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5 GM Do-Overs We Wish The Golden Knights Could Make

It’s pretty much universally accepted that the Golden Knights front office dominated the Expansion Draft. Not only did they build a team that was good enough to come within three wins of lifting the Stanley Cup, but they acquired a heap of assets to go with it. Since June 21, 2017 though, it’s been a bit bumpier of a road.

I saw a tweet yesterday that got the wheels turning in my mind to go back over some of the worst moves in VGK history. As I did it, I realized just how many good moves have been made since then too. So, this has turned into a two-parter! Today we start with the five do-overs and Saturday we’ll unveil the 5 do-agains.

Here we go…

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5) Allowing David Perron to leave in free agency

Following the inaugural season and the subsequent run to the Stanley Cup Final it was clear David Perron had fallen out of favor in some way with the Golden Knights organization. He missed the last week of the season, the first two playoff games against the Kings, then found himself as a healthy scratch for two of the five Winnipeg games and one Stanley Cup Final game.

This seemed to overshadow the fact that Perron was one of the most reliable players on the VGK roster the entire season and offered a unique skillset the team has never replaced. His ability to control the puck in the offensive zone, either at even-strength or on the power play opened up space for his teammates and gave the Golden Knights a different look than their usual transition-oriented attacking style.

It was sold as a rebuilding of the 2nd line due to poor defensive statistics, but it seemed to be more about Perron’s age and health than anything else. He went on to sign a four-year deal with a $4 million AAV in St. Louis that has proven to be a steal of a contract. He has 164 points in 184 games with the Blues, more than Max Pacioretty and Jonathan Marchessault in the same span.

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Stopping Perron And O’Reilly #1 Obstacle For Golden Knights Against Blues

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To say the Golden Knights are haunted by David Perron and Ryan O’Reilly would be putting it lightly. In the three seasons since Perron left Vegas as a free agent, the pair have scored 8 goals, registered 11 assists, and combined for a +14 rating in just eight games against the Golden Knights.

Why can’t the Golden Knights stop them? The answer, as it is for most questions in hockey, comes down to time and space.

O’Reilly’s a great player in the middle of the ice and Perron, as Flower can attest, is a great shooter (Fleury nods in agreement). When he gets his time and sapce in shooting areas that’s where he capitalizes. -Mark Stone

In just 72 minutes of ice time together at even-strength against the Golden Knights, the pair have been on the ice for eight goals while conceding just twice. Oddly, the advanced stats such as shot share, expected goals, and high-danger chance numbers with them on the ice skew majorly in Vegas’ direction but the results haven’t matched.

On the power play, they’re even more deadly, as was the case last night. They’ve shared the ice for just 13 minutes on the man-advantage against Vegas and have accounted for four goals.

For us moving forward we have to do a better job of taking away that time and space and keying in on Perron’s shot a little more. -Stone

The key for Perron and O’Reilly, and the reason the advanced metrics don’t tell the whole story, has been their ability to create chances quickly. Any giveaway or even just a small mistake such as stick position of a defender can instantly turn into a goal scoring chance against Vegas.

A small seam can lead to Perron releasing one of his wicked one-timers or his nasty toe-drag shots that helped him each 66 points in a Golden Knights uniform. Meanwhile, O’Reilly is a pest forechecking against Vegas. Not only can he take the puck away himself, he’s crafty enough to fool defensemen into making mistakes.

The Golden Knights must have a keen eye on that pair any time they are on the ice, especially on the power play. Matchups are crucial and can be the difference in a game the Golden Knights should win and one they let slip away.

In the game last night, one Vegas unquestionably outplayed the Blues in for a majority of the night, St. Louis stole a goal from Vegas on a single shift in which they got Perron and O’Reilly out against the Vegas 4th line. Perron literally shared the ice with Keegan Kolesar and Ryan Reaves for less than a minute, and it resulted in a goal. On the power play Reilly Smith and William Karlsson were able to limit Perron and O’Reilly, but the 19 seconds they got against Tomas Nosek helped lead to another goal.

