Praise Be To Foley, Vegas Golden Knights Hockey Website

Killing The “Easy Expansion Rules” Argument

Remember when Las Vegas didn’t deserve a hockey team because the city is in the middle of the desert? Boy have we come a long way from that.

Or my personal favorite…

What are they going to say next, our mascot is stupid? Oh wait. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

There seems to be a growing belief that the expansion rules were so easy that the Golden Knights had no choice but to be the best team in the Western Conference.

Let’s start by conceding a bit. Yes, the 2017 Expansion Draft was the most favorable in modern sports history. This is just a fact.In 2017 teams were allowed to protect either seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie OR eight skaters and one goalie. That’s a total of 9 or 11 players that could have been protected. In previous years that number was closer to 14 or 15. Here’s a chart showing the best possible player that could be available to the expansion team in each of the past 10 Expansion Drafts.

1998, 99, 008th4th2nd
1972, 748th7th3rd

It looks much better for the Golden Knights, that’s for sure, but we are still talking about getting the 10th or 12th best player from every team, and the Golden Knights didn’t even do that. Instead, George McPhee and the Vegas front office believed the real value in this draft was to build for the future. So, rather than selecting the fifth best forward or third best defenseman off every team, he simply looked for the best future asset. Rather than Matt Dumba, Vegas took Alex Tuch and Erik Haula. Rather than Sami Vatanen, Vegas took Clayton Stoner and Shea Theodore.

Plus, many of the best players that were available and were selected, McPhee traded before they ever even stepped foot in the valley. Marc Methot, Alexei Emelin, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Marcus Kruger, and David Schlemko were all traded for draft picks. Also, Vegas took on the contracts of David Clarkson, Mikhail Grabovski, and Jason Garrison in exchange for future assets. This has the Golden Knights stocked up for the future, not the present. Vegas had three 1st round picks and two 2nd round picks in 2017, and have 10 1st and 2nd’s over the next three season.

The Golden Knights opted to keep an eye towards the future wherever possible, which left the current roster looking far closer to previous expansion teams that it had to.

It left the 2017-18 Golden Knights with just four players who had ever scored 20 goals or more, third and fourth lines without a single player who had ever recorded more than 25 points in a season, and without a single defenseman (aside from Garrison who is in the AHL) who had played in a top-four role in his career. They were able to get a top goalie, but he’s only played 12 of the Golden Knights 41 games.

It led to predictions like this, this, this, or this which was actually the most positive one we could find. It led to sportsbooks setting the season point total between 67-70, and it even led to myself declaring they will likely lose their tenth game before winning their second. We all knew the rules were better when the team was picked, but every last person thought they would be horrible regardless. That’s because they should be.

Basically every player on the Golden Knights is over-performing compared to their career numbers. No one could have expected that.

They are completely dominant on home ice with a record of 18-2-1, due to many factors but one of which being the crowd is electric every single night. No one could have expected that.

They have the best coach in the NHL at the moment, a guy who was fired just over a year ago and had a career record of 152-141-35 when he took the job. No one could have expected that.

They lost three goalies in the first 10 games of the season, yet maintained a level of play that kept them in the top three of the Pacific Division for the entire season. No one could have expected that.

There are so many reasons to explain what is happening, but there’s one that’s just simply not accurate. This team is not succeeding due to the expansion draft rules. When the NHL made the rules they wanted to give Vegas a chance to be “not the worst,” and have a foundation to be successful soon. When McPhee built the team, he wanted to strike a balance between being competitive now and winning in the future, and the owner, the biggest cheerleader the team has to offer, declared the team would be ready to make the playoffs by year three, not lead the Western Conference at the midway point.

This is an unbelievable story of a group of players who have all risen their games individually to play tremendously as a team. Nothing was handed to the Vegas Golden Knights, and nothing will be moving forward. The front office picked a great bunch of players, the coaching staff is getting the most out of them, and every guy on the team is playing some of the best hockey of their life.

