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With Training Camp Underway GM McCrimmon Happy For Some Normalcy

(Photo by Brandon Andreasen)

Golden Knights training camp begins today representing the return of the players and finally the fans. The start of a normally scheduled camp has the Golden Knights brass ecstatic as well. The Golden Knights’ GM addressed the media yesterday to give his expectations on training camp and making another chase for the Stanley Cup.

Really excited about 82 games. Really excited about playing 31 other teams. Last year was a challenge for a lot of people and for a lot of different reasons. We’re really optimistic that this will feel a lot more like a normal NHL season. We’re pleased with our offseason, pleased with the makeup of our team as we head into the season. -Kelly McCrimmon, Vegas GM

While the GM was satisfied with his offseason changes he’s also eager to learn more about what’s in the cupboard. Entering their fifth NHL season, Vegas’ front office would like to add contributions from some of their more experienced prospects.

I always get excited about the evolution of young players. I’m excited to see Keegan Kolesar, Dylan Coghlan, Nic Hague, Nic Roy, that group of young players. I’m excited to see their progression because that’s a big part of how your team improves. Zach Whitecloud, still a young player. I’m excited to see those players. -McCrimmon

The list of players the Golden Knights GM rattled off are under contract for one more season before entering restricted free agency. Of course, it’s an established roster but the Golden Knights at some point will need impact from the younger generation. McCrimmon also mentioned centers Nolan Patrick and Brett Howden but there are different expectations considering both are new to the organization.

Coach Pete DeBoer will have the luxury of roughly three weeks and seven preseason games to examine his younger players. DeBoer will need some to quickly become everyday NHL players. There may not be many openings in Vegas’ opening day roster but there could be bottom-six minutes up for grabs.

This year has seven preseason games, last year did not. I think there’s real value in that. Not only for your veteran players but it’s a great opportunity for young guys… I believe our forwards as a group are better than they’ve been at any point in our existence. I think we made our team better at the forward position. -McCrimmon

McCrimmon stated, and few would disagree, Vegas has a roster that only a handful of teams can match. The general manager never mentioned direct expectations but the goal has to be the same under The Creator’s ownership.

With the franchise’s best-ever forward unit, star-studded defense, and superb goaltending, it has to be a Cup or Bust type mentality behind closed doors. Expect another fun ride.

Odds Favor Patrick Improving In Vegas

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Since 2010, 2nd overall picks in the NHL Draft have lived up to their expectations. Many have even outperformed the only pick chosen before them. It’s not the 1st selection of a draft but it’s an immensely valuable one. Screw up the 2nd pick in the draft and it’ll cost future results and ultimately jobs. So, it’s no surprise the Golden Knights took a chance on the 2nd overall selection from four years ago.

Second Overall Pick Since 2010
2010: Tyler Seguin BOS (6x All Star, Cup Winner)
2011: Gabriel Landeskog COL (ROY)
2012: Ryan Murray CBJ (395 NHL games)
2013: Aleksander Barkov FLA (Byng, Selke)
2014: Sam Reinhart BUF (295 NHL points)
2015: Jack Eichel BUF (3x All Star)
2016: Patrick Laine WPG (All Star)
2017: Nolan Patrick PHI (70 NHL points)
2018: Andrei Svechinikov CAR (140 NHL points)
2019: Kaapo Kakko NYR (40 NHL points)
2020: Quintin Byfield LAK
2021: Matthew Beniers SEA

As you can see there haven’t been many busts, if any, over the last decade or so. From 2010-2016, seven 2nd overall picks have combined for 12 All-Star Game appearances, three All-Rookie Team nods, a Calder Award, a Lady Byng, Selke and most importantly, a Stanley Cup ring. Add in 2018’s second overall selection Andrei Svechinikov quick start to his career, and the odds look bright for the newest Golden Knights center.

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“You Don’t Perform In Vegas, You’re Gone”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have been to the playoffs every season they’ve been in existence. They’ve won the division two of the four seasons and tied for the crown in the most recent year. They’ve been to the conference finals every year but one.

But, none of it is good enough, and the front office’s actions have proven that time and time again.

From moving on from Gerard Gallant to shipping out lovable players like Nate Schmidt, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Ryan Reaves to always being interested, and often landing, the biggest fish on the free agent market, the Golden Knights will stop at nothing to win the Stanley Cup.

