We spent months going over all the roadblocks that stand in the way of a brand new team entering an established league and going through an expansion draft. Then the season began and we started to see the other side of the coin. Being a new team has plenty of benefits, from being unknown to the rest of the league, to increased opportunity, to what may be the most important, lack of pressure.
Nate Schmidt unveiled a new hidden benefit to us during a quick media scrum. It’s one that will seem obvious after you read this, but nonetheless, it’s a clear benefit that most teams do not have.
There are certain guys that we see up and down the lineup that maybe half the guys on our team who have played in the Western Conference didn’t know, you only play them once or twice a year. So we are able to say (for example), Oscar (Lindberg), look at player A on line 2 (of the New York Rangers), tell me a little about him, and bam we’ve instantly got a scouting report. -Nate Schmidt
The Golden Knights are now 10-5-1 and have been in every single game thus far this season.
That’s the beauty of it, it happens every game. You never really have a lineup where you don’t know anybody on the other team because we’ve got guys everywhere. -Schmidt
It’s obviously stronger when there’s a player who was actually on the roster a year ago, but Schmidt’s point goes beyond that. Vegas has guys who have spent their whole career in the Western Conference, they have guys who have spent long periods in the Eastern Conference as well. Digging deeper, the Golden Knights actually have a tenured player from every single division in the NHL, so as Schmidt says, there shouldn’t ever be a night where they are caught off guard.
The history of expansion teams (basically the fact that they all sucked) led most experts, and us, to focus on the challenges that lied ahead for the Golden Knights in their first season, but this team and their success has now opened our eyes to quite a few things on the other side of the fence.
The Golden Knights appear to be an anomaly, but the way these guys talk about the unintended benefits that come with being the NHL’s newest team, they’ve got me wondering, why the hell did other the other expansion teams stink? Being an expansion team should be easy.
It’s really not, but it sure has been for the Golden Knights, and there’s really no reason to think that’s going to change any time soon.
One of the biggest reasons the other expansion teams were terrible were the rules of the expansion draft. When the league expanded to San Jose, Ottawa and Tampa, teams were able to keep both goalies and 14 position players, leaving just scraps for the new clubs. If you look back at those expansion drafts of the 90s; those are some ugly rosters. The NHL lowered the number of protected players to make this team and any new expansion teams more immediately competitive. Also, the talent pool is much greater now because the game expanded to more places. But, all that being said, no one expected this beauty of a start here.