Now imagine what all of these people are going to be saying when they come to the realization that the Golden Knights are amazing now AND they took advantage of the rules to make them good in Year 3.




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  1. Scott Yardley

    Great article!

  2. Brian

    #fuckvegas #trash ……… Curtis must be a Rangers fan. Go ahead, Curtis—pony up a half BILLION dollars and hand pick the 12th best players from each team and show us what YOU got after 41 games. #mentalmidget

    Great read, as always, Ken. Spot on with the facts as usual. Now surely you’re warming up a bit by now to GMGM and the ship sailing, right……. 😉

  3. Jeff M.

    I honestly dont see the hate. Lets go back in time about 20 or so. In 1995, the NFL expanded from 28 to 30 teams with the Carolina Panthers and the Jacksonville Jaguars. In each’s first season, the Panthers went 7-9 (with one win being against the defending Super Bowl 29 Champion SF 49ers) and the Jags went 4-12. Now let’s go to their second season in 1996. The Panthers went 12-4, winning their division, and made it to the NFC Championship game. The Jags went 9-7 and ALSO made it to the AFC Championship game. THis meant that in their 2nd year, a year that many will still say a team is an expansion team, both teams were 1 game away from the Super Bowl. No one at that time could even believe it that the SB was almost a game of expansion teams. Now neither made it BUT, both teams FAR exceeded expectations not only in their first year (The Panthers anyway) but their second year one was almost crowned champion. Making the playoffs just that year was not a fluke. The Jags would make the playoffs in 4 of there first 5 years (96-99) and even win their division in 98 and 99. The Panthers didnt get back to the playoffs until 2003, but since then they have been either a division champ or made the playoffs 7 time since 2003, not bad.
    So, the Knights run is unprecidented in their first year but as far as teams in either first or 2nd, so far nothing has come close to the 96 Panthers and Jags. Remember too that those 2 teams also had to go through an expansion draft and choose from players that were not that great from the other 28 teams AND there were 2 teams and not just one, yet they were able to make it work.
    Just goes to show that it doesnt always matter the names you have but how well the players gel as a team. I will say for those complaining about the Knights, even those that saw the day 1 roster and thought that they would be good, NOBODY can claim that they would be this good. I am sure the best anyone had was a 9 seed and just missing the playoffs. That would be the BEST scenario. The fact that they could get home ice, no one, I mean NO ONE, would have even made a joke about that back in August. So, yea the rules were favorable, but when you have every expert saying your best players are maybe barely a 2nd line but in reality are closer to 3rd and 4th, yea, no one thought the players were that good. Solid backups and career minor leagures sure, but they did not expects this. And in the end, even if this team could choose ANY one they went and teams couldnt protect ANYBODY, even had they gotten al the best players, there is no guarantee that they would still be this good. All star teams are nice but when you have a team of super stars, those teams dont usually gel well and if they do, they dont do it quickly. Hell, look at the USA Men’s Basketball team over the last few olympics if you dont believe me.

    • Jeff

      Well not no one…./I actually predicted,on this website, they’d make the playoffs in year one and have a major fall off in year two. (You can actually go back and read it). I didn’t predict that for all the reasons they are this good but I kind of figured the excitement of the city paired with the band of brothers mentality would equal the playoffs in year one. I didn’t see them as a first place team and also predicted a first round exit. But the overachieving is not a surprise to me. The excitement in the arena isn’t a surprise to me. I argued with Ken many times about the amount of “real” hockey fans in this valley.

      The bitching about the expansion rules Are just excuses of fans that are upset they’ve had teams they have followed perhaps their whole lives not enjoy the success the Knights are having. They better buckle up because after we fall off a bit next year I see a VERY tough team to beat in the Knights coming over the next 3 to 5 years.

