On January 12th of last season, Golden Knights captain Mark Stone played in his last regular season game of 2022-23. Vegas’ roster battled through the schedule without their leader and secured the top playoff seed in the Western Conference.
We all know what transpired once the postseason began.
(Courtesy of TNT)
Without Stone in the second half of last season, the captain’s teammates went 23-9-7 to finish out the string of regular season games. It was a bit of a surprise but also a sign of what to expect in the postseason. The Stone-less lineup averaged 3.23 goals per game and allowed only 2.67 per contest. Coach Bruce Cassidy got his entire roster to buy in and finish off the season strong without their heart and soul.
January 14, 2023 to April 13, 2023 – Games Without Stone
Having not played a game in nearly five weeks, William Karlsson was tasked with one of the most difficult jobs in the NHL. Stop Connor McDavid.
Might as well throw me into the fire, or to the wolves, or whatever you guys say. Yeah, just right at it, so I better be on my toes. -William Karlsson
Playing alongside a makeshift line created specifically for this matchup, Karlsson, Michael Amadio, and Jonas Rondbjerg pulled it off.
I thought Karly did a great job against McDavid. He played against him not all the time but a lot of the time, and they did a really good job. You have to if you are going to beat Edmonton. You’ve got to keep him in check. He’s going to get his looks but all in all Karly did his job great. -Cassidy
In eight minutes of ice time against the league’s best player, Karlsson’s line allowed just three shots on goal while starting every shift either in the defensive or neutral zone. As Cassidy said, McDavid and Co. got their looks, they generated 12 shot attempts, four high-danger chances, and .56 expected goals, but when the game ended the Oilers had not recorded a single goal at even strength.
Karlsson shoulders the brunt of the load as the center, but his wingers deserve a ton of credit as well. Jonas Rondbjerg delivered his usual solid defensive outing while Michael Amadio has continued to insert himself among VGK’s most reliable players.
With two minutes to go in last night’s 3-2 victory over the LA Kings, the Golden Knights were forced to fight off a lengthy 5-on-6. LA had their chances but the reigning champions battled in front of the net, forced ineffective shots, and swept pucks out of harm’s way.
The shot we gave up for the 5-on-6 goal we’re going to give up all day long. That’s the goalie’s shot. We wanted to protect the middle. They hit a few seams but again that’s outside the middle. Would we have rather give up nothing? Yes, but we wanted to give up stuff from the outside. I wasn’t worried because it wasn’t a mad scramble in front. If a puck did come in there and there were a lot of bodies we’d have more than them. -Bruce Cassidy
Golden Knights coach Bruce Cassidy was pleased after the divisional win and brushed off the late attack by the visitors. The Stanley Cup champions executed the model game plan by limiting LA’s opportunities and cashing in on their handful of chances.
Last season Golden Knights forward Michael Amadio surprised many people by scoring 16 goals and registering 11 assists in 67 regular season games. He doubled down in the postseason with five goals, five assists and one hell of a game winner in Game 3 of the opening round against Winnipeg.
Overall, the seven-year veteran put together his best NHL season in 2022-23 and was rewarded with a Stanley Cup championship ring for his effort. This season Amadio is back at it totaling 15 points (5/10) in 27 games. Not only is he on track to pass last season’s numbers but he’s doing it on the cheap.
NHL Standard Contract Forwards Cost Per Point
Michael Amadio (VGK): 15 Points – $50,833 Per Point
Michael Carcone (ARI): 15 Points – $51,666 Per Point
Stefan Noesen (CAR): 14 Points – $54,464 Per Point
James van Riemsdyk (BOS): 16 Points – $62,500 Per Point
Thomas Novak (NSH): 12 Points – $66,666 Per Point
The 27-year-old is currently signed until the end of the season with a base salary of $775,000. In other words, the Golden Knights are getting one hell of a deal.
(CapFriendly.com – NHL UFA Cost Per Point)
With the exception of Stefan Noesen, all of the players on the top of the Cost Per Point list make more than VGK’s winger. His cap space is the third lowest on the Golden Knights active roster, taking up a tiny 0.85% of the organization’s entire salary hold.
When Bruce Cassidy was let go as head coach of the Boston Bruins, one of the biggest critiques of his coaching style was how harsh he was on players. There were many stories from Bruins, especially younger players, that they never felt they could please the coach.
In Vegas, it’s not hard to get a sense of where that criticism comes from. Cassidy’s blunt honesty with the media can come across as a bit harsh when directed at a specific player. And, if he’s saying it publicly, there’s a pretty good chance he’s telling them directly too.
There have been multiple examples of Cassidy asking for more consistency out of Paul Cotter, he’s mentioned Phil Kessel’s defensive shortcomings in more than one press conference, and then there was the notorious “Plan E” comment about Michael Amadio getting the place on a line with Mark Stone and Chandler Stephenson.
Cassidy said it was more about Kessel not getting it done on the top line than it was Amadio earning the right to go up. Called him "Plan E" behind Eichel Howden Cotter and Kessel as they search for answers.
He added Kessel hasn't given as much of a 200 foot game as the others.
Obviously, Cassidy’s straightforward approach has resonated with the Golden Knights as it led to each and every one of them seeing their names engraved on the Stanley Cup.
A story shared by Gary Lawless on the VGK Radio Network during the 2nd period of Tuesday night’s game is a strong example of why.