It’s tricky on the road, because the Golden Knights must declare their line and pair first at every stoppage, but being mindful of Perron and O’Reilly is quickly becoming a prerequisite to beating the Blues for Vegas.

Supplemental Discipline Not Likely, Nor Necessary, For Mark Stone’s Hit

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It was called a dirty play, an unnecessary hit, and not very smart. That is how the St. Louis Blues viewed Mark Stone’s 2nd period open-ice check on Tyler Bozak. Stone was forced into a fight, meanwhile, Bozak didn’t return to the game.

Questionable. We’ll look at him tomorrow.- Craig Berube, Blues coach

Stone was given a two-minute interference penalty for the mid-ice collision and the Blues were awarded their third power play of the night. After the penalty expired, Vegas’ captain dropped gloves with St. Louis defenseman Justin Faulk. It was an uneventful fight but it looked as if both parties were satisfied. St. Louis sent their message, Stone complied.

We got into kind of a battle in the corner and his elbow came up on me. Then we just jostled coming up the ice and I slammed on the brakes to get in his way. I didn’t expect to fight afterwards. He came after me and we fought. -Mark Stone

It seemed the bad blood was left on the ice, until Stone’s check was brought up several times after the game by St. Louis coach Craig Berube and his players. It’s possible the Blues were letting off some steam fresh from watching the replay, and learning their teammate was questionable to play next game. Either way, it was clear none of them liked it.

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Round Robin Adjustments – vs. St. Louis Blues

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Complete series: Dallas, St. Louis, Colorado

We’ve broken down two out of the three round-robin teams (Colorado and Dallas) the Golden Knights will be facing, so let’s finish it off with the St. Louis Blues.

vs. St. Louis: (2-1) 4-2 L, 5-4 W OT, 6-5 W OT

Let’s start with this, all three games between Vegas and St. Louis were highly entertaining. It’s hard to forget former Golden Knight David Perron hugging current Golden Knight Max Pacioretty’s leg, which then led to seven different roughing penalties. Vegas was fortunate to win the two OT games because of two improbable comebacks. In both victories, the Golden Knights trailed the Blues after two periods of play. They will need some of that never-give-up mentality in the round-robin, especially with Jordan Binnington in net. However, it’s unlikely St. Louis will blow many more three-goal leads.

Areas of Adjustment

  • Keep your heads on straight

The Golden Knights will have to improve their discipline against St. Louis. Not only for the fear of the Blues strong power play, but also because St. Louis can successfully agitate teams. They pestered their way to the Stanley Cup final last season, and they clearly enjoy annoying the Golden Knights.

Against St. Louis, Vegas averaged only six minutes in penalties per game, however in their second matchup the Golden Knights spent 12 minutes in the box. Granted many were matching penalties but when the Blues power play hit the ice they took advantage. St. Louis scored the opening and overtime forcing goals on the power play. Take those away and Vegas probably wins the game in regulation. Vegas turned the tables on St. Louis in their third matchup, scoring four times on man-advantages including on in OT. Their four power-play goals were the most scored in one game for the Golden Knights.

The Golden Knights are the better team at even strength so if they keep from being dragged into the muck, they should be able to handle the Blues.

  • Contain Offensive Defensmen

It’s no secret St. Louis has elite weapons on the blue line. Three of their top five season leaders in shots were defenseman, Alex Pietrangelo led the entire team with 225 shots on net. In the three meetings with the Golden Knights, the Blues got 23 shots and 10 points from defensemen. Vegas will have to get in the way of some of those shots or make it tough altogether for St. Louis’ D-men to get one off.

One way the Golden Knights can frustrate the Blues defensemen is by blocking shots and by creating high-zone pressure. Quite like the strategy Vegas used against Pete DeBoer’s San Jose Sharks in their 2018 postseason series.