      • 006

        You guys better get your Cup this year, because next season will be the inevitable regression toward the mean. The two key words from the article are “over-performing” (see shooting percentage for: Karlsson, William), and no sport out of the Big 4 continually represents teams as “Good Last Year, Bad This Year” more than the NHL. It happens all of the time, and being good and consistently making the playoffs over time is extremely difficult for teams. Enjoy the ride Knights, because this special season may end being frozen in time for quite awhile.

  4. Lol all star? Yet no egos, and guys who scored 15 goals in 2 seasons prior..and they are all stars? As far as I am concerned, Fluery was the only All Star who was picked, and even he is working his ass off. The 10th best are All-stars? If that is the case, some of the teams with some real all stars who are losing have a lot of explaining to do Willis. I find people cannot believe this is happening, refuse to see the truth and hate to hate. Why try to convince them?

  5. Brian S

    Your articles always seem to be timed to the things my friends and I talk about regarding this team and we’re getting tired of a lot of the pushback from some of the more dimwitted fans of other teams.

    If you gave every GM in the NHL the chance to rebuild the way VGK had to (and remember they’d have to get rid of EVERY prospect they have in the juniors and minors), I’m not sure you’d get even one or two to bite. They know what an insane needle McPhee and the front office threaded here.

    It’s OK to acknowledge that the rules were configured to give us a fair chance to be competitive sooner than previous expansions, if you’re looking to be a hater, but this team was never supposed to be anything but mediocre in the short term.

  6. R.J. Smith

    F*** those people! Ya hate us if you ain’t us. ‘Nuff said!

  7. Rick Hixenbaugh

    Intelligent synopsis. Although the NHL clearly set out to ensure a”fighting chance” for the VGK franchise, no one could’ve forseen the level of success achieved thus far. Credit where credit due to VGK players, coaches and management. Still, I do believe the worst (expansion related) thing that could happen for the NHL would be too much VGK success in their inaugural season…making a decline in on ice performance, fan base support and (most importantly) revenue more likely than a continued, gradual improvement over time in those aspects. Then again, maybe This Team, in This City, with These Fans will continue to rewrite the records on such things whatever the next several years brings.

  8. Heffay702

    This is why – as much as Seattle’s success would be good for the league – I hope they fail with the same expansion draft rules. Funny how people like to twist the same facts to fit their own narratives. These are the same people that said this team would suck. Not a single person thought they’d be this good and I doubt many would have characterized our roster as an all star team the day they were drafted. I recall hearing everyone talk about how GMGM made garbage picks because people hadn’t even heard of these depth and role players. Oh well, it’s clear none of those tweets came from VGK fans. At the end of the day their team is getting stomped by us. Feels good man.

    • Brian

      Feels good man…..?? Feels FRIKN AWESOME…… !! GO KNIGHTS GO !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Steven

    Thank you for this article! Getting so tired of seeing EVERY opposing team fan use this as an excuse when they lose, because let’s face it.. it’s an excuse

  10. Jack

    I would be inteterrsting to compile a list of all these hockey “experts” and sort it out by their teams . It will probably look like: LA, Anaheim, Edmonton, Chicago,Montreal. Florida,Minnesota…
    Why didnt these teams protect all the talent the suppously lost in expansion? Because their GMs are not as smart as ours!

  11. Jayson

    Sure it wont last forever. Probably early round exit. But being a native of Vegas we needed this after 1 October. Go Knights

  12. Michael V. Smith

    Great job keeping track of this as the season has progressed. Keep it up.

  13. NHLer

    Arizona #2, empty seats in 4-5 years, other than the comp seats. You’ll see.
    Where they gonna move?

  14. Basic bob

    And this team really didn’t surprise me. When you can cherry-pick the whole entire league and then utilize those pics to trade off to get other players basically you’ve been handed the opportunity to put together the best team in the NHL plus you guys don’t have a cap limit like every other team in the NHL.

  15. Beverly

    How can you say they are the best 10th or 12th players picked from each team? You have to base that on stats and maybe opinion. Besides, some unloaded GREAT players, because they needed cap space or others were looking to find new homes and were released early.

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