe front office personnel spent the months leading up to the Expansion Draft imagining which players they would select and concocting various trades with other teams to allow them to protect certain players. I know from first hand experience. I was one of those nerds. SinBin.vegas and CapFriendly.com let us indulge in our fantasies even further by hosting a contest that let fans pretend to be not only McPhee but the other 30 GMs as well. Each fan was able to create his or her own protection list for each team and then conduct a mock draft on behalf of the Golden Knights. I spent more time doing research for this contest than I care to admit.
Once the expansion draft came and went most fans were satisfied with the Knights mixture of solid vets, promising prospects, and future draft picks. There are a few fans, however, that feel that the club is trying to put a bad team on ice to lose games on purpose or what we NBA fans have come to call: tanking. Teams tank in an attempt to land a high draft pick with the hope that, that prospect will one day turn out to be the next Crosby or McDavid level superstar. Some Knights fans have argued that they pay good money for tickets and that Vegas is a nontraditional hockey market so McPhee needs to put a winner on the ice as soon as this upcoming season. McPhee drew further ire from the win now crowd by trading away players like Marc Methot and Marcus Kruger, two players who could contribute on the ice immediately, for future draft picks. In their minds McPhee has already thrown in the towel on the season and gone into full tank mode. While I wish this truly were the case, McPhee hasn’t done anything in his long history as a GM that would suggest he even knows how to tank and the word definitely isn’t in Foley’s vocabulary. McPhee is no Sam Hinkie.
Sam Hinkie took over as general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers in the Summer of 2013. He inherited a perennial loser that had been searching for years for its identity since the departure of Allen Iverson. Hinkie was an analytics savant with an MBA from Stanford. His hiring represented the further changing of the guard across sports from the traditional ways to evaluate talent to the new school of advanced analytics. Hinkie’s roster building philosophy was simple. To win championships in the NBA you need star players. Teams land these superstars in the draft. These players are typically selected within the first couple of picks of the draft. To get into the very top of the draft you need to be really, really bad.
The Sixers during Hinkie’s brief tenure weren’t just bad, they would go on to become one of the worst teams in NBA history. Hinkie made almost as many trades as the 76ers won games. Hinkie didn’t just love sexy high first round picks he loved draft picks of all shapes and sizes. He took on bad contracts for future picks. He traded away both solid seasoned vets and young players with upside for more draft picks. He would also trade draft picks for even more future draft picks. In a three-year span Hinkie made nearly 30 trades and the 76ers would lose almost 200 games but they also landed a top three NBA Draft selection every year from 2014-17.
After yet another loss a player would utter the phrase that would go down in infamy thanks to a 76er blog that ran with it: Trust the process. Trust the process became the mantra for Hinkie’s small cult of true believers and was also used by his numerous detractors to mock his efforts. The murmurs soon began around the league that Hinkie was undermining the integrity of the game. Finally the grumblings from a disheartened fan base and the fever pitch of derision by the media would prove to be too much. Hinkie resigned during the 2015-16 season. The ripples of his moves, however, live on to this day. The 76ers look to finally have an exciting team on the upswing. Some even go as far as to say they may have the core of a title contender in a few years if everyone can remain healthy. Like many other people that were ahead of their time but were roundly ridiculed, Hinkie may just end up having the last laugh after all.
Despite both valuing draft picks McPhee is a far cry from Hinkie. James Neal, Marc-Andre Fleury, Jonathon Marchessault, Reilly Smith, and David Perron caliber players wouldn’t have any place on a Hinkie led team. Foley’s West Point background and competitive nature won’t allow for Hinkie on Ice. McPhee walks the fine line of trying to please an owner with an edict of “Playoffs in 3, Cup in 6” and carefully building a team through the draft while avoiding quick fixes in free agency that will hinder future cap flexibility. Hinkie is the type of gambler that if he ever got some inside information on a bowl game he would then proceed to bet his kid’s entire college fund on that one game. McPhee is more like a sharp bettor who spreads his money around and hedges his bets. He hasn’t put all of his money down on the promise of youth. Instead he’s got some money on established veterans like Neal and Fleury, some on a few dogs like Smith and Cody Eakin who might have bounce back seasons, and a bit laid down on heavy favorite in Shea Theodore who many feel will become an all star one day. If any of his long shots come through in the draft he’s got a backer in Foley that will bankroll him to the finish line. I am confident that McPhee isn’t going to make a rash trade or grossly overpay a middling free agent to appease the fan base. I would urge the Vegas Golden Knights Kingdom to practice patience. One day our patience will go rewarded. The team isn’t going to throw games as some have suggested. Players are going to play hard and Gallant is going to try to win each and every game but we still will lose much more than we win early on. It will be far better for a Knights fan’s emotional and psychological well being to be invested in our prospects’ development and look forward to the entry draft than to live and die with each win and loss. This roster simply isn’t built to win now. McPhee is trying to arm us with the necessary draft ammunition to build our core while preserving the needed cap space to add key players to this core in free agency when the timing is right.