In many ways, it’s everything a fan can ask for. Of course, it can be tough from time to time seeing all of the change surrounding the team, but in the end, the ultimate goal is to win and the Golden Knights are absolutely trying to do it.

From a player perspective, it should be the perfect scenario as well. Every player’s dream is to lift the Cup and see their name engraved on it immortalizing themselves in hockey history. It comes with a toll though.

Speaking in a recent interview on the Cam and Strick Podcast, goalie Robin Lehner explained the general philosophy surrounding the Golden Knights organization.

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Tuch’s Injury Creates Power Play Opportunities And Roster Options

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s been a tough week for Golden Knights fans. First the organization traded away two fan favorites only to have word come down that Alex Tuch will be out for six months with an injured shoulder. That’s a lot of difficult news in only five business days in the middle of summer.

Sticking with who’s left, filling Tuch’s role for an extended period of time will be difficult for coach Pete DeBoer. The good news is the roster has several options to help create offense, but will it be enough to improve Vegas’ lackluster power play?

(Dadonov) was a player we identified as a priority. We had him ahead of all players that were available in Expansion. That effectively addressed the need of adding one good foward. -Kelly McCrimmon

This week general manager Kelly McCrimmon acquired forward Evgenii Dadonov from Ottawa as another weapon to aid the power play, where he’s found high levels of success. Since his return to the National Hockey League in 2017-18, the 31-year-old Russian has registered 25 power play goals. In that span, he’s tied in PPG with offensive studs like Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin. Even more impressive, Dadonov posted those numbers without scoring on a man-advantage last season with Ottawa.

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Who’s To Blame For The Golden Knights Underachieving… Again

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s a sad moment for fans when a hockey season abruptly ends like it did last Thursday. Reality sets in when a Cup run is over and the 31st franchise will have to wait another year for a chance at the ultimate prize. Unfortunately, the truth is, this was another wasted season for the Golden Knights. For the second straight year, Vegas faced an inferior opponent and couldn’t find a way to force a game seven. Their leaders, coaches, and framers failed again and almost identically in back-to-back years.

Against Montreal, the Golden Knights outshot the Canadiens 193 to 165 yet had two fewer goals in the Semifinals. Keep in mind the Canadiens were the 15th lowest scoring team in the regular season and Vegas was 3rd highest. The Golden Knights fell down the same hole last postseason against the Dallas Stars. Like Montreal, Dallas was another low scoring team that found a way to outscore the Golden Knights in the conference finals. It was inexcusable in 2020, and even more so in 2021 after the organization retooled in the offseason.

So, who’s to blame?

Players

Let’s begin with the leadership group. Captain Mark Stone has built quite the portfolio in Vegas, however, his stock continues to plummet in the playoffs. For three straight seasons, Stone has provided very little offense for the Golden Knights when they needed him late in a series. Going without a single point in the entire Semifinals was rock bottom for Stone. His failure to produce in the backend of a playoff series was evident again against Minnesota, Colorado, and Montreal.

In all fairness to the captain, he owned up to it.

I can praise (the Canadiens) all I want but ultimately it falls down on myself and the top players on this team. We had some guys that produced night in and night out. As far as myself I got skunked this series. That can’t happen. I’m the captain of this team, the leader of this team, I take a lot of responsibility for what just occurred. -Mark Stone

Another concern was the continuous slow starts for Vegas. In six Semifinal games, the Golden Knights allowed the first goal four times, and were sluggish to begin the 1st period in several other postseason contests. In the final 12 games of the postseason, the Golden Knights trailed at some point in 11 of them.

Is it possible the team leaders for Vegas couldn’t motivate their teammates enough to kick off the game on time? It’s hard to comprehend why, but it’s fair to point fingers at the men with letters; Stone, Reilly Smith and Alex Pietrangelo.

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Vegas’ Salary Cap Management A Topic Around The League

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It hadn’t happened in 11 years, and it probably won’t happen for 11 more. The Golden Knights’ decision to only dress 15 skaters on Monday night in a critical game against the Colorado Avalanche was a bit of a shock. General Manager Kelly McCrimmon explained the situation and pointed towards unexpected injuries to several players at the same time. This left the organization without enough cap space to call up a player in time for Monday’s game. However, the explanation didn’t sit well with some in the hockey world.

Immediately after McCrimmon’s last minute Zoom conference, TSN’s Frank Seravalli challenged Vegas’ reasoning.

