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ESPN Questions VGK’s Future After Standing Pat In Offseason

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The Golden Knights entered the All-Star break with the fifth best record in the Western Conference and sit in second place in the Pacific Division. Considering their obstacles the reigning Stanley Cup champions should feel good about where they stand through 50 games. However, the worldwide leader in sports has doubts that Vegas’ roster is built to repeat.

Vegas failed to add or change much in the offseason following its Stanley Cup victory. Now, standing pat looks like a questionable call. The Golden Knights have fizzled following a hot start, with predictable problems piling up for a team susceptible to fatigue. This is when a lack of fresh legs can become one major regret. –Kristen Shilton on ESPN.com

The Golden Knights were indeed relatively quiet in the offseason. They took care of their unsigned players and added outside depth to the organization. Michael Amadio, Ivan Barbashev, Adin Hill, Brett Howden, and others were offered summertime extensions. No NHL players of significance were signed off the open market. It’s unfair to grade any of the Golden Knights acquisitions at the moment due to injuries, juggled lineups, and on-the-fly chemistry.

The front office did make news by trading original misfit Reilly Smith to Pittsburgh for some cap relief. Overall, their offseason transactions weren’t notable enough to make ESPN’s bottom scroll but they were the necessary decisions coming off a championship run. Since the blueprint was to repeat with the same weapons, the organization didn’t need to look too far.

ESPN’s argument for fresh legs has some credence to it though. Right now Vegas could use healthy, impactful, and lesser worn-down players in their lineup instead of a slew of Silver Knights. Local fans have enjoyed seeing the pipeline grow but Vegas is a championship team built around veterans.

It’s reasonable for the Golden Knights to feel comfortable running out the same lineup to start the year. Their plan might have included a retool at the March deadline if needed. It’s looking like they will. A deadline option could be a way to get fresh legs and outside impact in the lineup.

(Sean) Monahan has enormous respect around the league for how much he’s come back from. This was a guy who a couple of years ago, people were thinking is he going to be able to continue playing. Not only is he playing, he’s thriving. –Elliotte Friedman on Hocey Night In Canada

Some names that are circulating are Anaheim’s Adam Henrique, Pittsburgh’s Jake Guentzel, and the aforementioned Sean Monahan. Is Vegas in desperate need of any of them? Likely not, but an extra weapon for a deep playoff run could boost up a tired team attempting to repeat as league champions.

Are the folks at ESPN right to question Vegas’ offseason inactivity? On the surface, sure. However, Vegas is still in a position of power. They’re looking like they’ll land in a desired playoff spot and will hopefully be fully healthy. And we all know how magical it can be when the Golden Knights have their full lineup.

Golden Knights Unaffected By Inconsistent Start Times

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This season the Golden Knights are embarking on a historic run defending their championship. The wins, points, comebacks, and chemistry are all there to push VGK towards another deep playoff run. It’s not without adversity too. Vegas has played three 2023 playoff teams, three road games, and six Western Conference clubs. Despite all of the little challenges, the Champs are 7-0-0 to start the season.

Currently, the Stanley Cup champions are wrapping up a unique test they’ve never faced over their first seven years. The Golden Knights are about to dress for their 6th different start time in eight games with no two consecutive games starting at the same time.

  • Tuesday, October 10th: 8:16 PM
  • Thursday, October 12th: 7:39 PM
  • Saturday, October 14th: 7:08 PM
  • Tuesday, October 17th: 7:38 PM
  • Thursday, October 19th: 5:08 PM
  • Saturday, October 21st: 5:16 PM
  • Tuesday, October 24th: 8:17 PM
  • Friday, October 27th: **Scheduled for 3:07 PM**

Clearly, the league is trying to showcase their latest Cup winner to start the 2023-24 season. Why wouldn’t they? The Golden Knights are proof positive of the NHL’s latest successful expansion era and the team so happens to reside in Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada.

Also, the schedule makers happened to slide in two early meetings between Vegas and the Chicago Blackhawks that were/are scheduled for prime time. It’s not a bad way to spotlight the league’s best team with the latest number-one pick overall. The results favored the Golden Knights, but the NHL wasn’t concerned with the outcome. As long as Bedard and Vegas were the focus, the score was secondary. For all of those marketing reasons, Vegas is forced to participate in adjusted start times.