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The Golden Life After Hockey

The one downfall of being an NHL player is that it’s not a lifelong job. The average American retires around 65, but for the average pro hockey player it’s 33. While it’s a highly desirable job, earning high salaries, and entertaining millions, there’s still plenty of life after hockey.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie was asked which current player he thought could become a good NHL GM, and his answer was not surprising.

Sidney Crosby is a hockey junkie. He loves the game. He loves to talk about the game, he follows things closely. He has a great awareness of what’s going on. I don’t know if he’ll go into management but it won’t surprise me. If he did go in, he would be all in. He’s got a real passion for the game and that reflects in knowledge and a thirst for knowledge about all things hockey.-Bob McKenzie, TSN

So it got us thinking, which current/former Golden Knight would make a good NHL general manager?

Jason’s candidates: Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny, Shea Theodore

Ken’s candidates: David Perron, Nate Schmidt, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

Max Pacioretty

There are many elements that go into being a successful general manager, the biggest one is accepting the harsh reality of the business side of hockey. The Islanders Lou Lamoriello is a great example of being a stone-cold executive, even Vegas’ George McPhee has an icy side. Maybe it’s education, or it comes with experience. Pacioretty felt the chill up in Montreal where he was constantly made the scapegoat. From the fans, media, to team executives, #67 had a lot on his plate. However, he still managed to score 226 goals for the Canadiens. Pacioretty accepted his high-profile role as an American captain in Montreal, and professionally handled his daily responsibilities, no matter how combative they were. In the end, he was traded by the organization he gave it all for, and it didn’t phase him. By then, he had already been schooled about the dirty business.

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After one year at his local high school, Pacioretty moved on to a hockey prep school, then to the USHL, and lastly the University of Michigan before becoming an NHL player. Since the age of 15, the Connecticut native was heavily recruited and scouted, so he’s well aware of that process.

As captain, Pacioretty needed to work the room and find balance with all of his teammates. Even loud, overbearing teammates like PK Subban. Being captain allowed him insight on how the team was built. What the front office was doing right and what went wrong. With several failed seasons in Montreal, I’m sure the 31-year-old veteran took note of the poor decisions made by the organization.

His experience early on with the recruitment stage, witnessing of building up and tearing down rosters, adding in his tough skin and Pacioretty has the resume to become a future general manager. (written by Jason)

David Perron

Man, I miss David Perron. Perron is one of the most intriguing players both on and off the ice.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

His hockey mind is always on full display when he’s playing as he just seems to have a knack for finding holes in the offensive zone where he can hold onto the puck for a little longer than anyone else who has ever worn a VGK jersey. He sees the game at a different speed than most and I’d have to think that would translate well into scouting as well as team construction.

Off the ice is where he really made me believe he has what it takes to be a GM though. He’s one of the few players in Golden Knights history who really cared about stats and even advanced stats. He’d talk about Corsi, zone starts, through-percentage, and many other pieces of data that proved he’s a true hockey junkie.

The intelligence he displayed in breaking down complex game situations as well as his understanding of the salary cap and the business end of hockey has me believing he would be not only the most likely to become a GM, but also the best future GM of any current or former Golden Knight. (written by Ken)

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David Perron Takes To Twitter On Contract, VGK Fans, Decision To Sign With STL

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Following the Golden Knights run to the Stanley Cup, they had some decisions to make. Two of their top six scorers were set to become free agents. David Perron had just put up 66 points and remains the only Golden Knights to record a 50 assist season, and James Neal scored 25 goals including instrumental ones every step of the way in the magical first season.

When the clock struck midnight, technically 9 AM on July 1st, 2018, both Perron and Neal walked away from the Golden Knights signing with St. Louis and Calgary respectively.

Both Neal and Perron expressed interest in staying but eventually signed contracts longer and more expensive than what the Golden Knights were comfortable with. Perron signed a four year $16 million ($4M AAV) deal while Neal got a five year $28.75M ($5.75M AAV) contract.

