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Iole: Uninspiring Efforts Becoming Worrying Trend

This season, diehard VGK fan and legendary combat sports columnist Kevin Iole will be delivering columns a few times a month on Sundays. Kevin’s back today to take a look at a position of depth, one that’s been notoriously thin in years past.

Pete DeBoer was correct, of course, even though he called Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Chicago at T-Mobile Arena “just another mid-December game.” It’s a long season and a loss to a lesser team in January isn’t anything to get too worked up about in the grand scheme of things.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

I’m a lot more worked up about Keegan Kolesar’s lack of production and slowing development, and the lack of an identity for the fourth line, than I am about a loss to a weak team on home ice in the second week of January.

It’s how they lost that game that is troubling. It’s not as if the Blackhawks played an incredible game because they were fired up for Marc-Andre Fleury’s return and wanted to support their goaltender. Oh, the Blackhawks did defend hard in the final two periods in particular, and played solid hockey, but it was far from a Herculean effort by them.

The Golden Knights’ loss was more due to an uninspired effort which, if we’re being honest, has happened far too often this season for a team that fancies itself as a contender for the Stanley Cup.

On Saturday, the Knights badly missed William Carrier, who left seven minutes into the game with what the club later said was an upper-body injury. Carrier’s intensity can and often does have a trickle down effect. Without him, there were far too many passengers.

Nolan Patrick seemed out for a cruise. Kolesar’s big body is perfect for barreling over opponents and cruising to the net, but do you remember him doing that even once on Saturday? There was little urgency, or desire to win, from far too many players.

In an 82-game season, that’s going to happen, and DeBoer recognized that when he was dismissive of it.

But how could the Knights’ come out flat in a game against Fleury, a game surely they should badly want to win? Fleury was the second star, but that was mostly because no one else really stood out. Until a save on Evgenii Dadonov in the waning seconds, Fleury never made one of the five-star saves that have made him a surefire Hall of Famer. The Knights made it easy on him.

We’re still not to the halfway point of the season, and it’s happened far, far too often. They were on cruise control in two of their last three games and that’s unacceptable. Nashville played great in a 3-2 win on Tuesday, but the Golden Knights basically didn’t make it hard on them.

Then, after a stirring effort in a 5-1 win over old friend Gerard Gallant and his New York Rangers, the VGK laid an egg again against Fleury.

There’s not much DeBoer can do to change this, either. He doesn’t have the threat of making moves or sending guys down to inspire more consistently intense play.

On the surface, a Kolesar for Jake Leschyshyn swap in the lineup would probably be good, but to send Kolesar to Henderson, he’d have to clear waivers. That would be risky because he’d almost certainly be claimed.

Guys who are 6-2, 230 pounds, and can skate like he doesn’t are rare commodities in today’s NHL. Kolesar’s a big guy and big men often take longer to develop than other players do. Kolesar seemed on a nice upward trajectory early and looked as if he’d turn into that rare third- or fourth-line big man who could skate, contribute 12-15 goals, play well defensively and create havoc with his physical presence.

The Knights are going to be fighting the salary cap for several years, and it makes little sense to give up now on a guy like Kolesar who has the ability to develop into that kind of player and who has a relatively low salary.

There were some fans pining for the VGK to sign Evander Kane to a one-year deal at the league minimum after his release from the Sharks. But while Kane, though smaller, is a much more effective big man, he brings far too much baggage, and his issue with gambling means Las Vegas is the last place he should play.

It’s not a no or a NO, it’s a “HELL NO, ARE YOU CRAZY?” type of pass on Kane.

Putting Leschyshyn in for Kolesar isn’t likely to happen because it would make the Knights more vulnerable to big, physical teams.

So they’re going to have to make do with what they have and figure out a way to overcome this disconcerting trait of coming out flat far too often.

This is a good team and you have to pick to find problems. They’re the kind of problems teams like Buffalo and Arizona and Seattle and Columbus would love to have.

But when your stated goal is the Stanley Cup, you have to be picky and you have to be ruthless. The kind of effort the Golden Knights gave on Saturday and have given too often this season is unacceptable, and the leadership group needs to impress that upon the players sooner rather than later.

You can’t give away games in the NHL when home-ice advantage will be so crucial against the Colorados and Tampas and Carolinas of the world. And these games in January count every bit as much in the standings as the ones in late March or April when the playoff position push is on.