Beginning on October 30th, the Golden Knights will play five out of six games at their normal start time of 7:07 PM. However, the Cup champs will have another stretch of eight inconsistent scheduled puck drops in mid-November and a six-game batch in February.

There are a dozen more nationally televised games mixed into Vegas’ regular season, but the reigning champs have proven they’ll succeed whatever time the league decides to drop the damn puck.

VGK Earns High Respect In Latest NHL Power Rankings

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In exactly one month from yesterday the NHL playoffs will begin. Barring any major collapses, the Golden Knights will be one of the Western Conference’s most dangerous participants. However, some continue to doubt Vegas as a serious Stanley Cup contender. For example, MoneyPuck’s Power Rankings list the Golden Knights as the league’s 16th best team.

Over the years the Golden Knights front office built a team well-suited for the postseason. Six players have customized championship rings, and 12 others have playoff experience. Experience makes a different in the NHL’s second season. While MoneyPuck’s computer model doubts Vegas’ chances, several other Power Rankings are much more favorable to the 31st franchise. Here are the latest rankings from hockey outlets across the league.

Sportsnet – VGK #2 

As you’d expect with a team dubbed the ‘Golden Misfits’ in their early expansion days, there is no shortage of guys who beat the odds in Vegas. All three members of the original ‘Misfit Line’ — William Karlsson between Reilly Smith and undrafted Jonathan Marchessault — are still there and have been joined by a captain, in Mark Stone, who was a sixth-round selection with questionable skating; Chandler Stephenson, a third-rounder who immediately became a top-six centre after Vegas fleeced Washington for his services; and undrafted goalie Logan Thompson, who was in the thick of the Calder Trophy race before getting hurt this season.- Ryan Dixon, Sportsnet

The Canadian avenue clearly respects the Golden Knights lineup enough to have them one spot below the high-powered Boston Bruins and higher than two teams with better records. It’s possible Sportsnet sees an easier postseason path for Vegas, or that their newly formed lineup is deep enough for a Cup run. Would Sportsnet rank Vegas higher than Boston if Mark Stone were healthy in time for the playoffs? That’s a bit of a stretch.

The Hockey News – VGK #3

The Knights are on a tear with four straight wins and seven of their past eight. They still haven’t really missed a beat despite being on their fourth starter in Jonathan Quick, who’s 4-0-0 with the Knights. As it stands, the Knights and Kings will face each other in the second round of the playoffs if they advance.- Jason Chen, THN

THN posted their latest Power Rankings before the Golden Knights last contest, but it would be difficult to drop Vegas more than two or three spots. Jonathan Quick’s success with Vegas has given the Pacific Division leader more security in net after injuries to virtually every Golden Knights goaltender.

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Hall Of Fame Legends Demand A “Massive Year” From Eichel

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In the first intermission of Tuesday’s Golden Knights and Kings game ESPN analyst and hockey legend Mark Messier made some interesting observations after only 20 minutes played into the 2022-23 season. The six-time Stanley Cup winner was critical of Jack Eichel’s patented passive attitude.

I love Jack Eichel, I think he’s one of the most talented players in the league. It’s a massive year for him. I’d like for him to come out and say ‘I want to be the best player in the league and I want to win a Stanley Cup’ and take the assertiveness that the team wants to see on and off the ice. He doesn’t have to be apologetic for saying he wants to be the best player in the league and win a Stanley Cup. Massive year for Jack Eichel. -Mark Messier, Hall of Famer & ESPN analyst

Some would argue Eichel’s mild demeanor is an important element of his success. The 25-year-old has never suited up for a postseason series, and yet he’s done an admirable job of covering up past frustrations. The Messiah believes it is time for Eichel to put that behind him and act more brash and cocky.

Messier made his remarks after Eichel’s intermission interview. Keep in mind, ESPN aired this interview twice to highlight Messier’s pronouncement.