Negotiations are always secretive and often the details never come to light. But yesterday, Perron took to Twitter to give us a little insight into his experience negotiating with George McPhee while under contract with the Golden Knights.

No offer after the trade deadline. In other words, Perron had no choice but to sign elsewhere.

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Ryan Reaves Responds To David Perron’s “Whining”

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Former Golden Knight David Perron didn’t hold back on Saturday after the Blues loss in overtime. Perron made some scathing remarks about Vegas’ physicality, suggesting they stepped over the line.

You don’t like to see some of that extra stuff they do. One to our captain, I thought that was bullshit to be honest with you. That’s how I see it… Now we know what to expect. We’ve played them enough already. I see a lot of games of them. I really appreciate a lot of the stuff they do. I like their coaches, the organization, everything. But I didn’t like that (stuff on Alex Pietrangelo). -David Perron, Blues forward

Perron was clearly upset with some of the after whistle scrums, which in his eyes, were created by Vegas. One in particular involving Ryan Reaves and St. Louis captain Alex Pietrangelo.

Everybody saw what happened. I didn’t even start it. I just stopped in front of the net Petro (Alex Pietrangelo) tried to move me. He’s not going to move me. -Ryan Reaves

By now, most of us understand and appreciate Reaves’ role. If a player wants to get face-to-face, no matter who it is, #75 isn’t backing down. Pietrangelo happens to be an important player for St. Louis which is why Perron took umbrage. To Reaves, an opponent is just another opponent.

Hats off to Petro (Pietrangelo) for standing in there. You look at that situation, Petro stands up and tries to get to get me from out in front of the net.-Reaves

Pietrangelo got nicked up during his scrum with Reaves. On Monday, he sounded off.

I was just trying to take care of business. He was standing in front of our goalie. But I’ll tell you: It’s the first time I’ve ever been scratched in the eye before… I’m OK with getting into a scrum, but I’m not too fond of being scratched. Maybe that’s his new way, I don’t know. -Alex Pietrangelo, Blues defenseman

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How Often Are Golden Knights Forwards On The Ice For Goals Against

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Following season one, the Golden Knights front office made the rash decision to completely blow up their second line. That meant letting both David Perron and James Neal walk out the door, while shifting Erik Haula to the wing (for a few games while everyone was healthy).

The reasoning behind this from George McPhee was defensive inefficiency. McPhee claimed they were “dead last for second lines in the league” in goals against per 60.

The line of Perron, Haula, and Neal allowed 3.03 goals per 60 minutes of time on ice when playing together. It was the highest on the team by half a goal. This year, 3.03 would have actually been just fine for the Golden Knights. (All stats are at even strength)

LineTOIGAGA/60
71/81/19840:43402.85
26/67/61156:4972.67
26/67/89226:52174.50
21/67/89197:4392.73
21/92/40118:3484.05
21/73/8971:0600.00
41/28/75363:58101.65

To compare, here’s the same table from last season.

LineTOIGAGA/60
71/81/19722:34241.99
56/57/18554:37283.03
21/89/13261:10112.53
41/92/28152:1251.97

The most alarming number on the chart is the first line’s number. It went up by nearly a full goal per 60 minutes and it was only 0.18 away from the line McPhee decided was so bad defensively that he had to destroy it.

The dominant line of Stastny, Stone, and Pacioretty wasn’t all that much better either. You are probably thinking, “yeah, but they scored way more.” Nope. With all three on the ice together, they allowed seven while scoring nine.

Look at the “fourth” line though. They got even better this year going with Reaves and Carrier together. Also, the line of Eakin, Pirri, and Tuch never conceded in over 70 minutes of time on ice together.

However, these numbers can be a bit misleading at times as not all goals are scored with full lines on the ice. So, let’s break it down by individual forward. Remember, these are even strength numbers only.

