Since the NHLPA came out with their player polls from around the league I figured I’d add another category. One that I may add is vital. After polling only myself, here is this season’s Golden Knights All-Hair team.
There’s not much to explain. Of course Karlsson has the nicest hair on the Golden Knights. He’s a Swedish blonde, do I need to say more. My wife already says enough. Karlsson has the true definition of a hockey flow. His hair graciously flows while he glides up the ice on the way to embarrassing another goaltender. Karlsson obviously goes to a premier salon and uses high-end conditioners but like his talent, he was born with a beautiful head of hair. Bottom line is chicks dig it.
Forward: Ryan Reaves
It’s as tight as a low fade can get. Reaves must get his hair touched up daily or every other day. Short on top, lined up in front, and sometimes a carved side part. A sleek tapered cut for the NHL. Reaves has that charming badass look that the Vegas Strip has been waiting for since Mike Tyson.
In late June of 2020, Seattle, the 32nd franchise, will have the opportunity to pluck other teams talent at the Expansion Draft like the Golden Knights did on June 21st, 2017. George McPhee and his group masterfully duped 30 other NHL general managers, and whoever is at the helm in Seattle (maybe Kelly McCrimmon) will try to do the same. Okay maybe not all 30, but a good percentage of the league felt slighted, enough that those same general managers may just reach out to McPhee this time so it won’t happen again.
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun was on Montreal radio this week and brought up how teams are very concerned with next year’s expansion draft. Teams aren’t in the business of giving away good players… again.
It’s also created I think a bit of a unique situation… because Vegas doesn’t have to worry about a protection list and all of that jazz. I think they’re going to be a team that some clubs are going to look to as a safety valve in trying to navigate the waters around the Seattle expansion process. -Pierre LeBrun, TSN Radio Montreal
LeBrun explained that the way McPhee and his staff maneuvered the expansion rules has teams running to protect themselves this time around. LeBrun used Nashville as a team that could find themselves in a protection problem and may be forced to expose one really talented defenseman. In the scenario, this is where McPhee gets a call.
It would behoove them to try and send them to Vegas for a first round pick or a top prospect. As opposed to losing them for nothing to Seattle. I don’t know at this juncture how the league feels about that kind of trade. -LeBrun
Another twist to the expansion process is the side drama from other clubs. LeBrun noted several general managers are upset Vegas is protected from the expansion draft and won’t be losing a player.
There are GM’s I think who felt that once Seattle’s start was delayed by a year, that Vegas should be subject to lose a player like everyone else. There are definitely GM’s grumbling behind the scenes. But as Bill Daly said because Vegas is not getting a piece of the pie from Seattle, they’re the only one not getting a check, then they’re not losing a player… so that’s created some tension for obvious reasons. -LeBrun
What makes GM’s mostly worried, with good reason, is that McPhee could take advantage of franchises with protection issues, or get a jump on adding players.
Because Vegas doesn’t have to worry about a protection list they’re more willing too add players during that particular time then any other team. -LeBrun
Bill Daly told league officials not too fret about Vegas abusing their exemption. Other teams want to be reassured that the Golden Knights wont be making unfair trades during that small window before the 2020 Expansion Draft. The league will be keeping an eye on Quick Draw McPhee.
Daly hears that Vegas can’t interfere with the Seattle expansion process. The league will pay close attention to the type of trades the involve Vegas around that… Bill Daly says he’ll know when he sees it as far as something that doesn’t pass the smell test. -LeBrun
One scenario that clearly makes sense for Seattle is hiring Vegas Assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon. Obviously, as McPhee’s right-hand man he’s fully capable of handling the pressure and creativity of an expansion draft. However, if McPhee is whispering to 30 other compadres it’ll make McCrimmon’s job much tougher the second time around. Any other Seattle general manager would be at even more of a disadvantage.
All along we’re always under the assumption that Seattle will have a bit of a tougher time this time around. Teams are more familiar with the rules and the process, saw what happened with a couple of teams overreacting and overpaying on side deals with Vegas. -LeBrun
Teams like Anaheim, Columbus, Dallas, Florida, Minnesota, and Washington gifted Vegas a core to win with immediately. I’m sure most teams would like a redo. Well, they’ll have their chance in the summer of 2020. With McPhee watching on with a bowl full of Crunch ‘n Munch.
**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.**
Is hockey in a good place?
The NHL’s 31 general managers seem to think so, as do the league’s top officials.