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Latest NHL Power Rankings: VGK A Multimillion-Dollar World Of Imagination

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Since the start of the new year the Golden Knights haven’t been at their best. Vegas is 1-2-2 in 2022 but still managed to add four points to their Pacific Division leading 23-14-2 record. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen the Golden Knights dominate opponents like they did throughout the month of December, which may have changed minds across the league. When in reality, Vegas picked up four points in five games without playing up to their potential and missing a myriad of starters.

Every so often we like to check in on NHL power rankings across the league. Vegas was a preseason Top 5 team but ever since the injuries piled up they’ve mostly been stuck in double digits. According to aggregate site Power Rankings Guru, this week the Golden Knights checked in at #11.

The consensus was, Vegas had an incredible month of December but took a step back once the calendar year ended. A little dramatic if you ask me.

Let’s start with the league’s site. Vegas rounded out the top ten for the second straight week on NHL.com. Up until they’re fully healthy expect Vegas to be ranked in bottom part of the top ten.

NHL.com – #10 (Previously #10)

The Golden Knights won an NHL record 14 straight regular-season games decided in overtime before losing 5-4 to the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday, the first time they lost in OT since Dec. 19, 2019 (5-4 at the Vancouver Canucks).

ESPN had a little fun by publishing a Disney themed NHL power rankings. Greg Wyshinski and crew went light on Vegas, only dropping them one position.

ESPN – #12 (Previously #11)

To honor this magical place, and with no small amount of corporate synergy, we’ve decided to use this week’s NHL power rankings to match all 32 teams with the Disney World attractions — rides, food, characters — that best fit their vibes.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. A multimillion-dollar world of imagination that offers thrilling rides, lasting memories and the unwavering feeling that it never goes quite as far as you’d like it to go. That weird feeling in your stomach about the Golden Knights in the playoffs is not because you drank too much blue milk …

Sportsnet has routinely had Vegas outside of the top ten. One of the reasons for the lower grade is the injuries to Jack Eichel, Max Pacioretty and Alec Martinez. Once those three impact players return I’m sure SN will raise the local boys in their rankings.

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The Eichel To Vegas Rumor Train Keeps Chugging

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The Jack Eichel to Vegas rumors may have quieted down since training camp but new television partner ESPN continues to stoke the fire. The Worldwide Leader’s NHL play-by-play announcer John Buccigross mentioned Eichel on Tuesday’s opening night broadcast of the Golden Knights and Seattle Kraken. Buccigross doubled down on his comments yesterday on ESPN’s The Point.

I think Pat Brisson is going to make this happen. I just look at Vegas with Alex Tuch who’s injured, he was a big prospect, he makes some good money. They need to match up because of their cap. I just see Vegas. -John Buccigross, ESPN’s The Point

The Cawlidge Hockey enthusiast discussed the current status of the Sabres disgruntled star with NHL reporter Emily Kaplan. From the sounds of it, Buffalo may have come close to an agreement with one of the handful of suitors.

Behind the scenes the NHL and the NHLPA have intervened, they don’t like this stalemate. Jack Eichel is now sharing his medical records with teams, and I was told as of Thursday there was serious optimism that a trade was imminent. Everyone felt really good about it, they thought it was going to happen. Then on Friday things went quiet.-Emily Kaplan, ESPN NHL reporter

There are several reasons to believe that the Golden Knights are one of the teams still in on the Jack Eichel sweepstakes. Vegas’ front office is habitually aggressive and has reportedly been interested in almost every available stud since 2018. The biggest motivation to acquire Eichel is his unique talent and ability to elevate Vegas enough to lift the Stanley Cup.

There are five teams still in on Jack Eichel. Those are teams that believe they can fit his $10M salary into their cap situation, maybe that means moving some contracts or whatever. All of those teams have agreed Jack Eichel will get the disc replacement surgery he wants. -Kaplan, ESPN

Adding the 24-year-old to the current Golden Knights roster would reasonably make them the favorite to win the Cup for several years, something Kaplan has mentioned on the show in the past.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek also discussed Vegas’ interest in Eichel on their latest episode of 32 Thoughts podcast. Friedman found it difficult to believe the Golden Knights could wiggle enough cap room to make a deal with Buffalo. Of course, unexpected injuries could create a narrow path.

