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After Agreeing To Be The Road Team In 2024 Winter Classic, VGK Asked To Host One In Near Future

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

Every Golden Knights fan who attended the Winter Classic in Seattle, and even those who watched on TV back at home, probably had the same thought as they took in the scenes of the Pacific Northwest.

How awesome would this be if it were in Las Vegas?

Well, you’re not alone with that line of thinking. In fact, the moment the Golden Knights agreed to be the road team in the Winter Classic, they were already lobbying for a game at home.

The league called us in January or February of last year and we said of course we’d be honored to play. But remember, we’d like to have a game in Vegas. If we’re going to Seattle, we’d like to have a game in Vegas in the near future. –George McPhee on Bob McCown Podcast

In typical NHL fashion, they wouldn’t exactly commit to it but instead said something along the lines of “duly noted.” History tells us though that they normally do come through on these promises.

The problem for right now is that there isn’t a venue for it in Vegas. The first one that comes to mind is Allegiant Stadium, the home of the Raiders.

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“It’s Not An Old Team, It’s Not A Young Team”

(Photo Credit: @_jkarsh on Instagram)

Run it back.

That’s what the Golden Knights are going to try to do next season. Not only in how the season finished but with pretty much all of the players that got it done.

Of the 27 names of players that were freshly engraved on the Stanley Cup, just five are not expected to be with the team next season. Vegas traded Reilly Smith to make room for the contracts of Adin Hill and Ivan Barbashev, Teddy Blueger, Laurent Brossoit, and Jonathan Quick signed contracts elsewhere, and Phil Kessel remains a free agent but is not expected to return to Vegas (though I wouldn’t rule it completely out).

That’s 22 of the same players, all of whom will be one year older, competing to try and turn one Cup into two and make Vegas into hockey’s most recent dynasty.

Age is an important issue for every team, but it’s especially crucial for the reigning champion. The younger the team is, the longer the window to continue winning can and should be. For Vegas, despite returning just about everyone, the age range of the team looks good for 2023-24.

It’s not an old team, it’s not a young team, so we’re in a pretty good spot. We have all our (draft) picks next year. I’d like to think we’re in pretty good shape. –George McPhee to NHL.com

On Opening Night 2022, the Golden Knights iced a 23-man roster with an average age of 27.8, the 12th oldest team in the league. By the time the playoffs rolled around, Vegas had gotten a touch older, moving to 11th, with an average age of 28.1.

To start 2023-24, they’ll be back in nearly the same place, shedding a few older guys while seeing an extra candle on every existing player’s birthday cake too.

There’s still a serious issue looking forward as the majority of the Golden Knights’ production comes from players over the age of 30, but the age dispersion of the 23 players expected to suit up when the banner is raised is well balanced.

23 or younger – Cotter, Dorofeyev, Pachal
24-26 – Eichel, Roy, Howden, Kolesar, Whitecloud, Hague, Thompson
27-29 – Barbashev, Stephenson, Carrier, Amadio, Theodore, Hill
30-32 – Stone, Karlsson, Marchessault, McNabb, Hutton, (Lehner)
33 or older – Pietrangelo, Martinez

There’s no question about it, the Golden Knights are indeed “in pretty good shape” with the roster they’ll open the season with.

Win another one, and not a soul in the world will care about what happens beyond that.

**Stick tap to NovaCapsFan.com for compiling the average ages of all teams for the last few seasons.**

Decision In Goal Looms For Stanley Cup Champions

(Photo Credit: @TheRunninRebels on Twitter)

Personally, I’m not ready to move past the fact that the Golden Knights are Stanley Cup Champions. I could continue talking about that every day until the puck drops next season (and even then I’d probably keep talking about it).

However, the reality of the NHL calendar is such that decisions about the team moving forward are going to have to be made, and made quickly.

The chief among those decisions for the Golden Knights comes between the pipes. After a season in which Vegas had to scramble before it even began to overcome the loss of Robin Lehner, to using five goalies in the regular season, to seeing Adin Hill throw his hat in the ring for Conn Smythe, the choice in net for VGK is not an easy one.