The annual GM’s meeting in Boca Raton, Florida wrapped up two days of congratulatory back-patting Tuesday as they declared the sport is healthy and there’s no need for radical change at this time.
You’re always looking and talking and tweaking. But the good news is you don’t have to find a problem. The game’s in pretty good shape right now. Real good shape. -Brad Treliving, Flames GM
The changes they implemented a couple of years ago, such as cracking down on slashing, appear to be working. According to sportsnet.ca, slashing penalties continue to fall and players have adjusted their games accordingly to avoid a trip to the penalty box.
Scoring continues to rise with an average of 6.2 goals per game, the highest it has been since 2006. That may be part and parcel with the fact slashing penalties have been on the decline, thus creating more quality chances for the guy with the puck.
It seems like we’re just about perfect. The game is in a really good place in terms of whatever you want to measure. Goal scoring’s up. Comebacks are up. Fighting’s down. Stoppages of play are consistent over the years. All the various ways we measure the game show us it’s just about as good as it’s ever been, which is great news for all of us. -George McPhee
He has a point. The game overall has more flow. We are seeing more teams rally to create a competitive game. Witness lowly Ottawa taking the Islanders into a shootout Tuesday after trailing 3-1 and 4-2 in the second period. Teams always think they have a shot to pick up a point.
The GMs, to their credit, keep looking to make hockey safer. They are proposing a player whose helmet comes off proceed directly to the bench rather than continue skating. For William Karlsson’s fans who love to see those flowing blond locks, that’s not good news. But better to have Wild Bill safely on the bench rather than suffer a serious head or eye injury because he lost his lid and decided playing without it was the macho thing to do as is the current hockey culture.
And speaking of culture, one thing I wished was addressed at the GM meetings apparently wasn’t. That something is injuries and the clandestine handling of them.
Currently, a guy gets hurt and the league leaves it up to the team to decide how much information gets disseminated. Some teams will tell you everything, a few just enough and most nothing more than a “lower-body” or “upper body.”
We all know how the Golden Knights operate in this department. McPhee divulges so little when it comes to injuries, you thought he worked in the CIA, not the NHL. He has said on more than one occasion that it’s about protecting his players.
Nobody outside the team truly knows what’s going on with Will Carrier. In Erik Haula’s case, GMGM had no choice but to confirm the guy hurt his knee back on Nov. 6 in Toronto. It was clearly evident and in plain sight for everyone to see.
When the Expansion Draft was over and the dust had settled a bit, the Golden Knights walked away with much more than just the 30 players made up of one from each team.
By July 5th, George McPhee had “harvested” (his word, not mine) a bushel of assets that were expected to help reach the stated goal of reaching the playoffs by year three and lifting the Cup by year six. Here’s the full list of what the Golden Knights were sitting on a little over two weeks after the Expansion Draft.
Since then, things have changed a bit. The Golden Knights started out on fire and it’s never really slowed down. They won the Pacific Division, the Western Conference, and are in line to make the playoffs again in year two. Since July 5th, 2017, the Golden Knights have made nine more trades.
Acquired Mark Stone Max Pacioretty Ryan Reaves 2018 4th round pick (Slava Demin) 2018 6th round pick (Peter Diliberatore) 2019 5th round pick Tobias Lindberg Zachary Leslie Tye McGinn Philip Holm
Gave Up Brendan Leipsic Calvin Pickard Oscar Lindberg Brad Hunt Nick Suzuki (2017 1st round pick) Erik Brannstrom (2017 1st round pick) 2018 1st round pick (Joe Veleno) 2019 2nd round pick 2019 2nd round pick 2019 6th round pick 2020 2nd round pick 2021 3rd round pick Jimmy Oligny (Tomas Tatar was acquired and then traded so he does not appear on either side of this list.)
Here’s the craziest part, look what happens if you add up all the picks.
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
The Golden Knights top six has returned to normalcy for the first time in a long time, maybe ever, with Gerard Gallant’s decision to put Reilly Smith back on the line with Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson.
There’s no debating it, a top six of Karlsson, Marchessault, Smith, Alex Tuch, Max Pacioretty, and Paul Stastny is as good as the Golden Knights can do. And, if you compare it against other top sixes in the NHL, it’s right there with the best of them.
The return of William Carrier appears to have re-stabilized the fourth line as well. Again, one of the best in the NHL.