**You can find all of Kevin’s tremendous boxing and MMA work at Yahoo Sports here.**

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43 Comments

  1. I think the chatter about Kane was a joke, not a serious idea.( myself included) Kane is a loose cannon with anger issues AND gambling problems. Plus, he was a Shark! He and Thornton played a dirty game, in my view– no place for that in the Knights’ game. We’re better than that!

  2. John W

    Finally, somebody addresses the Kolesar issue in depth.

    What good is Kolesar having a big body and speed if he won’t use them with energy or passion?

    Add in the fact that he is a major offensive liability (simply can’t put the puck in the net), and he becomes expendable.

    FO has way better options, including Lescychyn, Howden and Amadio.

  3. Tim

    Finally a writer with the understanding that it takes effort to win or lose on a given night not going through the motions which happens far to often. The personal is what you have but maybe DeBoer talking goes in one ear and out the other and which happens a lot to coaches after a while. I’ve see it for a while and it’s not a comforting feeling never knowing what team will show up. Well thats enough you other posters decide how you feel about the effort or lack of effort and draw your own conclusions on how the year will end up. January 15th is right around the corner that’s the day gallant was fired two years later January 15th could we wakeup to another surprise just saying.

    • Tim – not sure you are the only one of a few that states it as it is. Everyone wants to accept the excuses which is just BS. It doesn have to be balls to the walls all the time but it does have to be an effort to win. Thg is under the impression they can’t or they will run out of gas – that is just BS. The only thing about being out of gas is the winning attitude necessary to make it happen.

    • I don’t think “lack of effort” explains VGK losses.

  4. Tim

    I’m going to make a prediction if there would be a coaching change. I have not heard this anywhere just my logic and process of elimination. My prediction hinges if the NHL would let this coach return. Would you like to guess? Here goes Joe Quinville 3 Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks and the experience to lead us to a Stanley Cup. He would be my only choice to replace DeBoer and come out with a better coach. How do you like them apples.

  5. DB

    Nobody can argue that Kolesar has had trouble putting the puck in the net. He does however have a .43 game score average this year, which is better than Karlsson .42, Janmark .41 and your replacement for him Leschyshyn at -.22. That’s a negative 22 so “on the surface” as you say, it really doesn’t look like a good idea to switch them. In the last 15 games Karlsson has an offensive positive stat card score only 40% of the time. Smith is at 46%. Kolesar happens to be at 53% analytically contributing more offensively than Karlsson and Smith. The misfits had 9 shots on goal last night and could not score. Smith had 2 shots and they were both blocked, he did manage to have 3 giveaways though. In the last 9 games Karlsson has 1 goal and 2 assists. He got 1 goal and 1 assist against Nashville in the 3rd period after he was removed from the misfit line and placed with Dadonov and Janmark. That means in the last 8 2/3 games on the misfit line Karlsson has managed 1 assist. He has zero power play points this year and zero shorthanded points this year. I believe I could also make a point that Marchessault played his best hockey this year while playing with Roy. I’m just very confused as to why you would wake up on a Sunday morning and decide to attack a 4th line player in Kolesar who’s analytic numbers have really been pretty good. He is in no way the problem. I just think it might have been a better use of your time to actually look at some of the numbers. If it’s just about hating Kolesar you have that right but there are other players making much higher salaries that are not doing their part.

  6. THE hockey GOD

    author gets it >>>”In an 82-game season, that’s going to happen”. Even to best of teams, The issue is really getting back up after adrenalin crush AFTER prior game high playing a good team which was not addressed.

    Carrier is too inconsistent, oft injured.

  7. Galdom

    Recency bias.

    Just got to be ready for the playoffs.

  8. Steve

    Maybe the boys looked over at MAF, the “Face of the Franchise “,a future Hall of Fame lock and wondered if they can let him go for nothing where do I stand. A little doubt sets in and for a night the wind gets knocked out. A gut punch. They’re pros and the doubt will disappear but for one night a little sadness set in. For a teammate and friend.

