What was once the best story in professional sports has turned into arguably the NHL’s most loathed. From the subjects of a heart-warming documentary to the butt end of collective hatred from fans across North America, the Golden Knights have done a complete 180. Now, they enter an offseason in which they have to decide what’s next.
The Golden Knights are at a critical juncture regarding the state of the franchise as a whole. It goes much deeper than just missing the playoffs or finding themselves in the middle of a few eccentric situations over the course of the turbulent 2021-22 season.
This franchise must figure out what it was then, what it is now, and what it wants to be moving forward. And this offseason stands as the most important in team history as they attempt to do just that while untying the complicated salary cap knot they voluntarily stepped into.
From the outside looking in, it’s clear how different things have become. But from the inside speaking out, there appeared to be a bit of a murkier view.
Comments from the general manager, head coach, captain, and many key players indicated a bit of a woe-is-me-type atmosphere. For each question about what went wrong, the solution was always the same, better health. Or in other words, better luck, something beyond anyone’s control.
That was until The Creator stepped forward recently in an interview with the Las Vegas Review Journal’s David Schoen.
We’ve got to get better. And we will be better next year. We might have lost a little personality over the last few years with some of the things that have happened. Our goal is to get back to this identity of never giving up, never giving in, and being a team. I believe we did move away from that identity somewhat with all the changes that have been made and the constant machinations. –The Creator to LVRJ
The Golden Knights’ owner vowed to be much more hands-on in solving this problem.
I’d say we’re going to be a team now that we’re ‘Ready, aim, fire’ not ‘Ready, fire, aim.’ We’re going to be careful. That’s a big priority for me, and I’m going to be involved in it. I’ve got a few specific ideas of things that I believe need to be accomplished. If I’m being very transparent, I’m going to be active. –The Creator to LVRJ
It’s a stark contrast to the words of one of his top lieutenants, general manager Kelly McCrimmon.
At the conclusion of year-end media availability, McCrimmon “flippantly” offered an opportunity for members of the media to “talk about the dysfunction.” He then commandingly batted down any such disorder despite bringing it up himself without prompt.
It stunk of insecurity and following a press conference brimming with excuse-ridden answers, any idea of self-awareness of the problems at hand seemed out of the question.
The Creator clearly does not see it that way though, and his decisive reassurance of McCrimmon’s job security indicates the GM must not actually either. As Pete DeBoer said after the last game of the season, “you’re either part of the problem, or part of the solution.” It’s clear which The Creator sees of McCrimmon and President of Hockey Operations George McPhee.
Ownership stepping in to take a larger role has historically ended poorly in the world of professional sports. The examples are endless and they span every major sport both here in the United States and across the globe.
However, as unlikely as it may sound right now, it could be just what the Golden Knights need.
Just having some things like (the Dadonov trade snafu) that weren’t quite right this year. I’m going to try and fix that. I’m going to try and do better next year. We need to make a few adjustments. There’s not going to be the crazy kind of stuff you’ve seen in the past. –The Creator to LVRJ
This is a man who was educated by the United States Army, has successfully run a Fortune 500 company, and later tried and triumphed in various industries such as hotels, golf courses, wineries, fast-food restaurants, and most recently an online payment platform used for video game purchases.
He knows what success looks like in business and he knows when it is slipping away. His expertise could help reinstall an identity that will lead to overperformance instead of the opposite.
He could dabble in something unlike any business he’s ever run before.
Professional sports are unique. Results are much more tangible, people are much less replaceable, and scrutiny is on another stratosphere due to the fanatical nature of the “customers” (that’s a fancy way to say, there are fans of the Golden Knights, there’s aren’t of Fidelity National Bank).
Like many overbearing owners in the past, this newfound willingness to step in and demand it be run his way may spiral out of control.
Time will tell.
But for now, the Golden Knights appear to have moved past the stage of denial and into one of repair. That is a massive step in the right direction.