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5 Bold And 5 Not-So-Bold Predictions About The 2021-22 Vegas Golden Knights Season

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It’s finally here… tomorrow.

The preseason is over and the Golden Knights are ready to embark on their fifth NHL season. Expectations are understandably very high both from a team perspective and for a multitude of individuals.

Here are 10 predictions for the upcoming season. We’ll start with the milder five.

The Golden Knights will be the only Pacific Division team to reach 100 points

There are a few other teams in the division who I expect to be a little bit better, but the full 82-game schedule will really show the weakness of the Pacific. The division will struggle mightily against the Eastern Conference and it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see both Western Conference wild cards come from the Central.

Max Pacioretty will lead the team in goals for a third straight year

While I expect a number of Golden Knights to take a step forward in some of their goal-scoring numbers, the 35-40 you can basically slot Pacioretty in for is just too many to expect any other Golden Knight to reach. Maybe Jonathan Marchessault or Evgenii Dadonov can hit 30, or maybe this is an up year for pending UFA Reilly Smith, or maybe even we see the return of William Karlsson’s goal-scoring prowess. But, no matter which one happens, I still can’t see them getting past Pacioretty.

Three Golden Knights will represent Vegas as the city hosts the All Star Game

It’s tough to get three All Stars on the same team, because it basically means only one other team in the division can have multiple players from the same roster. But, the host city has had at least three players each of the last five seasons, and the Golden Knights have enough star power to keep that streak alive.

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Timeline – Robin Lehner Speaks Out

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Over the weekend the Golden Knights became the big story around the league and I’m sure it caught them off guard. It was probably even more unsettling as the club was bonding and preparing for the long season ahead up in Montana at owner Bill Foley’s ranch. The tweet storm might have made for some awkward moments at team breakfast.

Let’s rewind to earlier last week when outspoken goaltender Robin Lehner joined the boys at Spittin’ Chiclets to chat about an array of topics. As Vegas fans have learned in a little more than a year, Lehner’s honesty is refreshing.

Tuesday, September 28th – Spittin’ Chiclets Podcast Released

  • Lehner discussed his status in net and how he professionally handled the Marc-Andre Fleury goaltending controversy.

I respect what he did actually, he stuck up for his client. It screwed me a bit. It wasn’t the greatest time… It turned up the heat. It really did. This is probably the most pressured season I’ve had coming into this year. It’s fueled by the narrative of how everything was left and the whole (Fleury) trade.-Robin Lehner on Spittin’ Chiclets

  • Lehner also spoke about the Jack Eichel injury standoff with Buffalo and had heavy criticism for the Sabres organization.

I hate it. I know they put investments into us but I still think your body is your body. End of story. If Eichel wants to make his surgery and they are scared of protecting their investment, how hard could it be to have him sign a waiver? Is something goes wrong he doesn’t get paid. It bothers me because Jack Eichel is a world class talent. We didn’t always see eye to eye but I respect him as a person. Am
I saying this to trash the Sabres? No I’m not. If I wanted to hurt the Sabres I would have but they destroyed my ankle that year.- Lehner on Spittin’ Chiclets

  • The Golden Knights goaltender suggested the NHL has stale “dinosaur” type executives and coaches that control the league and push their agenda’s even though sports and the world have changed.

We’re all robots. Everyone says the same thing. I understand 20 years ago but it’s 2021 now. Am I going to tell a player to be open and honest now? I know a lot of people have but yes they’re going to be punished.-Lehner on Spittin’ Chiclets

Wednesday, September 29th – Lehner plays first preseason game

  • Lehner suited up for his first start of the preseason getting some important ice time. The #1 starter stopped 20 of 22 shots.

Friday, October 1st – Lehner tweets his feelings about the Jack Eichel situation in Buffalo

  • Lehner stressed that it should be the players choice when it comes to their body.

  • Lehner also shows disappointment with the NHL Players union and their silence.

Saturday, October 2nd – Lehner tweets picture of ankle from his injuries in Buffalo

  • Lehner accuses Buffalo of screwing up his ankle and pushing pain killers.

Sunday, October 3rd – Lehner calls out Philadelphia Flyers coach Alain Vigneault for his tactics handling injured players

  • Lehner labels Vigneault a dinosaur coach and calls for his firing.

  • Lehner accuses Vigneault, the Flyers and other organizations for irresponsibly handing players prescription drugs.