  9. Justin

    Where on earth did the writer come up with the idea that Kolesar at 6ft 2 is so big that he will take longer to develop? 6-2 is not that big, it probably like average or a bit over for an NHL player, and very average for any other pro sport. Why would you need more time to develop at 6-2? Guys that size are just as coordinated and athletic as guys that are 6 ft. Let’s stop with the excuses on Kolesar. Nice guy, good teammate, but hands of stone, can’t finish. No shame in that it just is what it is. How long you want to give him to develop, until he’s 30 and past his prime? You know what you got at this point…

    • Blitz

      I don’t understand the “big” kolesar comments either. He doesn’t even look big to me. Sure compared to Wild Bill or Marchy he is big, but half the guys in the league are that big. I never see him fight a guy and think, wow Kolesar is so much bigger.

  10. Blitz

    I certainly understand the Kolesar comments in the article. He is an underwhelming piece that can be replaced with more hockey talent for the same cost. He does add a physical presents and I am glad he takes on guys when they mess with ours. I very much respect that, but I doubt any one says “Don’t do it man. Don’t mess with W. Karlsson or you’ll have to deal with Kolesar. It ain’t worth it man!” I am ok with Kolesar being a 4th liner, but at the same time, the team is always hurt and he ends up higher, even on the top line. I am not ok with that.

  11. How about TBL going 2-3-1 last six games? Granted, losses were not to weak teams (NYR twice, FLA, BOS), but was this uninspired effort? Don’t necessarily think it’s that simple. If a team is well coached and winning, I have trouble reconciling the losing games to lackluster effort or lack of motivation. 100% execution will not happen every regular season game. If there is a potential burnout factor in playing “100%” games, it needs to be saved for the postseason, seeding goals achieved notwithstanding,

  12. Pistol Pete

    I agree with whoever said MTL figured VGK out by deploying a defensive strategy that addressed the VGK system. Assuming DeBoer agrees with that, an adjustment needs to be made in the upcoming postseason. The other issue that has dogged the VGK last two postseasons is lack of finishing. Hopefully the prime 1C addresses that—not just the goal scoring Eichel hopefully brings but the finishing situations for his line mates his playmaking stands to create.

    Definitely do not think uninspired effort brought about any of the VGK postseason failures, nor was it goaltending—it was structural deficiencies—some defensive—some lack of offensive finishing including rushing the net—all addressable.

    • Pistol Pete

      “Hopefully addressable” I probably should have said.

    • Tim

      Pistol Pete, to put it simply we can’t beat a good goalie Dallas and Montreal proved that. Tampa went in a slide against good competition after we win 2 Cups I wouldn’t worry to much about a bad streak. Did you ever notice there’s always an excuse but one thing for sure we have no home ice advantage. We’ve got a nice team that will plug along make the playoffs and then we’ll find a way to lose.

      • Pistol Pete

        Tim I really can’t agree with you. I understand your frustration, we all want to win every game, at the least beat every weak opponent, but all the experts agree what VGK lacked up to the Eichel acquisition was an elite 1C. It remains to be seen how impactful Eichel will be, but the last couple postseasons have lacked depth down the middle. Another point is that DeBoer continues to refine his defensive structure and how to make it playable roster wide. I’m definitely not pessimistic at this point in the season on the prospects for the playoffs. If the offense works, no opposing goalie will be enough.

        • Tim

          Pistol Pete, It’s not frustration that bothers me because and foremost I’m a baseball man now that’s frustrating with the strike and all. Hockey just takes up a few hours here and there like the Chicago game my wife and I watched the first boring period and we both went to our different TV’s to watch something more interesting. You can sit through 3 periods of that nonsense that’s your prerogative for me incompetence doesn’t work. This homestead were 1-3 and tomorrow Toronto who will be pissed they gave that Colorado game away will come to play. Will the Knights come to play we’ll see my money is on Toronto who like Vegas don’t have the heart to win the Cup but tomorrow should prevail. Forget all the percentages and all that stat bullshit all that counts is that W.

          • Pistol Pete

            Tim, this homestand is 2-2-1 not 1-3. It was to be six games, however the EDM/CGY postponement extends it to eight adding PIT and MTL. Need to bring it all tomorrow vs. TOR—hopefully will be more similar to the NYR performance than the CHI one.

  13. THE hockey GOD

    Elliotte Friedman
    @FriedgeHNIC
    ·
    54m
    Lucas Elvenes (LV) on waivers for purposes of termination.

