It feels like the team that took the ice for the Golden Knights in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final is a distant memory. The group of players and coaches that led Vegas to one of the most memorable seasons in NHL history has been taken apart piece by piece over the past two and a half years.
Since that series, 921 days ago, the Golden Knights have a new head coach, new goalie, seven new forwards, and four new defensemen in their projected starting lineup. That’s half of their top-six forwards, half of their top-four defensemen, and more than two-thirds of their starting lineup replaced less than three years removed from a trip to the Stanley Cup Final. It seems like massive turnover, especially for a team that’s been good.
But how does it stack up with the rest of the league?
To answer that question, I went through the current rosters of all 31 teams and compared them to the 2017-18 season. To simplify the process, the only metric I used was total time on ice. The six forwards who logged the most time on ice in the 17-18 season were considered the “Top-Six,” the four defensemen with the most were the “Top-Four” and the next six forwards and two defensemen were considered “Starters.” The goalie was based on which goalie was considered the starter then to which is expected to be the starter now.
We’ll start with the easy ones, head coach and goalie. The Golden Knights have swapped both putting them among 14 other teams to have done so since 2017-18. Most of the 14 are bad teams like Ottawa, Buffalo, New Jersey, and the New York Rangers, but teams like Philadelphia, Washington, Carolina, St. Louis, and the New York Islanders are included. So, we’ll say that’s not that abnormal.
Next we move to the “top” groups, the top-six forwards and the top-four defensemen. Using the method of total time on ice, Vegas has retained just four of their top 10 players. Those are William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault, and Brayden McNabb. Of course, Shea Theodore missed a chunk of the first season and then eventually took over a role in the top-four from Colin Miller, so, it’s fair to say Vegas has kept five of the 10.