One thing is clear for the Golden Knights, they aren’t going to expect one goalie to shoulder the entire load moving forward.

I do believe you have to have a good stable of goaltenders. It’s really hard to rely on one guy. I think that model has changed over the last five or six years. The tandem approach is probably the best way to go. You’re going to have one guy that’s going to end up being your guy but he should play 50 games instead of 65. And the other guy has to be good and be ready to play. And you’ve got to have some guys to bring up from the AHL team when necessary. -George McPhee

So, with that in mind, the Golden Knights will enter this offseason looking to restock their stable of goalies and they have many different routes they can go.

The best news about the position though is they start with a perfect base. Logan Thompson remains under contract for the next two seasons with a salary just a smidge above the league minimum at $766k. Thompson’s All Star first half proved he’s perfectly capable to start in the NHL and will clearly be in Vegas’ plans for next season. His salary allows the Golden Knights to view him as the backup, even if that’s not ultimately what plays out.

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George McPhee: “There Are Always Ways To Improve Your Team”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have a little more than two weeks to make any final adjustments to the roster they hope brings them back to the playoffs and on another long run.

If you’re looking at your team, if there’s someplace you can make that tweak and you can do it, you do it. If you don’t, you’re getting complacent because there are always ways you can improve your team. –George McPhee on Bob McCown Podcast

The former GM and current President of Hockey Operations have proven his belief in this concept over the first five seasons in Vegas. The Golden Knights have been active at every trade deadline, typically buying one of the most significant pieces on the market.

This year however, they sit in a bit of a different spot than they’ve ever been before, which will make life a little more difficult on McPhee and GM Kelly McCrimmon come March 3rd.

(A trade) would have to make perfect sense because we’re looking at Stone and Thompson and what are the timelines, is it becoming clearer when we can get them back? So we’re trying to buy time to figure that out. LTI becomes a factor. If Mark’s coming back, we may not do anything because we were a pretty good team when everybody was in (the lineup). The injuries complicate things, but that’s life. –McPhee on Bob McCown Podcast

While the optimism around a potential Stone return in the regular season is fantastic, any chance of it happening certainly muddies the water for the upcoming deadline.

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Patience Is The Right Way Forward For The Golden Knights

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

Unpredictability, it’s what makes sports the best soap opera in the world. It’s also what makes the lives of the decision-makers so incredibly difficult. No matter what the data and history say, no one truly knows what is going to happen until the humans who put on the jerseys actually step onto the ice and compete.

From 100 points and competing for the Stanley Cup to barely hitting 80 and starting a rebuild and anywhere in between, opinions on what’s in store for the Golden Knights this season range wildly.

There are questions surrounding scoring, depth, health, goaltending, coaching, continuity, accountability, and more. And not a single person on the planet has even some of the answers, let alone all of them.

This volatility is why the Golden Knights must finish the offseason and enter the regular season with a patient approach.

It’s probably an oversimplified way to look at an extremely complex sport, but say you break the teams into a few different tiers. The tiers include bad, average, good, great, and elite. Teams in the bad and average tier will miss the playoffs, those in the good tier will fight for the final spots, while the great teams will compete with the Stanley Cup favorites, the elite.

As mentioned above, it’s not far-fetched to place Vegas in any of the five tiers. Reasonably though, they are likely to fall somewhere in the middle three, average, good, or great.

With the injury to Robin Lehner, Vegas suddenly have a bit more cap flexibility. Lehner’s $5 million can be stashed on LTIR, giving the Golden Knights room to add to the team. It’s possible with the perfect combination of moves, they could leap up one tier. With where we are in the calendar and the limitations of what $5 million can buy in today’s NHL, a two-tier leap is highly improbable. So, if they are average, they can become good. If they are good, they become great, but if they are average, they aren’t becoming great this season.

Here’s where the need for patience comes in.

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VGK’s Untrustworthy Nature Will Catch Up Eventually Says Allan Walsh

(Photo tweeted by Allan Walsh, Marc-Andre Fleury’s agent)

One of the common themes swirling around the Golden Knights for the past few seasons is the concept of loyalty. Actually, in VGK’s case, it’s a lack of loyalty, but you get the point.