    Is there a story ?

    • THE hockey GOD

      “Apparently he wants to go back to Sweden?” had enuf of vegas

    • Pistol Pete

      I still have my eye on Pavel Dorofeyev. He’s basically the leading HSK scorer with 11G/11A in 26 games. He got called up for the season opener vs . SEA and DeBoer indicated it was clear he was not NHL ready. I have not seen him play but at the AHL level he’s shown he can score. Probably needs to develop his 200 ft. game and physicality. He put on around 25 lb. which requires bumping up the speed to keep up with the added bulk.

      • Pistol Pete

        Cody Glass may be an example of bulking up and slowing down.

      • Tim

        Pistol Pete We finally agree Pavel D. can play I see most games and he’s a scorer who hangs around the front of the net. On our last 4 games your wrong we lost to Winnipeg, Nashville, Chicago, and beat the Rangers. I don’t give a shit if we got a point in the Winnipeg game we lost so to me were 1-3 heading for 1-4 tomorrow. To me a loss is a loss.

        • But Tim, they bring up Leschyshyn, Rondbjerg and Cotter ahead of him. Do you really think we know something they don’t, that we’re a better judge of when a prospect can handle the NHL game? I know I am not. I have not seen him play in person but if I did I would probably know where the team’s skill analysts are coming from. Having noted this, that determination can change probably quite quickly if he keeps scoring and his playmaking, defense and physicality improve.

  14. Pistol Pete

    Best CHI wins this season:

    PIT
    NSH
    STL
    WSH
    VGK

    So VGK was not the only better team to lose to CHI this season. We already know all NHL players are elite relative to those who never make the league full time. This results in a degree of parity where the worst team can beat the best.

    • Tim

      Here we go again Pistol Pete don’t candy coat it we stunk the place up against Chicago just because someone else lost to them who cares we stunk and thats all that matters. As the saying goes just because they jump off a bridge it’s OK for us to jump off the bridge. Let me make this clear to all posters I only give a shit about the play of the Knights. What other teams do or what you all think is acceptable is your cop out but when the Knights are at home with 18+ thousands people in the stands they don’t deserve the shit games they’ve been seeing. Last year after Flowers Bill Buckner blunder in game 4 which we should have won to come home for game 5 and play like shit and let Montreal win and it was inevitable we were toast in game 6. When the monies down and we need a win we go MIA. I like to look at our own backyard and could care less what other teams do or don’t do.

      • Tim you are the one sugar coating VGK if you think they are going to win every “easy” game. Not going to happen. I watched the game start to finish. VGK basically dominated it–plenty of effort and speed, just did not click in terms of goal scoring. CHI second goal was a deflection off Howden. I would agree the team should have been able to pull the win off but I am not crying over it.

  15. Pistol Pete

    Brendan Brisson:

    Better than a point a game this season with close to half being goals is a strong showing for NCAA Division I. Will he attempt the move to the AHL after two college seasons?

    https://www.eliteprospects.com/player/299642/brendan-brisson

    • Tim

      P{pistol Pete again I agree on Brendon Brisson I’ve mentioned him in other post not only is he having a good year he’s tied with Matty Beniers for goals and assists and deniers was the second pick in the draft last year. Brissons dad Pat Brisson is a big time agent who orchestrated the Jack Eichel for us so I’m pretty sure he’ll be a Silver Knight next year.

      • We’ll see Tim. Good luck to him getting on the VGK roster anytime soon. There are a number ahead of him to make a roster with few openings. Brisson is going have to blow the AHL apart to get up quickly and I doubt that will happen.

        • Sorry Tim, don’t mean to downplay Brisson’s potential. With Glass and Krebs I have learned to tone down my expectations. Players right out of college like you know who are few and far between. It would be great if Brisson comes in, has a blockbuster preseason, has an immediate impact on the HSK, gets called up and stays. Anthing is possible…unlikely but not impossible. More than likely he’ll need at least one full season on the HSK. Dorofeyev is already fifty games ahead of him!

          • HSK season stats:

            Rondbjerg 7G/6A/+4 (14 games)
            Leschyshyn 7G/5A/+4 (14 games)
            Cotter 5G/4A/-2 (20 games)

            My personal favorite of the above three is Rondberg, in part because after just 53 career AHL games (+13) he’s at .49 pts/game vs. Leschyshyn .26 pts/game [-9 (117 games)] and Cotter .30 pts/game [-6
            (114 games)].