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George McPhee’s Has Stood Pat At Deadlines Before; How’d It Turn Out?

It’s trade deadline day, and in a few long hours, we’ll know the roster the Golden Knights will bring into the playoffs on their run for a Stanley Cup in year four of the franchise.

Deadline day is great because it’s one of the few days where hope truly springs eternal for all teams. Winning teams look for their clubs to add the final piece to the puzzle, middling teams hope for the blockbuster that changes the season, and the bottomfeeders wave the white flag and focus on a brighter future.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In Vegas, the deadline has been a day for celebration all three seasons. From Tomas Tatar to Mark Stone to Robin Lehner and Alec Martinez, the Golden Knights have swung for the fences each and every year.

Unfortunately, to this point, none of these trades have been that one missing element to help the Golden Knights lift the Cup, but that certainly doesn’t mean they haven’t had an impact on the team.

This year feels different though. This year the Golden Knights sit in a clear playoff position and have a reasonable argument to stake their claim amongst the league’s elites. They’ve raced out to an impressive 27-11-2 record, hardly ever lose at home, and they have a roster that on paper stacks up with anyone in the league. But, they are also so close to the salary cap that they can’t even afford to replace an injured player without placing him on LTIR. They’ve played multiple games shorthanded and understand that any trade must include money and players going out.

However, history tells us George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon aren’t exactly big fans of sitting on their hands at the deadline. In three seasons with Vegas, they’ve made eight trades either on or within a week of the deadline. They’ve been involved in a headline move four times and have sent away just two players off their every-day starting lineup.

That’s such a short history though, so we wanted to dig a little deeper. Current GM, McCrimmon, has only held this role in Vegas, so we have to focus on the current President of Hockey Operations, McPhee.

He has been in the head seat for 19 previous deadlines. He has made at least one trade in 16 of them. He’s made multiple trades in 12, and 10 of the last 13. However, it’s the other side of the coin we’re more interested in today, the years he stood pat.

He did that with the Washington Capitals three times in 16 seasons at the helm. Those seasons were 2011-12, 2008-09, and 1999-00. We’ll start with the most recent, in which McPhee was quoted after the deadline saying this…

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Cody Glass Opens Up About His Brief Return To The AHL

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

At different points this season the Golden Knights have had to make difficult decisions due to the salary cap. When fully healthy, Vegas is within a couple hundred thousand dollars of the $81.5 million limit with just 19 players on the active roster.

Early in the year, they experimented with a lineup of 13 forwards and five defensemen. At other times they’ve taken advantage of the emergency exception rules in the CBA that allow a team to exceed the cap. But when every avenue has been exhaust and Vegas wants to ice a standard 12/6/2 lineup, it’s typically been Cody Glass as the odd-man-out.

There are multiple reasons for this, a big one not related to his play on the ice. Due to his age and contract status, Glass is the only forward on the Golden Knights’ normal roster that is waiver exempt. Thus, he can freely travel between the NHL, the taxi squad, and the AHL without ever being at risk of being claimed by another team. The same cannot be said for players like Keegan Kolesar, Nic Roy, William Carrier, Ryan Reaves, or Tomas Nosek.

However, performance on the ice has played a factor in some of the decisions surrounding Glass. To put it bluntly, Glass simply hasn’t been good enough to force himself onto the roster at all times. That’s definitely not to say he’s been bad, or is even among the poorest performing players on the team (he’s definitely not), but when a decision has to be made, he hasn’t made enough of an impact to compel the front office to make a different choice.

This most recent instance was unlike any prior one though. When Alex Pietrangelo returned from LTIR, Vegas once again needed to clear space. Like before, Glass found himself on the outside looking in, however this time, instead of assigning him to the taxi squad, he was sent to the AHL… to actually play.

I just wanted to see him get a little more confidence 5-on-5. So we’d like him to go down there and play games, contribute and be an offensive player, come back and give us some juice when he returns. –Kelly McCrimmon to Las Vegas Sun

Unlike previous situations where he was assigned to the taxi squad and remained with the NHL team, this time they were looking for improvement. This time, they were sending a message about his play at the NHL level.

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Fleury To Former GM: “Get Me To Vegas”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

This past offseason most Golden Knights fans thought the face of the franchise would be traded. Based on reports, it almost happened. However, that face, Marc-Andre Fleury, made it known publicly that he desired to stay in Las Vegas and hadn’t asked to be moved. Luckily for the Golden Knights front office, a deal never materialized.

