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McPhee Stresses Defense With Former NHL Defenseman He Drafted

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Late in overtime Golden Knights’ defenseman Alex Pietrangelo made an unfortunate turnover costing them an extra point in Carolina. The miscue stung but in reality, earning one point in a game that seemingly looked over was a nice parting gift. Unfortunately, players don’t see it that way. Especially, the players that make game-ending gaffes.

If it weren’t for Pietrangelo’s work in regulation it’s possible Vegas never even forces overtime. And for that, coaches, teammates, and some fans tend to cut heavily used defensemen some slack. Last night was a good example of that. It was Pietrangelo’s team-leading 29th shift of the game when his soft pass was scooped up by Andrei Svechnikov.

If you’ve got a good defense then you can be in every game. –George McPhee on Alz Caps podcast

McPhee joined one of his former draft picks, 12-year NHL veteran Karl Alzner on his podcast to talk some puck and the importance of reliable defensemen.

**The whole interview can be found here. It’s an excellent listen for any VGK fan.**

It’s clear the Golden Knights organization values top-tier defensemen. Acquiring Shea Theodore around the expansion draft, making an in-season trade for Alec Martinez, and inking Alex Pietrangelo to a loaded seven-year commitment should be enough evidence.

You’ve seen it with the Caps and you can see it with our team and other teams that have a lot of injuries this year. You can lose some forwards and hang in there. You start losing defenseman and you’re in trouble. –McPhee on Alz Caps podcast

For reference, McPhee’s first two picks in Washington were defenseman. Overall, while managing the Capitals McPhee selected 38 defensemen and nine of them in the first round. Including, choosing Alzner fifth overall in 2007. Clearly, it’s a position McPhee heavily values.

Positionally, the most important position gained is in the net. So I’d like to get a goalie or two and a quarterback. A quarterback that’s a defenseman. –McPhee on Alz Caps podcast

Vegas’ team president played the hypothetical situation game on how he would design a team from scratch. Not through an expansion draft, but philosophically. According to Vegas’ team president, goaltending and defense are the two positions you want to build your team around.

And when asked which NHL players he would start with, the crafty McPhee answered.

Probably Lehner, Pietrangelo and Eichel. –McPhee on Alz Caps podcast

In 2017, the Golden Knights selected two defensemen in their first four picks as an NHL franchise. Both selections worked out well for Vegas. Nic Hague’s size and shot have made an impact this season, and Erik Brannstrom was packaged for Mark Stone. In five drafts the Golden Knights front office selected 12 defensemen, only Hague has seen action with Vegas. However, they were also able to sign Zach Whitecloud, Daniil Miromanov, and Brayden Pachal as undrafted free agents.

That’s an important part of drafting is getting the right defenseman and the leadership that goes with it. –McPhee on Alz Caps podcast

Based on McPhee’s history in Washington, at some point, Vegas will draft a surplus of defensemen. From 1997-2014, the former Capitals manager selected 20 defensemen in the first three rounds. And even selected five blueliners in consecutive drafts.

Sooner than later, the Golden Knights will be looking for their next Pietrangelo, and it may take a dozen or so tries until they find him. But for now, give him a break for last night.




Goalie Interference – Episode 16


  1. THE hockey GOD

    nice article Jason

    (btw where were the other two players on that pass ?). The pass was to opposite
    side of ice from bench , someone blamed it on line change ? Pass to other side
    of ice says otherwise.

    • DB

      I watched it multiple times. Roy was circling around and looked like he was coming into the zone. At center ice he almost ran into Carrier so he cut left. Carrier, seeing Roy, slowed down. Pietrangelo was already moving his stick to pass to Roy and couldn’t stop the momentum. Not really his fault. It was the confusion between Roy and Carrier that left Pietrangelo in no mans land.

  2. Galdom

    George McPhee is a bulldog. 5’ 9” 163lbs and he will fight you even if you are 6 inches taller and 70 pounds heavier.

