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“Hidden” Injuries Hurt Golden Knights Early In Season

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It feels like ages ago now, but just six months ago the Golden Knights kicked off the third season in franchise history. It began with a pair of hotly contested games against the hated San Jose Sharks, each resulting in Vegas wins. From there, the Golden Knights ripped off wins in six of their first nine games before hitting the skids a bit dropping 12 of the next 17.

It all added up to a paltry 11-11-4 start. In those first 25 games, the Golden Knights were without Alex Tuch for 17, Nate Schmidt for 12, Malcolm Subban for nine, and Cody Eakin for four. Plus, Valentin Zykov was suspended for 20.

According to George McPhee though, those weren’t the only ailments plaguing his team early in the season.

We started the season a little slow. We had three players that were injured. The hidden injuries, we had three guys that were hurt late in the summer in training and missed a lot of training time. They were really behind when we got going. It was pretty obvious. -McPhee to GoldenKnights.com

My first thought was, “who’s he talking about?”

Shea Theodore’s bout with cancer could certainly fall under that category, but it’s hard to call that one “hidden.” Tuch, Schmidt, Eakin, Subban, and Whitecloud were all hurt on the ice during regular or preseason games, so he can’t be talking about them. Then there was the William Karlsson “can’t take draws” injury that seemed to occur in a preseason game, but once again, that shouldn’t have gotten in the way of the summer training.

“Three guys hurt late in the summer in training.”

The first, most obvious, candidate would be Ryan Reaves. He missed a majority of training camp, not hitting the ice for the first time until September 24th.

The next best guess is Paul Stastny who was absent for the first four preseason games but played in the final three and didn’t miss any of the 71 games played thus far.

Finally, there are Mark Stone and Deryk Engelland. Both participated in training camp, but neither saw preseason action until the third preseason game. That’s not horribly unusual, but when looking for “hidden” injuries the only names missing from the first two preseason games have to be considered.

Statistically, Stone was dominant out of the gates this season putting up 18 points in his first 15 games. The other three, not so much. Reaves tallied just three points in his first 20, Engelland had just two in 20, and Stastny had nine points in his first 20.

Or maybe it’s someone else I’m not even considering. But the point of this isn’t to out the guys who were potentially injured though, it’s to ask why that is an acceptable excuse?

McPhee said the team had a slow start due to three guys missing training time. First off, 6-3-0 isn’t exactly a slow start. 11-11-4 is, but are games 10 through 25 really affected that much by missed offseason training?

Which brings me to the main point here, if the guy in charge believes these injuries to be a reason for the slow start, why were they playing if they weren’t in shape enough to play? The answer is quite simple and actually was the next sentence out of McPhee’s mouth after making the “hidden injury” excuse.

We stuck to our blueprint. -McPhee

That blueprint is the one we highlighted back around the trade deadline. The one where they completely ripped apart any depth the team had in the offseason with the plan to rebuild it in February. The blueprint was to field a team without any depth for the first 60 games of the season so they could accrue enough cap space to make a run at the Cup come April, May, and June (and now hopefully July, August, or September).

The “injured” players had to play because the team simply didn’t have enough good players to replace them.

Depth has been an issue for the Golden Knights since the beginning of season two. Their lack of production from draft picks has left holes down the lineup when normal starters are injured. Now, it’s being used as an excuse as to why the team was not good to start the season, even though that was kind of the plan all along.

McPhee and McCrimmon have both said they plan to take the time to evaluate their blueprint during the pause in the NHL season. Aside from setting a coach up to fail, watching it happen, and then firing him for it, depth should be the piece they focus most on. The main roster looks great, if healthy. But this is hockey, there is no such thing as healthy and now we know even when we think they are healthy, there are “hidden” injuries to deal with as well.

The blueprint they followed had them positioned pretty well for a postseason that now may never happen. But there were some bumps along the way that caused franchise-altering decisions.

Those decisions weren’t necessarily wrong, but this time off needs to be used to re-evaluate them. The President of Hockey Operations blamed a “slow start” to a few “hidden injuries” that cost three players a few days of offseason training. Is that really what happened or did the blueprint set the team up to not be able to handle the inevitable injures that ultimately came their way?

The time for reflection is now.

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15 Comments

  1. Kat Craner

    I always thought William Karlsson and Ryan Reaves were hurt but still playing.

  2. Mark

    Hopefully these guys that are injured get better soon with this layoff…! I know I don’t want to see them go through what happened to Eric Huala he had great numbers, …..giving everything he had to help the team win….got hurt….The next year they let him go…..without even giving him a chance to redeem himself….? Much love to Eric for what he did for Vegas….! I’m a Huge Knights fan and would like to see more loyalty from the owners to the players….!

    • Sherry

      I agree with you completely. Don’t feel loyalty from the ones who run the show

    • It’s a business not a love affair. There is no room foremotipns. Have you ever considered these actions were perhaps a win win for all concerned when you take the emotions out of it? Just a question to consider.

    • MATT

      How did they not show loyalty… they moved a contract that they knew they would not need or resign… got a future prospect which Is possibly better and younger… i loved Haula but i also know he did not want to be a bottom six forward and they have to start moving players they know are not in the future and get something for them… Next thing you are gonna say and they showed no loyalty to Miller… Also
      Plus Has anyone noticed Haula cant stay healthy so really did we lose anything in that deal…

  3. DOC Williams

    I wondered how long it would take you Ken, to get back to your negative commentary. Almost 3 weeks! Not bad. It was 100% proven during the season, that you know very little about being an NHL GM. Even though you admitted that and even “apologized” (somewhat) for some of the dumb things you said, here you go again. Have fun pal, you seem unable to control yourself!!!!!!