            Dorofeyev (one of four on the roster to have played all games):
            11G/11A/+6 (26 games)
            AHL career: 20G/15A/+16 (50 games) .70pts/game

            Dorofeyev clearly is the best at this level but can it end up translating to the NHL?

          • Tim, with Brisson and his dad, we can asssume there is ongoing communication with the VGK. They won’t bring him up to the AHL unless he is ready. AHL is a big move. Look at Dugan. Not the same player as Brisson it looks like (Brisson scores more goals in the NCAA than did Dugan), but it’s not easy.

          • Tim

            A fair statement Brisson will take time to develop and yes I’m very disappointed with Jack Dugan big strong kid leads the nation in scoring and can’t get it done with the Silver Knights. Were on the same page here with Pavel D, and Jonas R. I like them both

  16. Kevin seems highly likable and I’ve seen him on a podcast with Ken–he’s sharp–but I don’t agree with a premise of this piece, that is, the VGK lack of effort and intensity.

    “I’m a lot more worked up about Keegan Kolesar’s lack of production and slowing development, and the lack of an identity for the fourth line, than I am about a loss to a weak team on home ice in the second week of January.”

    I agree. As best I can figure, Management does not want to waive him figuring he’ll get claimed based on his size and skating ability. There still remains the legitimate hope that his shooting and finishing will improve.

    “The Golden Knights’ loss was more due to an uninspired effort which, if we’re being honest, has happened far too often this season for a team that fancies itself as a contender for the Stanley Cup.”

    I just don’t agree with there being a lack of effort. Not earlier in the season fighting injuries and not even this game. Plenty of effort and speed throughout especially the first period.

    “But how could the Knights’ come out flat in a game against Fleury, a game surely they should badly want to win?”

    They did not come out flat the first period. Not their best three periods overall, that’s obvious, but there were plenty of chances and once again outshot the opponent by a wide margin (and no, they were not all from the side–they were out front plenty).

    “We’re still not to the halfway point of the season, and it’s happened far, far too often. They were on cruise control in two of their last three games and that’s unacceptable.”

    I just don’t agree that any well coached NHL team is ever on cruise control–it defies all a good locker room is about and VGK has a good room.

    “So they’re going to have to make do with what they have and figure out a way to overcome this disconcerting trait of coming out flat far too often.”

    Coming out flat implies lack of effort or intensity. Think it’s more a matter of getting having to get warmed up and just that some games no warmup is required where others it is–an intangible. Do all the best teams always have great starts?

    “But when your stated goal is the Stanley Cup, you have to be picky and you have to be ruthless. The kind of effort the Golden Knights gave on Saturday and have given too often this season is unacceptable, and the leadership group needs to impress that upon the players sooner rather than later.”

    Again, the motivation factor is overemphasized. VGK is intense and motivated but can they execute when it matters the most?

    In any event, it’s good to have your column back Kevin. Thanks, appreciate your effort, looking foward to your next piece and above everything, GKG!!!

  17. I hear Jack Eichel will be on the ice in Vegas on Tuesday. Had surgery Nov. 12, so almost two months to the day.

    Sabres play there Feb. 1.

    https://twitter.com/BuffaloVogl/status/1480717666876858372

    • THE hockey GOD

      Kolesar is a role player and only 24 . “Power forwards need time to develop”.

      Give the kid a break, two more seasons at least.

  18. What I get the most frustrated about is the inconsistent play at home in our building. With the great fans and an almost always a sell-out capacity, we should always get and expect a strong effort. With our lackadaisical effort you can make a case against almost all our high priced stars. They go games and games without making it to the scoresheet stats. I am not a hockey fan who eats and sleeps all that is hockey 24/7. I do check out nhl network and listen to all VGK games on krlv Dan n Gary. What I do notice is a lot of the so called stars of other teams show up on the stats and hi-lite reels almost nightly. Ex, when was the last time you saw a hi-lite of Edm Oilers and not heard McDavid or Draisitle names not said, or Tampa Bay hi-lite without their stars mentioned or the Aves without their stars being talked about.

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