  3. Galdom

    Bob Nystrom being the ultimate pussy because he was in shock that the much smaller bulldog McPhee gave him all he can handle so he gives him a dirty head but. McPhee took it and barely flinched.

  4. Galdom

    George McPhee didn’t pick his spots either. 6’ 3” 227lb Dave Langevin should have known better. in this clip the announcers talk about how McPhee doesn’t give a fuck and fight Scott Stevens earlier

    • Daryl

      This the fight where Langevin got his skate tied up in the net at the start of the fight and tore his ACL

  5. Galdom

    Jim Peplinski was a really annoying player and I didn’t like them. Behemoth of a man. 6’ 3” 219lbs. Apparently George McPhee didn’t like him either.

  6. Galdom

    Ed Hospodar takes a cheap shot at a Rangers player and the smallest player on the Rangers roster, George McPhee let’s Hospedar know in his own special way that what he did was unacceptable

  7. Galdom

    Absolutely fantastic. Pounds Markwhart with rights and then goes southpaw to mangle him even more.

    The game has changed and I’m not promoting goonery but you still can’t be a pussy ass soft team like the Toronto Maple Leafs or you will lose in the first round every year. We have challenges ahead with the tightening salary cap and we don’t play as heavy as game as we used to. But what we have is a fantastic team that won’t back down and will continue to give us deep playoff runs led by a bulldog in our front office. The VGK never gets blown out in games.

  8. Galdom

    These aren’t one offs. He fought Rick Tocchet multiple times. Dave Brown is one of the toughest players of all time and was the heavyweight champ before he got old and Bob Probert took over the belt. McPhee fought Brown more than once. And if he were playing today he would take on Ryan Reaves or Kurtis McDermott. He may not win the fight but he would decide when the fight ended because he would keep swinging until he couldn’t lift his arm up anymore. BULLDOG

    • THE hockey GOD

      one TSOB, if you ever met him in person you would see that his hands are anvils.

      • Galdom

        Yup. Memo to those who are critical of the front office. Keep those comments here and don’t tell him to his face. Lol

        • Pistol Pete

          He was one the most prolific NCAA players of all time amassing 274 points in a four year Bowling Green career. Winning the Hobey Baker he went undrafted, no doubt owing to his small size. As an NHL player he managed 24 G/25 A is 115 games. You’re right don’t mess with him…at 63 it looks like he can still handle himself!

          P.S. Galdom, thanks for the trouble you went to. I did not realize McPhee was such a prolific NHL fighter!

        • Daryl

          Being able to fight on the ice and off the ice are two completely different things… And he throws like 100 punches a fight but they must be very weak punches as the only damage he had was the one he snuck in before the other player got his gloves off.

          He just has no power behind his punches

          • Galdom

            Interesting that what you got from those videos was that McPhee is a weak puncher. Okaaaaay. If you say so. I’m not going to proclaim to be a fight expert. In fights holding his own against savages like Rick Tocchet and Dave Brown.

            You see from that weak puncher. I see a bulldog either winning or drawing in all of those fights of which were against guys way out of his weight class. I also saw courage and balls. I guess we’ll agree to disagree.

          • Galdom

            I suppose the fights where he knocked people on their ass with his weak punches were probably because the opponents had weak jaws.

          • Daryl

            He was tough and I know somewhat the comment about saying things to his face was in just…. I enjoyed that type of hockey as well. Players were actually tough back then. And I wasn’t putting him down, he definately had the balls for facing the bigger guys. I was just pointing out that he would throw 500 punches in a fight and it seemed to only do damage to one player. He throws jackhammer punches but doesn’t recoil much which is why he doesn’t get much power. The fights are still fun to watch

          • Daryl

            I’ll go back and watch more of the fights… I saw 1 win, 1 draw and the rest as close losses… But like I said, he was willing to go after bigger guys

  9. Pistol Pete

    Thanks to Jason for a good piece. Some folks bash the FO but without McPhee VGK would not be where they are today.

  10. Galdom

    Either did I until recently. I stumbled onto a couple of YouTube clips and then kept looking. I noticed I used the F word in a couple of the posts above as I guess I was getting a bit excited watching the clips. Sorry for that.

