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Pacific Point Path Getting Easier For Golden Knights Divisional Repeat

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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.

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Is Shea Theodore The Next Defensive Workhorse For Pete DeBoer?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When Pete DeBoer was hired by the Golden Knights many of us had questions. One in particular was; will Shea Theodore’s role (higher TOI, tougher assignments, heavier workload, etc.) increase?

Thankfully, David Schoen of the RJ asked DeBoer yesterday after practice in Boston following Theodore’s heavy workload on Saturday.

https://twitter.com/DavidSchoenLVRJ/status/1219421411518898176

With a small sample size of only two games, it’s still premature to read into Theodore’s game logs too deeply, however his ice time was higher. Albeit, one ended in overtime.

Shea Theodore Average Time on Ice per Game

  • Games 1-49: 21:13 ATOI
  • Games 50-51: 25:44 ATOI

Remember, while coaching in San Jose, DeBoer relied heavily on his two talented mobile defensemen. In all situations.

Brent Burns averages 2018-2020:

  • 24:58 TOI
  • 18:55 Even-Strength
  • 2:51 Power Play
  • 2:31 Shorthanded

Karlsson averages: 2018-2020

  • 24:30 TOI
  • 19:02 Even-Strength
  • 3:07 Power Play
  • 2:41 Shorthanded

Of course, they’re established All-Star defenseman, but Theodore has the ability to log heavy minutes and play the workhorse role for his new coach.

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Golden Knights Defensive Style Nullifies Sharks Potent Blueliners

The Golden Knights used the same strategy against Drew Doughty and the Kings. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

One of the most dangerous aspects of the San Jose Sharks is their depth of defensemen with offensive abilities. Whether it’s the team leader in points in Brent Burns, or one of the league’s best puck movers in Erik Karlsson, or even the less known players like Brendan Dillon or Justin Braun, the Sharks aren’t lacking offensive production from their defensemen.

This was a major point of emphasis for the Golden Knights against the Sharks a year ago when the two met in the playoffs and will be once again this year. Vegas deploys a somewhat risky strategy in defending the Sharks glut of firepower from their defensemen, something that has not gone unnoticed by the San Jose bench boss.

If they are going to go stand up beside our defensemen up high then the forwards down low are going to have to take advantage of that space. They’ve been consistent with that against us whenever we’ve played them, last year and this year. So we know that’s probably what we are going to get. -Pete DeBoer, Sharks Head Coach

What he’s talking about is how the Golden Knights forwards defend against the Sharks when San Jose has the puck in the Vegas zone. Gallant has instructed his forwards to play as close to the defenseman standing near the blue line as possible to take away time and space and also eliminate shooting lanes.

They play our defensemen high and it ends up with a lot of low play there where you have to take the puck to the net. That’s part of the game when you play them. DeBoer on 3/30 following OT win over VGK

Last year in the playoffs, the Sharks defensemen did not score a single goal at even strength and they managed only a total of 35 shots on goal. The Golden Knights blocked 58 shots from Sharks defensemen in the series.

Over the course of the six playoff games, and even more so in the four games this regular season, the Golden Knights have put an emphasis on not allowing shots from the point. That means taking away Brent Burns’ massive shot, eliminating Erik Karlsson’s shot and passing ability, and limiting every other defenseman’s shot lanes.

You have to get on them quickly. If you give them too much time, they’ll make plays and they’ll create more open ice from that. You have to limit the time and space. That’s pretty much the best answer I can give you. They’re talented players and they’re very creative with the puck. The more opportunities you give them, they’ll make you pay.  -Reilly Smith

The other benefit of playing defenseman high at the blue line is in creating turnovers. Any slight bobble of a pass at the Sharks offensive blue line could mean a Golden Knight taking the puck and starting a break the other way. Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, Alex Tuch, Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and others will be primary pieces in taking away shots from the point.

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Just How Close Were The Golden Knights To Getting Erik Karlsson And How Might It Effect This Deadline

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Every trade deadline is its own separate crazy event, but because the decision makers are indeed human, often times emotions from one can spill over into another. That certainly may be the case with the Golden Knights and Ottawa Senators following last year’s trade negotiations for Erik Karlsson.

Those negotiations from a club vs. club perspective can be a little bit damaging. The general manager is always going to do what is going to make his club better, but if we want to look at that Vegas/Ottawa scenario last year… when you don’t get that player, can you imagine the level of frustration from that management group because you feel you pissed away a better part of your day. And then they end up making the Tatar trade as a knee-jerk, right? -Darren Dreger, TSN

I happened to be walking into George McPhee’s office half an hour after the San Jose Sharks acquisition of Erik Karlsson got announced during training camp… George McPhee was very careful with what he said but the steam coming out of his ears could not be hidden. Because they tried at the deadline, then they tried again all summer, and they didn’t get him. -Pierre LeBrun, TSN

Three of the most connected insiders in the world of hockey are Bob McKenzie, Pierre LeBrun, and Darren Dreger. They all got together for an episode of McKenzie’s podcast, the BobCast.

The conversation was certainly not centered on the Golden Knights, and while being used as an example, the three shared some intriguing info on just how “close” the deal was.

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Pothier: The Golden Knights Are Not Better Today Than They Were On June 7th

As much as we love Paul Stastny, and we do love Paul Stastny, creating a dynasty involves more than Paul Stastny. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s a simple question, are the Golden Knights a better team today than they were the day they came up three wins short of winning the Stanley Cup? The answer is also as simple, at least in my opinion, and it’s no.