  4. JASON G LANOUETTE

    George McPhee’s resume over the last 3 seasons:

    -Has his expansion team in the Cup Final…..oh, and he built the vast majority of the team on the other bench that won The Cup.
    -Has team in their second year of existence in the NHL playoffs. Disappointing exit, but I am not sure we can hang that one on the GM.
    -Has team first in the division when season is suspended.

    Definitely should do a piece on what an idiot he is.

    • Who said he’s an idiot?

      The question I have, and it’s one I had since the day they hired him is can he win a Cup? 20 years he’s been in change, 0 wins. He’s an excellent GM, but he’s never been to the summit. There will be questions until he does.

      • JASON G LANOUETTE

        Idiot was my word. You simply questioned the guy’s ability to lay out a long term plan. You indicated that the blueprint McPhee has created somehow required excuses be made for a slow start. Why would he need to give an excuse for a stretch of games in the early part of the season when the team is sitting in first place in the Pacific in March with 11 to go? He wasn’t making excuses. He simply said that he has taken this down time to review their adherence to the blueprint and then confirms that indeed they stuck to it. I would argue that they stuck to it with a high degree of success. Your closing sentence questioning his plan in particular baffles me. You write, “..did the blueprint set the team up to not be able to handle the inevitable injures that ultimately came their way?” Apparently not as they sit in first place having suffered those inevitable injuries. That is, of course, unless you are worried about a 15-20 game stretch in the middle of an 82 game season more than the final result in the standings.

    • "DOC"

      I agree with you Jason. We got lucky to have obtained such a knowledgeable & savvy GM for our team. The other MC, is also very knowledgeable AND has lots of contacts throughout the league!

  5. Tim

    To reach the summit isn’t easy look at the Leafs a standard in hockey and haven’t won it in 53 years. One appearance in a cup final, last year who knows how far we could have went with one of the worse calls in history at the worse time in game 7. This year were in first with a decent chance so I’m a happy camper. Our three drafts overall have been suspect we’ve been told how good they are but show me and I haven’t seen it yet. Think about it look at Florida, Buffalo, Arizona and others how often have they made the playoffs? Were spoiled and this is only our third year.

  6. Chris LaHaie

    Valid points by Ken. McPhee took capitals to the Stanley Cup final his first year , no cup. 19 more years of chances and no cup. They win the cup after he leaves. Of course we should be questioning their plan. First year here in the cup final, 2nd year out early and third year struggling to stay on top. A bit of a panic move to fire the coach , then make a few big trades to help the team. I am not a big fan of Pete D, but giving him far more tools to work with than they gave Gallant.
    The idea of family is out the window, the knights management have no loyalty to any coaches or players. They have gone from brothers to bodies. The first two seasons were a lot of fun. And it felt like the management was different and would keep a family atmosphere but that went out the window with the firing of Gallant. I think Gallant would have been in first place from day one with the additional goalie and defensemen that were added after the coaching change. I think Deboer is a good coach but I don’t think he is as good as Gallant. They had horses on SJ and they didn’t win a cup. This year is out the window because of the shut down but if they don’t get to finals next year everything they have done will be questioned. Especially with McPhee’s 0 -20 record with the Capitals

    • "DOC"

      Can’t agree here Chris. There was definitely friction between Gallant & upper management. (We will most likely never know exactly what that was), but I suspect your “family” comment might have contributed to his removal. He got TO CLOSE in his relationship with some players. His ability to inspire was damaged! There is no doubt that once DeBoer became available, the knights wanted HIM. I have said in past it’s very difficult to try and say one coach is “better” than another. But, I have grown to like and respect coach D. He’s solid and will play the players he feels are best for the teams success….period!

    • Bruce

      Oh my goodness. I tire of such silliness as stating that a GM has an 0-20 record winning Championships. Come on. It’s like hearing talk about LeBron James’ record of “winning championships”. Let’s be clear on this; LeBron has NOT won championships. He has been part of TEAMS/FRANCHISES that have won titles. Players don’t “win” titles, GM’s don’t “win” titles…organizations that win them. The GM is part of a staff that assembles a team – a process that is ridiculously complex and dependent often on factors out of his control. Myriad factors play into winning a championship: injuries, chemistry, contracts, coaching, slumps, hot streaks etc. and, as any player who has won championships will tell you, luck is always a major factor. Oh yes, and let’s also keep in mind there are 30 other NHL franchises who spend a lot of time, energy, and money doing THEIR best to win the title as well. One team each year wins it. So, every other team has a bad GM? All of that nonsense aside, to use “0-20” to sum up the career of an NHL exec who has had long-standing respect and admiration from his peers and from the organizations that have head hunted his services over the years has got to be the absolute pinnacle of stinkin’ thinkin’. The Knights’ record in their first three years has been nothing short of miraculous. McPhee has contributed to that success. Let’s just say thank you to Mr. McPhee for his good work, sit back, and enjoy the show.

  7. Vgk4life

    Obviously it was Adam Kutner. We didn’t start seeing his new commercials until well into the first 1/4 part of the season. He then became an every game big producer displaying his talents as we’ve all been told of.

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