  11. Pistol Pete

    Robin Lehner—-he’s had some NHL fights too. I would say he’s plenty quick and does not appear overweight either.

  12. i dont agree with giving Petro or Debour a pass, if he was tired get off the ice be honest with the coach or maybe the coach needs to pay more attention to his playing time . That cough up was not the first one we have witnessed under pressure in the defensive zone . With all the ice out there on a three on three that really sucked and got me off the couch . Maybe expectations need to be lowered on Petro he is a above average defence man but he was 0 on plus minus last night so lets get him off his high horse. These are the kinda mistakes that when players are given a pass similar to Flurey in the playoffs last year and looking ahead will prevent us from getting to game seven . Players and coachs in my mind need to own it. If he or the coach came out and said we screwed up so be it , we move on but dont sweep it under the rug. Love what the young D men are doing and how they are improving so exciting to watch, To see us win a game with out needing to score 5 goals now thats hockey , Go Knights

  13. Galdom

    I had mentioned in a prior post the opinion that at some point Nolan Patrick may have to develop the skills to be an asset as a bottom six forward. His offensive talent has not developed to the point where it has translated in the NHL as a top six forward. He may either be phased out of the game or try to develop into a third line centre that plays good defense, wins face-offs and kills penalties. Something like what Cody Eakin provided in the early years.

    What I like about George McPhee’s seven year NHL career is that he found a way to carve an NHL career. Like a pistol Pete said he was an offensive force in college where you’re not even allowed to fight. His way of becoming a professional hockey player in the NHL was to fight and do it well since his offensive skills did not translate in the show. Worked then but wouldn’t work today as fighting is a useless skill in today’s game since it is being phased out.

    Guys like Guy Carbonneau and Darcy Tucker had ridiculous offence as amateurs but had to become a different type of player in the NHL.

    This is where I gain a respect for a guy like George McPhee. He perseveres. The negative Nellies will say that he didn’t have much of an NHL career because being negative is something people like to do for some reason. I would say he did what he had to do to make an NHL career happen. I would assume that waking up every morning deciding to fight people 50 pounds heavier than you is doing something out of your comfort zone. And I would also say in that brief NHL career he built the relationships and the contacts that helped him become an NHL executive.

  14. Galdom

    OK Darryl, I gotcha. I understand what you’re saying about his jackhammer punches. I thought you were being negative but I was wrong. I should’ve read what you posted a little more closely. sometimes I speak / text quicker than using my brain

    • Daryl

      It’s all good… I wasn’t being negative at all. I love those types of fights. And you have to respect a player that’s willing to go up in class to stick up for a teammate

  15. Pistol Pete

    Glad to hear McPhee indicating key parts acquired are Lehner, Pietrangelo and Eichel. Btw in the previous article when I asked the OT needed a “you know who”, of course I meant an elite sniper in Eichel and/or Pacioretty. There were numerous regulation period chances as well that screamed for an elite sniper.

  16. Daryl

    By naming Eichel who hasn’t even played a game for VGK, it’s kind of a slap in the face to the other guys on the team

  17. Tim

    If you don’t know by now let me say I’m interested in following our prospects. Latest on Pavel D. Leads the Silver Knights in points but more importantly goals. I’m also following the star studded Michigan hockey team because of our prospect Brendan Brisson. Here’s an interesting stat Matty Beirners the #2 pick in last years draft 32 points 15 goals 17 assists. Brendan Brisson 16 goals 15 assists 31 points. By far these two are leading Michigan in goals. To me total points are fabricated because assists at times are a joke pass to a pass to a goal doesn’t excite me. A direct pass to a goal is fine but the bottom line is making the goal is the object of hockey and with Pavel D. and Brendan B. we’ve got two guys leading two quality teams in goals and that’s a big thing. Just thought people might be interested in a couple of future Golden Knights.

  18. Jay

    LOL. Start a team with Lehner and not Vasi or 10 other goalies that are hands down better options. His blind arrogance shows here.

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