We want to be stronger next year than we were this year. I can’t say we’re going to win more games, or go further in the playoffs, but we want to be a better team next year…That’s the goal. George is working on it right now. –The Creator on Vegas Hockey Hotline on 6/22/18

The Creator said he has daily discussions with George McPhee on how to improve the team. Since that conversation, some can make the argument the Golden Knights got worse.

Let’s start with what they lost.

David Perron: 67 Points (16G, 50A), 0.94 Points Per Game, 0.71 Assists Per Game, 22 Goals Created, 17:49 ATOI, +1

James Neal: 44 Points (25G, 19A), 0.62 Points Per Game, 2.85 SOG Per Game, 17:11 ATOI, -11

Luca Sbisa: 14 Points (2G, 12A), 54 Blocks, 30 Total Goals For, 30 Total Goals Against, 19:32 ATOI, +8

Now let’s look at the Golden Knights additions.

Paul Stastny: 53 Points (16G, 37A), 0.68 Points Per Game, 0.47 Assists Per Game, 54.9 Faceoff Win %, 18:18 ATOI, +1

Daniel Carr: 16 Points (6G, 10A), 0.42 Points Per Game, 1.37 SOG Per Game, 12:08 ATOI, +2

Nick Holden: 17 Points (4G, 13A), 83 Blocks, 64 Total Goals For, 73 Total Goals Against, 19:00 ATOI, -5

It’s not fair to compare the loss of Neal and Perron, to Vegas’ new offensive additions. Stastny’s a fine player, but he’s not an elite center that can make up the production of two lost wingers. There’s only a few of those, and one of them passed for Toronto.

We have a lot of money to bring in some quality players. If we can get the players we’re going to spend the money. -The Creator

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Signs Still Point To Erik Karlsson, But How Do Things Look If The Deal Doesn’t Happen

Heading into the offseason the Golden Knights had the plan of being aggressive. They wanted to use their cap space to improve the team in any way possible. That started by going out on July 1st and signing one of the biggest names available on the market, Paul Stastny. The Golden Knights also brought back Ryan Reaves and added defenseman Nick Holden. They entered the offseason with somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 million of cap space available, they now sit with just under $19. Plenty to make one more highly aggressive move.

We used (the cap space) really effectively on a lot of players and a lot of picks. Right now, we’re sitting here with a pretty good team and we haven’t used any of our draft picks this summer. We have them all. We’ve been talking trade with some teams, but that requires young players and picks but we haven’t moved any of them. -George McPhee

Reading between the lines, the name Erik Karlsson is in there somewhere, but until that deal gets done, the offseason still feels incomplete.

We’re sitting there trying to decide. Again, we kept our young assets, all of our draft picks, and we’re trying to decide: do we make another move now or not? Is the right move there or not? I’ll have to decide that in the next few weeks. -McPhee

McPhee’s words sure sound like he’s in the market for something else, but his actions speak even louder than his words.

f=”https://sinbin.vegas/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/MTLvVGK0444.jpg”> Cody Eakin’s name has been rumored to be included in a potential deal to Ottawa. That would really open up for the cap for McPhee and Co. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)[/capt

The Golden Knights stand with 43 active player contracts and according to CapFriendly.com, $18,750,000 in projected cap space left.

If Erik Karlsson ($6.5M AAV) and Bobby Ryan ($7.25M AAV) are added for nothing but picks, that would eat up a total of $13.75 million in cap space, leaving the Golden Knights with $5 million to hand out. That’s $5 million to distribute among William Karlsson, Tomas Nosek, William Carrier, Shea Theodore, and Colin Miller. Quite simply, it’s not enough.

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Bobby Ryan Is A Misfit, Making Him A Golden Misfit Wouldn’t Be As Bad As Most Make It Out To Seem

Fan reaction to trade rumors can range widely, but there always seems to be one constant. The minute someone mentions the name Bobby Ryan the conversation turns sour.

Let’s go back in time. The New Jersey native was drafted #2nd overall in the 2005 NHL Draft. Also known as, the Sidney Crosby draft. Ryan lived up to his potential right away. In his rookie season, the right-handed forward scored 31 goals and was a Calder Trophy finalist. By the time his entry-level contract ran out, Ryan had 131 career points (71 goals, 60 Assists) and 26 Power-Play goals. Altogether, in five full seasons with Anaheim, Ryan scored 30 or more goals four times. The Ducks liked Ryan enough after his third season in the NHL to sign him to a five year, $25.5 million contract, his first massive deal.

Reilly Smith was Florida’s Bobby Ryan. Look how that worked out in Vegas. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

After the shortened 2012-13 season, Anaheim moved the then 25-year-old forward to Ottawa for Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen and a 2014 1st Round pick. At the time, it looked like Ottawa pulled off one heck of a trade. One they liked so much that they offered Ryan $50.75 million over the next seven years.

Fast forward five years later, the once four-time 30 goal-scorer is no longer the hot commodity he was in his first nine seasons in the league. The past two seasons he’s missed 20 games each year, scored just 13 and 11 goals, saw his ice time dip about two minutes per game and didn’t reach 35 points in either year, something he had done in each of the previous eight seasons. Quite simply, the production Ryan has offered has not been worth anything near $7.25 million per year.

So what went wrong?

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