But, this lineup leaves a void. It leaves a line with Cody Eakin as the center and a revolving door of Tomas Nosek, Valentin Zykov, Ryan Carpenter, Oscar Lindberg, and Brandon Pirri on his wings. Let’s just be frank for a second, there’s not a combination of three guys that make a legitimately dangerous line.
So with the trade deadline a mere 14 days away, it begs the question, how much should George McPhee be willing to give up to fix it?
However, I’m here to pose a different question. Can it actually be fixed without breaking up the top six?
Just play along with me for a second here. Let’s say the Golden Knights acquire the best player available, Artemi Panarin. You liking a line of Eakin, Panarin, and Zykov? Does Eakin, Panarin, and Carpenter float your boat? What about Eakin, Panarin, and Pirri, that giving you the tickle?
The other day I was asked to do an interview for an upcoming documentary on the Golden Knights magical season. It’s called Valiant and it’s supposed to be released by the Summer of this year, but more on that when it comes out. I knew I would be asked plenty of questions about the Expansion Draft, so I was going through some of my notes, reading some of the articles we published around the time, and trying to relive the entire thing so I’d be prepared.
Looking back, that whole week was a complete blur, and I’m assuming it was for everyone as the Golden Knights went from having Reid Duke, Tomas Hyka, and Vadim Shipachyov to building an entire roster which would eventually go on to win the Western Conference all within about five days time.
While going through everything I found something interesting, transcripts from George McPhee’s press conferences during the three days of the Expansion Draft. If you don’t remember, teams submitted their protection lists, and then Vegas had 72 hours to submit its list of 30 selections to the league. The next day each of the 30 players were announced to a massive crowd at T-Mobile Arena and Marc-Andre Fleury, Jason Garrison, Brayden McNabb, and Deryk Engelland donned Vegas jerseys after being selected. Each morning during those 72 hours, McPhee met with the media to take questions and his answers were pretty amazing now that we have context.
It truly was a wild time and as always, time gives us perspective on things. The entire transcripts from those press conferences are below (plus a video of the Expansion Draft), but I wanted to highlight a few comments McPhee made during a time when everyone believed the Golden Knights would be among the worst teams in the league.
I think it’s going to be a pretty good team. We’re happy that, you know, we got a lot of defensemen, we got really good goaltending, we’ve got a lot of centers and we’ve got scoring on the wings. Should have good speed, so it’s going to be a good team. -McPhee on 6/20/17
Actually, I think we’ve done pretty well in all the positions. We have lots of defensemen lined up, we have lots of centers and we have scoring on the wings, a little more scoring than we anticipated. The goaltending is going to be pretty solid. It’s looking pretty good. It’s what we’ve been trying to accomplish and that is have a competitive club that people are going to enjoy watching play, and then having the draft picks to be able to draft our way to a contending team, a championship team. -McPhee on 6/20/17
Most mock drafts were full of players even fans of the teams they were being selected from had never heard of, yet McPhee was confident in speed, scoring, and goaltending. Not sure he ever thought he had just selected one of the fastest teams in the NHL, but the foresight is pretty cool.
Also, the plan was to draft the way to a championship team. Instead, they went to the Stanley Cup Final and have a chance to do so again, and not a single drafted player has stepped on the ice for the Golden Knights. Things changed quickly.
We’ve got all kinds of different screens that we’re working off of that were getting us different kinds of data that we needed. And just in terms of trying to put the team together, again, it’s not easy, because you’re trying to put all of these bodies together and you have to meet all these requirements, and again, as I mentioned yesterday, if you move one, if you make one change, it sort of changes the whole matrix. So, we just designated certain people in blue and I always use blue sort of as a ‘blue chip’ in ratings, and we usually have lots of different ratings. But, blue in this case was, this was probably a player that we’re claiming and keeping and don’t have interest in moving, and we used a different color for a player that we would claim and may have to move, just to allow us to see what the team sort of looks like as we’re making all the deals. -McPhee on 6/20/17
The mental image of that war room with names like Marchessault, Schmidt, Tuch, and Theodore highlighted in blue as “blue chip” guys is fascinating. We have a sense of which ones they got right based on long-term contracts, but it makes you wonder if there were any major misses among the blue chips. Griffin Reinhart? Oscar Lindberg? Brendan Leipsic? All were selected and kept following the Expansion Draft. Heck, Lindberg even signed a contract the next day.
Negotiating with GMs has been the same, but maybe the best way to put all of it on this whole experience, there’s just a glow about it. You know? It’s been such a positive experience for all of us that I’m keeping my fingers crossed, hoping it can continue to go the same way. -McPhee on 6/18/17
Vegas didn’t have a 1st round pick last year, they don’t intend on that being the case this year.