Monday, October 4th – SportsNet’s Elliotte Friedman tweets the league is aware of Lehner’s accusations

  • The NHL would like to have a conversation with Vegas’ netminder.

  • NHL commissioner Gary Bettman reacts to Lehner’s tweets and
    suggested players shouldn’t be forced to tweet out internal information. Bettman also added that the league has services available to players.

We take his comments seriously and we’d like in short order to be in a conversation with him so we can hear his concerns directly and we’re going to follow up to see what merit there may be to his concerns. You don’t have to tweet to get our attention. We have an 800 number people can call. You can call us directly, we’re an open book. But if he has concerns we want to hear them and see how they need to be addressed.-Gary Bettman with SportsNet’s Jeff Marek

  • Philadelphia Flyers coach Alain Vigneault responds to Lehner’s strong accusations.

I consider myself experienced. A dinosaur? You could say with experience you become a dinosaur maybe. But I do know I’ve been coaching a few years and I am tough, I am demanding but I care about my players. Through the years probably there are some guys who liked me and probably some a little less, but I’ve done it with the best intention (and) with respect.- Alain Vigneault, Flyers coach

  • Vigneault was confused and disappointed about the idea of him pushing prescription pills.

I was obviously very disappointed, as far as me pushing pills, I don’t need another income. I have no idea where that comes from. I don’t know what else to say. I have no idea.- Alain Vigneault, Flyers coach

Chances are the league and possibly the Golden Knights front office are scrambling to squash the accusations, but would also like to listen to Lehner’s concerns. Expect more developments to come down this week.

Robin Lehner Shares Origin Of “Panda” Nickname

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Since coming to Las Vegas, Robin Lehner has pretty much been an open book. From his crusade against the stigmas of mental health to his thoughts on NHL protocols surrounding vaccination to his relationship with Marc-Andre Fleury, there’s no one in the NHL that can be described as more honest than Lehner.

But there’s always been one subject he hasn’t wanted to broach, and that’s his nickname.

For years now Lehner has been dubbed “The Panda” by fans, teammates, coaches, and even himself. He plays into the name constantly, wearing it on his goalie mask and often tweeting gifs of pandas to show what is on his mind.

However, when asked, he’s always declined to explain the origin of the nickname, until yesterday when he appeared on the Spittin Chiclets podcast.

It’s not as mysterious as it’s been, it’s just the only thing I didn’t answer, but it’s pretty simple. I watch King Fu Panda with my son a lot in Chicago and it’s actually a pretty good movie, I like it. Just the whole thing about it, this fat bear that learns to move around and I just saw myself in him. He learned how to play kung fu and I’m a big fat goalie that plays in the NHL. It just felt fitting. -Robin Lehner on Spittin Chiclets

So there you have it.

**You can hear the whole interview here. Like all Robin Lehner interviews, and all Spittin Chiclets episodes, it’s enlightening while also hilarious.**

VGK Fantasy Hockey Outlook

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If you are anything like me, when you play fantasy sports you have to have at least one player from your favorite team on your roster. You’d think being a fan of the Golden Knights would make this easy. Vegas has been one of the top three or four teams in the NHL each of the past two seasons and are right there again this year. However, fantasy hockey and actual hockey are much different.

NHL.com has released a whole host of fantasy hockey lists from Top 250 to sleepers to rookies to watch and the Golden Knights are notably absent on many of these lists. But, when they added it all up, VGK found themselves in 4th on the overall team rankings. Very confusing, let’s go through it.

The Golden Knights have eight players in the NHL Top 250. The first guy on the board doesn’t come until #24 though, that’s Robin Lehner. Then we find Max Pacioretty (#33), Mark Stone (#43), Alex Pietrangelo (#54), Shea Theodore (#63), William Karlsson (#138), Alec Martinez (#152), and Jonathan Marchessault (#164). Alex Tuch is also listed in “Key Injuries” which means he would likely have been in the Top 250 as well.

Lehner certainly earns the Golden Knights a lot of weight in the fantasy world and actually, Laurent Brossoit behind him helps out as well. The pair are ranked 4th in the NHL in fantasy goalie tandems behind the Islanders, Lightning, and Avalanche.

One slightly surprising omission is Peyton Krebs on the rookie list. Spencer Knight and Cole Caufield headline the list, but names like Marco Rossi, Jamie Drysdale, and Quinton Byfield made the cut. In fact, there are even a few “other” rookies listed and Krebs couldn’t even get his name included there.