We’ve heard players tell stories about how Bruce would be chirping at Michael (Amadio) on the bench in the beginning of the season and finally, one of the veterans turned around to him and said ‘Hey, leave him alone. Pick on me, pick on somebody else.’ Bruce said afterward, ‘You know maybe they think I’m going to be mad because they yelled back at me. No. It shows they’re a team, they are looking after one of the younger guys. I like that. It lets me know they are coming together.’ -Lawless on VGK Radio Network
It’s an interesting glimpse into not only Cassidy’s coaching style, but also the togetherness of the Golden Knights as a team. No matter how established you are in the league, clapping back at a coach in defense of a young player bouncing in and out of the lineup is a gutsy move.
There’s always a debate over what comes first, team chemistry or winning. Obviously, after winning the Stanley Cup together, chemistry in the Golden Knights locker room is at an all-time high. However, this story of a veteran sticking up for Amadio shows that bond goes back long before they won their 16th playoff game.
On the night of May 15th, 2023, after the Golden Knights eliminated the Edmonton Oilers in the second round of the 2023 NHL playoffs Jack Eichel and Leon Draisaitl walked into two very different locker rooms. Eichel was promptly drenched with celebratory champagne and puffed on Ashton Aged Maduro’s with his jubilant teammates. Draisaitl stepped into a locker room that was emotional, furious, and unsatisfied with how their season abruptly ended. In fact, it was in that moment Oilers captain Connor McDavid sternly stated that he and his teammates were on notice.
We’ve heard the story now from a few places, that he cleared all but the closest team staff out of the room and laid down the parameters for his franchise going forward. That the window for learning how to win was slamming shut, and the time for applying those lessons — and winning Stanley Cups — has officially begun. – Mark Spector on Sportsnet.ca
Now, both Pacific Division contenders are preparing for a new 82-game regular season with a mutual agreement on how that six-game series ended in mid-May. In Elliotte Friedman’s latest 32 Thoughts blog, Draisaitl noticed the difference of quality bench players on VGK’s side.
At the NHL/NHLPA media tour in Las Vegas, Jack Eichel said the difference between Edmonton and Vegas in that second-round series was depth. Leon Draisaitl conceded that, but added, “We couldn’t get to our top game…They didn’t make those little mistakes we made and that was the difference.” –Elliotte Friedman in 32 Thoughts
This week NHL outlets compiled a team of the biggest bargains of the 2022-23 season. Unfortunately, zero Golden Knights players made the list, nor should they have. When Tage Thompson is the bargain bin’s top center, you can only imagine how skilled the rest of the lines and pairings are.
Sportsnet’s 2022-23 All-Bargain Team:
Brandon Hagel (TBL) — Tage Thompson (BUF) — Daniel Sprong (SEA) Michael Bunting (TOR) — David Krejci (BOS) — Gabriel Vilardi (LAK) Zach Parise (NYI) — Morgan Frost (PHI) — Taylor Raddysh (CHI) Stefan Noesen (CAR) — Thomas Novak (NSH) — Sonny Milano (WSH)
DEFENSE Erik Gustafsson (WSH/TOR) — Luke Schenn (VAN/TOR) Mark Giordano (TOR) — Rasmus Sandin (TOR/WSH) P.O. Joseph (PIT) — Sebastian Aho (NYI)
GOALIES Stuart Skinner (EDM) Filip Gustavsson (MIN)
So, maybe there wasn’t enough room for VGK’s valued players, but several deserve praise after their unexpected production during Vegas’ championship run.
Michael Amadio 16 Goals, 11 Assists, +2, 99 Shots On Goal, 2 Game-Winning Goals, 12:13 Average Time On Ice $762,500 Cap Hit
Amadio’s output was not only surprising in the regular season, but he continued to outperform expectations in the playoffs. In 16 games, the 27-year-old pitched in with five goals and five assists for the Stanley Cup-winning Golden Knights, including a big-time game-winning goal against Winnipeg in double overtime.
As for being a bargain, Amadio scored as many playoff goals (5) as Sebastian Aho ($8.4M AAV), Aleksander Barkov ($10M AAV), Auston Matthews ($11.6M AAV), and Tyler Seguin ($9.85M AAV) in roughly as many games. While Florida was paying Barkov $2M per goal, Vegas was shelling out $152,500 per goal scored by Amadio. Surely, to the everyday Joe, six figures to score a goal seems like a boatload but compared to others mentioned, the Golden Knights got themselves a significant discount.
Adin Hill 25 Starts, (16-7) Record, 61 Goals Allowed, .915 Save %, 2.45 Goals Allowed Average, 16 Quality Starts, $2,175,000 Cap Hit
We’ve gone over Hill’s Stanley Cup run dozens of times since June 15th. What else can we say? The third-string (or second depending on who you ask) goaltender was outstanding and unstoppable in the three series he suited up for. Hill led all qualified postseason goalies in save percentage, goals allowed average, losses and shutouts and made a fraction of what the rest of the playoff goalies make annually.
Vegas’ backstop earned $4,780 per save, $197,727 per victory, and $1,087,500 per shutout in the postseason. Compared to the three other goaltenders to start 14 games or more, the Golden Knights barely opened their wallet for a postseason victory. The Panthers paid Sergei Bobrovsky $17,094 per save, $833,333 per win, and $10M per shutout. Seattle offered Phillipp Grubauer $15,485 per save and $842,857 per win. Western Conference Finals goalie Jake Oettinger played three more games than Hill and Dallas reimbursed him $8,510 per save, $400K per win, $4M per shutout. Looking back, Hill could be one of the biggest bargains in modern NHL history.