Historically, George McPhee is active around the trade deadline. Whether his team is good and he’s buying reinforcements (like he did last year in Vegas) or if he’s bad and selling for the future, McPhee normally takes advantage of the closing of the marketplace at the end of February.
In his 17 years in Washington, McPhee made a move at the deadline (within three days) in 15 of the 17 years. Last year, McPhee pulled off three deadline trades, adding Tomas Tatar and Ryan Reaves and moving on from Brendan Leipsic making it 16 of 18 seasons at the helm he’s swung a deadline deal.
We’re going to be very careful about the draft picks, giving up draft picks, this year. You know we gave up a #1 last year and George is really committed to keeping that #1 this year. It’s a pretty good draft class. -The Creator
The Golden Knights currently have nine picks in the 2019 Entry Draft including two extra 3rds and two extra 5ths.
Courtesy of CapFriendly.com
Aside from the few extra picks, the Golden Knights are not exactly stocked with tradeable assets. The only true position of strength is at defenseman with Erik Brannstrom, Nic Hague, Zach Whitecloud, and Jake Bischoff all projected to be NHLers. But, it doesn’t sound like The Creator has much interest in losing any of them either.
We have four really good d-men with the Wolves right now and they’re getting ready. They really are. You might see them up and down a little bit later on in the year. Definitely next year I’m sure we’ll be doing something. -The Creator
So, while history suggests McPhee will be interested in making something happen at the deadline, a bare cupboard may force him to sit on his hands.
If I had to guess, I’d still expect something minor, but everyone with their eyes on the blockbuster, it may have to wait a year.
Gerard Gallant confirmed this morning Haula is considered “month-to-month.” (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
Injuries are a major part of hockey. Every team goes through them at various times and for various stretches of the season. For the Golden Knights, it’s come early and it’s come in the form of high-end forwards.
Alex Tuch missed the first eight games of the year and Max Pacioretty missed four games at the end of October. Both Pacioretty and Tuch have returned to the lineup, but the two guys they’ve played with on the Vegas second line haven’t been as fortunate. Paul Stastny went out in Game 3 and isn’t expected to return until late December at the earliest, and Erik Haula appears to be out for at least the balance of the calendar year.
Then there’s the suspension which has kept Nate Schmidt out for the first 20 games of the season. All in all, the Golden Knights have yet to play a game with anything resembling a full lineup, and the GM is frustrated.
I’d like to get healthy, for one game. just to see what we are. We just haven’t been. You know we rebuilt our second line and I think they’ve played two and half games together. Stastny’s been out most of the year, Pacioretty was out, Haula’s out, Tuch’s been out. We aren’t deep enough yet to not have everybody in. -George McPhee on Sportsnet 590 in Toronto
All in all, they’ve missed 39 games due to injury and 18 going on 20 due to suspension.
Nate Schmidt – 18 missed (100%) Paul Stastny – 15 missed (83%) Alex Tuch – 8 missed (44.%) Deryk Engelland – 5 missed (28%) Max Pacioretty – 4 missed (22%) Erik Haula – 3 missed (17%) Cody Eakin – 4 missed (22%) Ryan Carpenter – 1 missed (6%)
Following their latest nightmare of a road trip, all three trips have been now, the Golden Knights now sit at 3-8-0 on the road, 7-10-1 overall, and with a measly 15 points in the first 18 games. If you extrapolate those numbers over a full 82 game season, that’s 11-31-0 on the road, 32-46-4 overall, and 68 points. That is a disaster.
That is also why something has to change. Of course, the easiest change will be made available to the Golden Knights in two games, when Nate Schmidt is eligible to return from his suspension. It will almost certainly help, but relying on one player to completely turn the fortunes of a team around is like walking up to the craps table thinking you’re going to win rent for the month. It might happen, but realistically, it’s probably not.
Following the loss in Boston, reigning Jack Adams winner Gerard Gallant responded to a question about swapping Max Pacioretty and Jonathan Marchessault mid-game with this answer.
If you are not winning you are going to try things. That’s what a coach’s job is supposed to be. So you try and get a little spark. -Gallant
However, the team has barely tried anything nearly a fourth of the way through the season. They’ve made one call-up from the AHL, they’ve made voluntary changes on just one line, and they’ve never swapped more than one defenseman if not dealing with an injury.