There are only so many avenues in which a GM can use to acquire talent. Franchise cornerstones almost never hit UFA. RFA is too cost prohibitive when you factor in draft compensation. Trade waters must be treaded very carefully to ensure a team doesn’t entirely sacrifice the future. Which leaves the draft as the most likely place where our club will find the bulk of their high-end talent. The Pittsburgh Penguins are a recent prime example of the value in building a franchise primarily through the draft. From 2002 to 2006 Pittsburgh had a top 5 pick in each entry draft including two 1st and two 2nd overall picks. The players selected in these slots included Evengi Malkin, future Golden Knight Marc Andre Fleury, and everybody’s favorite player Sidney Crosby. In later rounds they also found valuable players like Kris Letang in the top of the 3rd round. They would go on to form not only the core of the 2009 Stanley Cup winner but also help the Penguins bring home the last two Stanley Cups. Cup winning teams aren’t built over night. It’s a process, a frozen process if you will, that we all must place our trust into for the time being.
No one is saying that the frozen process is guaranteed to work. Players like Crosby and Fleury don’t come along very often. A tremendous amount of luck had to occur to land both of them. It is however much more complex than simply losing and hoping for the best. The process is a calculated gamble. Every time you gamble there is a certain degree of risk involved. The draft picks might not pan out, Vegas may not become a desirable free agent destination, and the club could end up alienating a large segment of the fan base. If it does work though, the payoff could mean winning a Stanley Cup or perhaps even building a budding dynasty. While Foley is much too conservative to fully embrace the process, I think he’s given McPhee enough latitude to properly build the team from the ground up. Just as the Vegas Golden Knights Kingdom must remain patient so too does the man ruling it. Foley needs to continue to place his trust in McPhee and remain a hands off unobtrusive type of owner. I see great things in store for the Golden Knights but they just may not happen as quickly as people would like or as some have demanded. We live in a time of instant gratification but most good things in life take time. Until then have a Golden Knight ale, enjoy the hockey and above all trust the process.
-Jerry Tomeo (PhiSig150)
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My thoughts exactly. The roster could have been a lot worse. How does signing Vadim Shipachev help the tankathon? A bounce-back season from Marc-André Fleury could derail the tank.
Is it a case of fake hustle? McPhee is trying to give the impression that the team is somewhat competitive in year 1 with James Neal, Marc-Andre Fleury, Jonathon Marchessault, Reilly Smith, and David Perron caliber players. Hinkie made absolutely no pretence of being somewhat competitive.
He might not have to go to the same extreme lengths as Hinkie for one of the first couple of picks of the draft. This team could be just bad enough to lose.
I personally wouldn’t mind a little more Hinkie but I think you’re right we’ll still probably still get top picks but we can say we gave it the ol’ college try. I still think the quickest way to contention is getting lucky high in the draft and keep cap healthy to supplement later on in free agency when your young guys are further along. McPhee is basically doing this so I’m happy for the most part. Still like to see Fleury moved in one of the next two year’s trade deadline and Neal moved this year. I like the general direction of the team as long as Foley can stay in his lane.
‘I personally wouldn’t mind a little more Hinkie but I think you’re right we’ll still probably still get top picks but we can say we gave it the ol’ college try.’
At least to start with. It’s become commonplace to see baseball teams that have fallen out of the playoff race trading assets at the deadline.
Exactly being a baseball fan I get selling at the deadline. No one ever really accuses them of tanking. No one really cares about bad NFL teams sitting players to lose more games. But there’s such an outcry in the NBA. And the general consensus seems to be in the NHL that hockey is above that because it’s such a sacred past time.
And the general consensus seems to be in the NHL that hockey is above that because it’s such a sacred past time.
It happens with generational players. The Pittsburgh Penguins openly tanked for Mario Lemieux. The New Jersey Devils missed out on Mario because they tried to win games for the sanctity of the game.
I believe the Ottawa Senators openly tanked for Alexandre Daigle – Karma is a bitch
The Buffalo Sabres openly tanked for Connor McDavid.
Still like to see Fleury moved in one of the next two year’s trade deadline and Neal moved this year.
Great minds think alike. I’m not sure what we would get for Fleury – I like Ben Bishop more than Fleury and he didn’t generate a great return at the trade deadline … The pesky Modified NTC, NMC limits options!!!
A lot of good & valid points brought up by Jerry. I hope we’re at least good enough to not lose fan support right away. It will be very interesting to see how that plays out in the first 1-2 years. As much as I dislike the name and how we ended up with it, (should have been the Las Vegas Mustangs) I’m getting more excited each day as we get closer to the practice facility opening and more importantly, actual games being played. I think I will have the patience needed to allow the team to become a contender. (At least I hope so) Go Knights!
Thanks for reading A Fan. Yep name could have much much better and so could marketing. As far as the roster I like where we’re headed for the most part. I think once hockey starts and we see our guys playing their hardest and trying to gut out every win that they can the fan base will be much more forgiving. If we happen to get lucky and land a absolute stud like Rasmus Dahlin I think that can give the fans something to get excited about for a bit and buy McPhee some time to be patient. Not sure about Foley though he seems pretty dead set on the 3 and 6 plan.
