Earlier this week the San Jose Sharks traded away Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The move wasn’t surprising to anyone as the superstar defenseman and San Jose marriage was due to end at some point. Expectations were low to start with but without Karlsson, the Sharks became even less of a threat in 2023-24. The path for the Golden Knights to repeat as Pacific Division champions just got easier.
Erik Karlsson w/ San Jose vs. Vegas
- Games: (19) Regular Season, (7) Playoffs
- Points: 6 Assists, 9 Playoff Assists
- Minutes: 24:30 ATOI, 27:15 Playoff ATOI
- Penalty Minutes: 10 PIM. 4 Playoff PIM
- Power Play Points: 1 Assist, 3 PP Assists
- W-L-OTL: (4-13-2) 10 Points, (4-3) Playoff Record
Not only will it be easier to defeat San Jose in 2023-24 but one of the league’s best playmakers was shipped out to the Eastern Conference. Let’s face it, Vegas would likely win with or without the three-time Norris winner. It’s a move with a purpose that’ll likely weaken the rebuilding Sharks offense and strengthen the confidence of opponents in low-scoring affairs.
Since Karlsson arrived in San Jose, the Sharks eliminated the Golden Knights in the first round of the 2019 playoffs and then proceeded to hit rock bottom. In 19 games, Vegas won 15 and picked up points in 18. The trend should continue this season when the Golden Knights and Sharks meet four times in 2023-24. Thankfully for the reigning champs, they tend to feast on teams with anemic offenses.
— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) April 13, 2019
There’s no question the path to the Pacific Division is paved for the Golden Knights to repeat as conference champions. Anaheim, Calgary, San Jose, and Vancouver all were eliminated from playoff contention and the consensus is they’ll miss it again. Of course, the talent on the Canucks and Flames roster could elevate them into a playoff position but expectations aren’t high. Like it has been for a few seasons now, the Pacific Division is the Golden Knights to lose. Edmonton, LA, and Seattle will have their say but all four clubs should push the postseason cut line.
Most likely, Vegas will do its job and clean up the basement dwellers as they have in years past. Even if there’s a slight championship hangover, the gaps between many teams and the Golden Knights are enormous. I know we’ve all heard that any NHL team can win on any given night speech but let’s be realistic, the Golden Knights could sleepwalk through some of their divisional matchups. San Jose should be one, or four of them.