We all sit here and wonder, what are they going to do down the middle? Buffalo has said unless Krebs is in the deal we’re not really interested in doing this. Vegas is a threat, they’re a Stanley Cup champion contender. -Elliotte Friedman, 32 Thoughts Podcast

Back to ESPN, Buccigross agrees with Friedman that Eichel addresses Vegas’ weakest position.

That’s what they need Barry, to plug that 26-year-old guy right in the middle of that lineup. They don’t want too young and they don’t want to old because they have enough 30-year-olds as it is. -Buccigross, ESPN

Legendary flowmaster and hockey analyst Barry Melrose chimed in to give his take on the swirling Eichel to Vegas tittle-tattle. In the end, Melrose might be making the most sense.

They can’t have everybody. -Barry Melrose, ESPN NHL Analyst

It’s hard anticipating what happens in the foreseeable future but consider the Golden Knights one of the five teams in the mix for Eichel. It will be tough to maneuver but ESPN would like it to happen.

ESPN & Turner Sports Showcasing Vegas In 2021-22

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News broke yesterday that the Golden Knights will be featured a dozen times on ESPN and Turner Sports this upcoming season. With the new television partnership in place, the two networks are leaning heavily on Vegas to help kick off their first season broadcasting the NHL.

VGK on ESPN/TNT/HULU

Tue. Oct. 12 vs. Seattle 7:00 p.m. (ESPN)
Wed. Oct. 20 vs. St. Louis 7:00 p.m. (TNT)
Tue. Oct. 26 at Colorado 5:00 p.m. (ESPN)
Tue. Nov. 9 vs. Seattle 7:00 p.m. (ESPN+/Hulu)
Fri. Dec. 3 at Arizona 6:30 p.m. (ESPN+/Hulu)
Wed. Dec. 8 vs. Dallas 7:00 p.m. (TNT)
Tue. Feb. 1 vs. Buffalo 7:00 p.m. (ESPN+/Hulu)
Thu. March 3 vs. Boston 6:00 p.m. (ESPN)
Thu. March 17 vs. Florida 7:30 p.m. (ESPN+/Hulu)
Sat. March 26 vs. Chicago 12:00 p.m. (ABC)
Wed. March 30 at Seattle 7:00 p.m. (TNT)
Wed. April 6 vs. Vancouver 7:00 p.m. (TNT)

One major complaint about NBC’s hockey coverage was their lack of diversity. The network tended to schedule more games with the league’s more established franchises and most likely from the eastern time zone, with the exception of the Chicago Blackhawks. However, as new media outlets take over, Vegas was identified as a perfect team to present to a potentially new audience. The Golden Knights are a Stanley Cup contender with a loaded roster, and they so happen to play in fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada. That’s enough intrigue for sports fans unfamiliar with the NHL.

Turner Sports have become the standard in NBA broadcasting having been able to successfully keep an audience for an entire double-header. It’ll be tough to mimic the chemistry and content TNT developed around basketball but they’ll try with familiar faces that are well aware of the Golden Knights roster. Also, Turner split their games up evenly across the league. Vegas will appear four times on TNT in 2021-22, facing off against St. Louis, Dallas, Seattle, and Vancouver. Add in the other eight games on ESPN and the 31st franchise will be given plenty of exposure to the rest of the hockey landscape.

As for the eight contests on ESPN, the Golden Knights will greatly benefit from Worldwide Leader’s global audience. Vegas brings its own unique elements that may even help break in the network known more for dumping hockey rather than covering hockey. Although, ESPN will bring some Vegas flair with their infamously elegant hockey analyst Barry Melrose. The partnership between the entertainment network and a highly competitive team like Vegas should be more than enough for viewers.

Vegas has quickly become a premier NHL team in terms of demand and success, enough to feature 12 times nationally. Of course, fans will get their fill of eastern located games but clearly, the new television partners want to present fresher and more successful teams than the standards of the past decade. As the Golden Knights continue to pile up wins and postseason appearances expect their national television schedule to grow. Hopefully, the networks won’t fall back to the old habits and broadcast the big named organization. It should be reserved for teams like Vegas that will put on a winning show.

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