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Hunting Career Highs: Defensemen And Goalie

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Though hockey is a team sport and the ultimate goal for every player involved is hoisting the Stanley Cup, individual numbers matter too. Each guy is always looking to build what they’ve done so far in their respective careers. With a pair of shortened seasons in the books, the last two years, and the Golden Knights primed to be one of the best teams in the NHL, many players have a chance to put up career-high numbers in numerous statistical categories.

We’re taking a look at each individual player and choosing the statistic they are most likely to set their career high in this season. Today we start with goalies and defensemen, later in the week we’ll move on to forwards.

Robin Lehner
Stat: Wins
Career High – 25

Lehner has his name engraved on the Jennings Trophy twice in the past three seasons. He has also received Vezina votes in two of those years. He did both of those as part of a goalie tandem though. Before that, he was the starter in Buffalo but for just two seasons, neither of which were his best. Now, Lehner has been handed the reins in Vegas and will likely be looking at 55-60 games in the net. His career-high mark in wins is just 25, the year he came in 2nd for the Vezina. Assuming health, he should get there with ease.

Other options: Shutouts (6), Quality Starts (32), Games Started (58)

Shea Theodore
Stat: Points
Career High – 46

Shea is the perfect guy to break through statistically this year because he doesn’t even need to improve his game to do it. In the 71 game season, in which he finished 6th in Norris, Theodore posted 46 points, an awesome number, but very reachable with 11 more games. He improved on it last year going off for 42 in 53 games. That’s 0.8 points per game. To set his career-high this year, he’ll need just 0.57 points per game.

Other options: TOI (1,588), Assists (34), Shots (219), Goals (13), Power Play Points (16)

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5 GM Do-Overs We Wish The Golden Knights Could Make

It’s pretty much universally accepted that the Golden Knights front office dominated the Expansion Draft. Not only did they build a team that was good enough to come within three wins of lifting the Stanley Cup, but they acquired a heap of assets to go with it. Since June 21, 2017 though, it’s been a bit bumpier of a road.

I saw a tweet yesterday that got the wheels turning in my mind to go back over some of the worst moves in VGK history. As I did it, I realized just how many good moves have been made since then too. So, this has turned into a two-parter! Today we start with the five do-overs and Saturday we’ll unveil the 5 do-agains.

Here we go…

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5) Allowing David Perron to leave in free agency

Following the inaugural season and the subsequent run to the Stanley Cup Final it was clear David Perron had fallen out of favor in some way with the Golden Knights organization. He missed the last week of the season, the first two playoff games against the Kings, then found himself as a healthy scratch for two of the five Winnipeg games and one Stanley Cup Final game.

This seemed to overshadow the fact that Perron was one of the most reliable players on the VGK roster the entire season and offered a unique skillset the team has never replaced. His ability to control the puck in the offensive zone, either at even-strength or on the power play opened up space for his teammates and gave the Golden Knights a different look than their usual transition-oriented attacking style.

It was sold as a rebuilding of the 2nd line due to poor defensive statistics, but it seemed to be more about Perron’s age and health than anything else. He went on to sign a four-year deal with a $4 million AAV in St. Louis that has proven to be a steal of a contract. He has 164 points in 184 games with the Blues, more than Max Pacioretty and Jonathan Marchessault in the same span.

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Which Golden Knights Have the Best Odds To Win Individual Awards In 2021-22?

Last year the Golden Knights got back atop the individual awards podium when Marc-Andre Fleury took home the Vezina Trophy. Before that Vegas had seen wins by William Karlsson (Lady Byng), Deryk Engelland (Messier), Gerard Gallant (Jack Adams), and George McPhee (GM of the Year) all in 2017-18.

With a stacked roster and the expectation of being a Cup contender once again, there’s a good chance a VGK player could win another individual award this year. Recently, William Hill listed all of their awards futures on the mobile sports app and all are available to bet right now. Here are the VGK candidates.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Norris Trophy (Best Defenseman)

Shea Theodore: +2500
Alex Pietrangelo: +2500
Alec Martinez: +6000

As the odds suggest, this truly is a toss-up between Theodore and Pietrangelo. While Shea had the much better regular season and finished 6th in the voting a year ago (and the year before), the postseason put in by Pietrangelo was the closest thing the Golden Knights have ever seen to a Norris-level performance. Martinez was stellar in the playoffs but his chances of being a true Norris finalist are probably long gone.