The front office that gifted the Golden Knights with the future Hall of Famer knew long before, that Fleury wanted to resume his career in Las Vegas.

I knew he had lots, lots left in him. In Fleury’s case, when he knew that he was the odd man out he came and met with me and said ‘if there’s any way you can get me to Las Vegas, that’s where I’d like to go.’ So, I made sure I made that happen. I felt like I owed that to him. –Jim Rutherford, former Penguins GM w/ Cam & Strick podcast

Long before his name was called by The Creator in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft, Fleury was focused on becoming the starting goaltender for the Golden Knights.

After being drafted by Vegas, the 33-year-old, at the time, went on to have one of the best seasons of his career. After losing his starting position in Pittsburgh, the “I’ll show them” motivation factor was high for Fleury. Sort of like what’s happening this season.

I’m emotionally connected to guys that I win a championship with. The Marc-Andre Fleury trade was the hardest one for me, because I love the guy. He’s a special, very special person. –Rutherford, former Penguins GM

Last night’s 1-0 defeat to Minnesota was only Fleury’s fourth of the season. In those four losses, the goaltender allowed eight goals combined. He’s second in the league with a 2.04 GAA in losses, and number one overall with a 1.57 GAA. Win or lose, the numbers show that Fleury keeps his team in the game more than any other goalie in the NHL.

Of course, they’ll be no way to prove it but the handwriting was on the wall for the goaltender and the new franchise. Pittsburgh knew they had to move on, Fleury was aware and the Golden Knights were opportunistic. It was the perfect second marriage, and both parties were excited to form a union of misfits.

I make a lot of trades, I’m not going to get them all right. When I don’t get one right I’m not afraid to say it. I move on. –Rutherford, former Penguins GM

It was set up to be a storybook ending for Fleury in Vegas, but questionable decisions seemed to derail that path, until now. He told Rutherford in 2017, and Golden Knights fans in 2020, the goaltender wanted to be in Vegas and didn’t want to leave Vegas. His performance this season is showing that.

Oh, and make no doubts about it, Fleury has a little motivation to prove them wrong. He didn’t need to but he does nightly.

The Creator Opens Up On His Involvement In Trades, Coaching Changes, And More On A St. Louis Based Podcast

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights are fortunate when it comes to ownership. Unlike many NHL cities (see Arizona), the owner in Vegas wants to win and he’ll spare no expense in a pursuit to make it happen.

He said he wanted to make the playoffs by year three and win the Stanley Cup by year six and he’s committed to making that second part happen, seemingly by any means necessary.

He’s constantly around. Watching over practices, sitting in his suite at the games, or hanging out in his office on his fancy computer scouting players on other teams.

The first couple of years I really just listened because I didn’t know the business. Now I’ve learned a little bit more so I’m a little more involved. –The Creator on Cam & Strick Podcast

Appearing on a podcast out of St. Louis, hosted by former NHLer Cam Janssen and local media guy Andy Strickland, The Creator went fairly in-depth not only on his involvement in the Golden Knights but also in his other businesses.

My office is next to Kelly, it’s one down from George. I go to almost all of the amateur scout meetings and all of the pro scout meetings. I’m there for the four or five days before the trade deadline. –The Creator on Cam & Strick Podcast

He continued explaining how his input really ramps up when it comes to trades.

They come to me with their proposals on who to trade, what to do, what we’re going to get, what we’re not going to get. But I try and let the guys in charge, they’ve been delegated the authority and the responsibility to make the decisions. It’s only on maybe trades that I start having some input and I try to be careful about it. If I particularly don’t like one of their ideas I say, ‘I don’t think I can do that, I just don’t know that works for me.’ That’s how I get involved on the hockey side. –The Creator on Cam & Strick Podcast

The Nate Schmidt trade was one he took particularly hard.

I was really worried about (how it would affect the locker room). That was a very difficult decision. Kelly and George convinced me that Petro was going to be a difference-maker for us on our team. Schmidty ended up being the odd-man-out, which really bothered me. –The Creator on Cam & Strick Podcast

Another place he said he’s involved is with the decision on coaching. When asked about the firing of Gerard Gallant, he let out a few interesting nuggets.

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