“Some Knights fans have argued that they pay good money for tickets and that Vegas is a nontraditional hockey market so McPhee needs to put a winner on the ice as soon as this upcoming season.”
So the rest of the fans across the NHL are paying bad money for their tickets? Any location below the northern tier states and Canada –outside of the Original Six, maybe– except for Vegas, is a traditional market for hockey?
I realize this is all new and exciting for the virgin Vegas franchise fans, but they need to put away their “It’s all about me and what I want!!!” attitude. Believe it or not, hockey is not all about you and your new team. (It only appeared that way with the Expansion Theft.)
Sorry to inform you that self-serving thought process of yours was supposed to have ended the day you left elementary school. Every other fan, of any other NHL team has just as much right to expect their team to be a winner, too. Why should Vegas have a winning team, in their “non-traditional market,” when Canada, the birthplace of hockey, hasn’t had any great teams in years? All of those teams have some great players, but they didn’t come together as hoped.
It is a given there will be good teams, bad teams, and mediocre teams. That’s just the way things work in all sports. Expecting GMGM to put a winning team together in the first season is unrealistic. Great, if it happens, but it sucks if it doesn’t. Reality check: chances are very good it won’t for the VGK at the beginning. Anyway, at the end of the season, only one team gets to raise the puck, and everyone else goes golfing, some sooner than others.
GMGM was with the Capitals for 17 years. Know how many Stanley Cups the Caps won in that time? Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Naught. None. They had some amazing players, too.
There is no doubt GMGM can put together a good team –he has done it i the past– but the question is whether that team can work together with good results. There are many players, in every sport, who seemed like a good idea, on paper, then turned out to be a bust. Every team has, or has had, them. The only way to know, for certain, if the player will work out. is to play him.
Guys at SinBin.Vegas, something tells me you have a lot of new fans on your hands who just climbed onto the bandwagon. You have a lot of educating to do about hockey, the game, and the culture.
Thanks for reading Cappy and the warm welcome to the NHL. I think the majority of fans are exited to have our first pro team but there’s always going to be fans of any team that are less patient than others. I think the team could do a far better job marketing than it has so far but VGK seems to think once the team is winning everyone will jump on board. I also think that Foley is fueling unrealistic expectations of a very fast roster build and time frame for when the Knights will be truly competitive. I personally would love to have a team in contention for a playoff spot by year 5 but it’s not the end of the world if that doesn’t end up happening. If GMGM could put together a team anywhere close to what he had in Washington which was competitive year in and year out with a superstar player to root for that’s all you can hope for really.
As far as new fans that climbed onto the bandwagon you’re absolutely right. I happen to be one of them. Watched more hockey last year that I ever did in my entire life. I think for hockey to thrive you need more Johnny Come Lately fans like me to get into it and make our kids fans. So be gentle with us hockey virgins. Keep in mind it’s our first time so try to make it special for us
Well since you seem to think us Vegas fans have so much to learn about hockey, maybe you should grace us with a class or something since you seem to be the resident expert.
Sounds to me like a typical Canadian who thinks hockey has no place in Vegas.
‘I hope we’re at least good enough to not lose fan support right away. It will be very interesting to see how that plays out in the first 1-2 years.’
A balancing act between picking in the top-half of the draft and being somewhat competitive to maintain fan interest in the first 1-2 years.
That’s one of the points I was trying to make. He’s in a tough spot. Foley has incredibly high standards. I’m not too worried about fan interest initially. Season tickets are sold well in advance. We’ll get at least the time Atlanta got to make this work and that was well over a decade. Plenty of time for us to land a star and build a winner to get the band wagoners back in the fold. In the mean time it wouldn’t the worst thing in the world if I was able to buy tickets below face off of pissed off season ticket holders
‘And the general consensus seems to be in the NHL that hockey is above that because it’s such a sacred past time.’
To win championships in the NBA you need star players. I haven’t watched basketball over the last three years, but I knew who would be playing in the final before the season started.
I think that hockey teams in the ‘mushy middle’ are more hesitant about throwing up the white flag by throwing seasons away (tanking). There is a widespread belief that anything can happen if you just qualify for the playoffs. There is more parity between the teams. The gulf between middle and upper classes is not as big.
There is more luck involved in hockey. Health is a big factor. The playoffs are a war of attrition. Having a hot goalie in the playoffs is also a big factor. The so-called best team doesn’t always win. Hockey is far less predictable.
Maybe there isn’t such a thing as a ‘super team’ in hockey. You can only afford a certain amount of stars due to the cap. Potential dynasties in the making are forced to break up their team.
If GmGm trades Fleury before they have the true goalie of the future developed then that will be the sign that he is pulling a Hinkle. A good goalie can steal a lot of games for a team. I know a lot of people like to bash Fleury, but he has proven that he can steal games. Look at the Sens this year, very average team with a good goalie, made it to the 2nd rnd by playing good D in front of a good goalie . With out Fleury this team will be bad and will be a sign that they are trying to tank.