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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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Can The Jennings Trophy Stay In Vegas?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Last season Vegas stacked the net and came away with a Jennings Trophy for their efforts. Between goaltenders Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner the Golden Knights gave up the least amount of goals in the NHL, holding opponents just 2.18 goals against per game. Of course, the numbers could drop significantly without Fleury’s Vezina winning season, but the Golden Knights are confident in Lehner and supported him by signing a true backup goaltender.

As emotional as the decision to move Fleury was, it was the right move for the organization. Lehner is now the defined starting goaltender and signed free agent Laurent Brossoit is the clear backup. It’s possible a heavier workload will benefit the new Ace to perform as well as his predecessor did. From 2018-19 to 2019-20 Lehner started an average of 40 games and finished top six in Vezina voting in back-to-back seasons. The big Swede has been sharp in Vegas registering a 16-4 record, .917 Save %, and a 2.20 GAA. If those statistics average out over 55+ games Lehner will be one of the league’s best.

To repeat as the Jennings trophy winners the team will need superb goaltending from both backstops. Brossoit had a bounce-back season in 2021 which clearly caught Vegas’ eye. In 11 starts the 27-year-old goalie posted a 2.42 GAA, a significant drop from his 3.28 GAA in 2019-20. The 28-year-old spent the last three seasons relieving 2019-20 Vezina winner Connor Hellebuyck in Winnipeg. As a Jet, Brossoit posted .913 Save %, allowed 2.75 goals per game, and won 25 of 45 starts. The Golden Knights coaching staff are hoping he will do even better backing up Lehner.

In a perfect world, Lehner would suit up for 55 or more starts, leaving Brossoit to tread above water in his limited time in net. The average Jennings winners allowed only 185 goals per season which the Golden Knights have never accomplished, averaging 225 goals allowed per 82. That could change after a full campaign under Pete DeBoer and his team’s tight defense.

Realistically, expectations for the Lehner-Brossoit tandem should be high but it’s difficult to duplicate another award-worthy season. We all have to move on, it’s impossible to replace the historic combination of Fleury and Lehner no matter how well the new tag team does in 2021-22.

2021 VGK Free Agency Tracker

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*This article will be updated throughout the day as more information rolls in.*

  • Alec Martinez has re-signed with the Golden Knights for a three-year contract worth $5.25 million AAV. (Source: @ frank_seravalli)
  • Laurent Brossoit has signed with the Golden Knights on a two-year contract worth $2.325 million AAV. (Source: @DarrenDreger)
  • Nick Holden and a 3rd Round Pick have been traded to the Ottawa Senators for Evgenii Dadonov. (Source: SinBin.vegas + @KevinWeekes)
  • Mattias Janmark will stay with the Golden Knights. (Source: @FriedgeHNIC)
  • Vegas is reportedly interested in signing Montreal’s Phillip Danault (Source: @GeorgesLaraque)
    • Danault has signed with the Kings. Six years for $5.5 million AAV. (Source: @PierreVLeBrun)
  • VGK have signed Sven Baertschi to a one-year, two-way deal worth $750K (Source: @GoldenKnights)
  • Patrick Brown has re-signed in Vegas. (Source: @GoldenKnights)
  • Gage Quinney has re-signed with the Golden Knights on a one-year, two-way deal. (Source: @GoldenKnights)
  • The Golden Knights have extended qualifying offers to both of their RFAs, Dylan Coghlan and Nolan Patrick (Source: @DavidSchoenLVRJ)
  • Tomas Nosek has signed with the Boston Bruins for two-years at $1.75 million AAV. (Source: @DarrenDreger)
  • Jimmy Schuldt’s agent confirms he will not be re-signing with the Golden Knights. (Source: @VeritasHockey)
    • Schuldt signed with the Buffalo Sabres for one-year at $750K (Source: @SabresPR)
  • Erik Haula has signed with the Boston Bruins for two-years at $2.375 million AAV. (Source: @PierreVLeBrun)
  • Carl Dahlstrom signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Source: @MapleLeafs)
  • Ryan Murphy signed with the Detroit Red Wings. (Source: @DetroitRedWings)

For up-to-date salary cap information, check out PuckPedia.com.

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