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McPhee Didn’t Think 2nd Line Was Good Enough Defensively, So He Blew It Up

Most of us remember moments like this, McPhee remembers much more. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Last year the Golden Knights second line was Erik Haula, David Perron, and James Neal. They netted 70 goals and put up 165 points, excellent offensive production for a second line. However, they posted a -26 rating despite taking just 26.3% (including neutral zone draws) of their faceoffs in the defensive zone.

We did have to change the second line from what it was last year because as far as second lines go it wasn’t good enough defensively. It produced, but the goals against per 60 minutes was not good enough. We were actually dead last for second lines in the league. -George McPhee on VGK Insider Show

We can’t find the exact stat showing Haula, Perron, and Neal but if McPhee uses the phrase “dead last” he’s got to be confident in the numbers. We could find this stat, however.

LineTOIGAGA/60
71/81/19722:34241.99
56/57/18554:37283.03
21/89/13261:10112.53
41/92/28152:1251.97

Those numbers are calculated based on the total time when all three players were on the ice together at even strength. As you can see, the Haula, Perron, Neal line was horrendous defensively, especially when compared to the Golden Knights first and “fourth” lines.

You can either look the other way on that or you can try to address it, so we are trying to address it. -McPhee on VGK Insider Show

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“We Were Basically Running The Town At The End Of The Year”

5 teams, 6 years, yet has never signed a contract with anyone other than St. Louis. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

With the 26th overall pick in the 2007 NHL Draft, the St. Louis Blues selected David Perron. He quickly signed his entry-level contract with the Blues and began what has now become an 11 year NHL career. Perron has bounced around quite a bit over the past few years playing for a total of six different teams over the course of five seasons.

However, when it comes time to sign a new contract, one fact always remains with David Perron, he only signs with the St. Louis Blues. Perron has signed a total of five NHL contracts, in 2007, 2010, 2012, 2016 and now 2018. During that period he’s been a member of the Blues, Oilers, Penguins, Ducks, the Blues again, and the Golden Knights. Yet, he’s never signed a contract with anyone but the Blues, and that’s exactly what he did again this offseason.

I love St. Louis. This is the biggest reason why I came back. I didn’t even want to think about anywhere else. –David Perron to St. Louis Post Dispatch

But this isn’t to say Perron wanted to leave Vegas, because he absolutely didn’t. Multiple times during the year Perron mentioned how much he enjoyed living in Las Vegas and after the year he sounded like he wanted to come to an agreement with George McPhee. Alas, that didn’t happen and now his time in Vegas will always be seen as a “once in a lifetime” opportunity.

We had great chemistry. I mean, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to go to a city like Vegas. Live there. Play hockey. And I don’t mean this in a bad way, but we were basically running the town at the end of the year. Everyone was on board. It was absolutely unbelievable. The crowds. I mean, again, it’s not something that you can live twice. You go from an expansion team, to really, by Christmas we didn’t feel like we were an expansion team anymore. We knew we had a good thing going and we were pushing every day to keep getting better. -Perron to St. Louis Post Dispatch

There were many reasons to keep Perron in Vegas, namely his career-high 66 points during the regular season, but in the end, the negatives outweighed the positives with the principal negative likely being his age.

Perron also missed two separate periods of time during the playoffs including once with what he described as a back injury. It’s possible the injury scared away the Golden Knights, but the Blues also seemed deadset on correcting their wrong.

All I know is how much I respect the team and ‘Army’ and Tom to basically in a way admit it was a mistake to expose me and trust that I’m gonna come back and be a good player for the team. -Perron to St. Louis Dispatch referring to GM Doug Armstrong and team owner Tom Stillman.

The St. Louis Blues return to T-Mobile Arena on November 18th.

He earned his place among the Golden Knights who were running the town, and though we probably should have known he was always headed back to St. Louis, Perron was nothing but first-class the entire time he was in Las Vegas and deserves a very warm welcome.

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