In an unabashed quest to improve the team at all costs, the Golden Knights have had to make some difficult decisions along the way. It’s easy to applaud them for the gusto missing from many front offices around the league, but the bubbling undertone of crossing the unwritten line between hockey business and the mistreatment of people is becoming unmistakable.

Vegas treats you great until they don’t. They’ve gone from the team of opportunity, the ‘golden misfits’ or whatever, to the ‘evil empire.’ I think as long as they win they’ll avoid problems, but if they have a losing season, watch out. –Anonymous NHL agent to The Athletic

Unfortunately, the Golden Knights stopped winning last year and a not-so-anonymous agent thinks it could start to bite them moving forward.

In Vegas, no player is safe. Several players have made the comment now that no player is safe. At any time the rug can be pulled out from under you and if it’ll happen to Marc-Andre Fleury, trust me it can happen to anybody. Some players are going to ultimately decide to play in that environment and don’t care but other players are going to value being in a place where there is a sense of loyalty and stability and appreciation that goes both ways. –Allan Walsh on Agent Provocateur Podcast

Now that the Golden Knights have officially rid themselves of all Walsh clients, he’s not holding back on sharing his feelings publicly about the way Vegas operates.

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Collaborative Effort Between McPhee And McCrimmon Continues As It Has Since Year 1

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

To most this is probably going to be a minor detail, but for some reason, it bothers me that many ignore it, are ignorant to it, or simply prefer the alternate reality in which it is not true.

It’s about the front office and the chain of command. How they operate now and how they’ve operated since the very beginning of the franchise way back before they were even officially recognized as a franchise by the NHL.

The fact is, George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon, no matter what the placard on each of their doors says, work collaboratively as a pair.

Shortly after McCrimmon was hired on August 1st, 2016, he and McPhee had a “fantasy draft” of sorts.

I divvied up the teams, I said you take these 15 NHL teams, I’ll take these 15 NHL teams. You deal with them all year, I’ll deal with these and we shared everything. -McPhee on May 2nd, 2019

It’s a story each has recounted publicly upwards of 10 times, including most recently on an episode of the Cam and Strick Podcast.

In Year One, in terms of the division of responsibilities, George came to me early on and said he wanted to split the teams. He thought it was too much for one guy and I would do a good job with my teams. So, we split the teams and it was pretty random how we split them, I had 15 teams I was responsible to deal with the general manager of and bring the information back to our group and George had 15. –McCrimmon on Cam And Strick Podcast

Both have maintained this style of management has continued on ever since.

We basically co-managed for three years and that will continue. -McPhee on May 2nd, 2019

Over the course of that year, and every day since, our titles have changed but we do everything really collaboratively. We work together every day. That’s the way we’ve run it from the outset. –McCrimmon on Cam And Strick Podcast

McPhee’s quotes are from a press conference at City National Arena the day McCrimmon was named GM. It’s the same day we first learned of the phrase “President of Hockey Operations” which became McPhee’s new title.

Literally however insignificant a move we’ve made, it has never ever been someone overruling the other. -McCrimmon on May 2nd, 2019

So, why is it so important to me that this fact be more widely known? Well, it’s because of where much of the credit and criticism has fallen over the past few seasons.

Many credit McPhee for everything that went on in the first two seasons and give McCrimmon the acclaim for the last three. It makes sense based on the title and who is standing behind the podium answering questions from the media, but it doesn’t when you consider the Golden Knights’ process.

Any credit given to the organization for the epic build-out from the Expansion Draft belongs to both McCrimmon and McPhee. While any critique of the changes that have been made since belongs to both as well.

Happy about the Stone and Stephenson trades? Angry about the Tatar one? Pumped about the run to the Cup Final? Livid about the excuse-ridden playoff-less season? Amazing culture in year one? Callus nature of the roster shuffle the past few? Three coaches, cap hell, Eichel, Pietrangelo, Lehner?

You name it, read the quotes above and realize all of it should be viewed as a joint effort.

So, if you are defending the front office, or doing the exact opposite, do it properly and dole it all out to both Mc’s, not just the one that had the arbitrary title of General Manager at the time of each event.

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