It’s time to turn down (or maybe turn up) the outside noise. The Golden Knights are certainly not the same team as in years past but there are still expectations. Sure, the club has holes and question marks in several positions, but overall Vegas should be considered a playoff contender.
The doubters are out there, but they are ignoring the Golden Knights’ skilled veterans that are accustomed to playing in the postseason. Vegas is blessed with high-end talent that has the ability to push them over the playoff cut line. However, in many pundits’ opinions, the bar has lowered. Just take a look at Sportsnet’s recent NHL power rankings. The Canadian outlet isn’t expecting much from Vegas this season.
Sportsnet NHL Power Rankings
1. Colorado 2. Tampa 3. Carolina 4. Calgary 5. Toronto 6. Florida 7. Edmonton 8. Minnesota 9. New York Rangers 10. St. Louis *19. Vegas
Being ranked 19th out of 32 is far from flattering. In fact, it’s a not-so-subtle shot toward the 31st franchise, as many believe the Golden Knights window has closed. With Colorado’s locked-up talent, who can blame the detractors? However, there are silver linings to the low Sportsnet ranking, including the fact that the writer who put them at 19th doesn’t even seem to fully believe it himself.
That Robin Lehner is gone for the year cannot be overlooked, but it does obscure the fact there are reasons to like this team. Jack Eichel is getting his first full rip in the desert and captain Mark Stone is back after an injury-marred season. –Ryan Dixon, Sportsnet.ca
Tonight the Golden Knights will face an electric Florida Panthers team that won’t have trouble scoring. In their last ten games, the Panthers have 40 combined goals scored. Vegas on the other hand, has a total of 25. It well could be another one of those nights. We’re all hoping it’s not.
This is not how Vegas operates. Vegas isn’t fond about making excuses. Maybe management would look at it and say ‘we got thirty million dollars worth of players that are wearing suits.’ I don’t know if the owner looks at it that way. -Jeff Marek on 32 Thoughts Podcast
Of course, fans would rather the Golden Knights compete for a Stanley Cup this postseason but it seems like a hopeless dream at this point. Vegas has been devastated with injuries and there’s no doubting that. The Golden Knights’ goal of reaching the Stanley Cup Finals may have unfortunately been upended by the injury bug. It’s an excuse, but some would argue it’s a darn good excuse.
Look at how much money you’ve got in injured reserve or long term injured reserve. Between all of those guys you’re over $30 million dollars out of the lineup. -Elliotte Friedman on 32 Thoughts Podcast
Most injuries are uncontrollable and an unfortunate element of professional sports. Sadly, some teams cannot make up for impactful players getting hurt and missing significant amounts of time. It’s unlikely the Golden Knights will never be fully healthy this season. Even if the club makes a remarkable run to the finals it won’t be enough time for each injury to completely heal. Don’t get me wrong, if Mark Stone and Alec Martinez are available in the playoffs they will dress. They may not be 100% healthy but they will play their tuchuses off.
Realistically, it probably wouldn’t be enough to eliminate Calgary, Colorado, or Tampa Bay in a seven-game series. So, what’s wrong with planning ahead?
Since the start of the new year the Golden Knights haven’t been at their best. Vegas is 1-2-2 in 2022 but still managed to add four points to their Pacific Division leading 23-14-2 record. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen the Golden Knights dominate opponents like they did throughout the month of December, which may have changed minds across the league. When in reality, Vegas picked up four points in five games without playing up to their potential and missing a myriad of starters.
Every so often we like to check in on NHL power rankings across the league. Vegas was a preseason Top 5 team but ever since the injuries piled up they’ve mostly been stuck in double digits. According to aggregate site Power Rankings Guru, this week the Golden Knights checked in at #11.
The consensus was, Vegas had an incredible month of December but took a step back once the calendar year ended. A little dramatic if you ask me.
Let’s start with the league’s site. Vegas rounded out the top ten for the second straight week on NHL.com. Up until they’re fully healthy expect Vegas to be ranked in bottom part of the top ten.
The Golden Knights won an NHL record 14 straight regular-season games decided in overtime before losing 5-4 to the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday, the first time they lost in OT since Dec. 19, 2019 (5-4 at the Vancouver Canucks).
ESPN had a little fun by publishing a Disney themed NHL power rankings. Greg Wyshinski and crew went light on Vegas, only dropping them one position.
To honor this magical place, and with no small amount of corporate synergy, we’ve decided to use this week’s NHL power rankings to match all 32 teams with the Disney World attractions — rides, food, characters — that best fit their vibes.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. A multimillion-dollar world of imagination that offers thrilling rides, lasting memories and the unwavering feeling that it never goes quite as far as you’d like it to go. That weird feeling in your stomach about the Golden Knights in the playoffs is not because you drank too much blue milk …
Sportsnet has routinely had Vegas outside of the top ten. One of the reasons for the lower grade is the injuries to Jack Eichel, Max Pacioretty and Alec Martinez. Once those three impact players return I’m sure SN will raise the local boys in their rankings.
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.
Where is the @nhlpa and all nhl players in all this attacks on our freedom of choice? Jack situation is crazy to me.. also people getting attacked by journalist that hides behind freedom of speech to trash peoples freedom of choice. When does the hypocrisy end? #lifeaftercareer
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.
With the continuation of uncertainty, one thing that seems certain is fans will not be able to attend games when the league resumes. The plan would be to broadcast the games on TV networks like NBCSN, TSN, or Sportsnet and feed them across the US and Canada. League and broadcast officials are still trying to find the best, safest way to pull it off.
The safety concerns are not only for the fans and players but the people running the broadcast as well. Sure it’s important to produce the best broadcast, but outlets cannot put their own employees at risk while doing so.
Live trucks tend to have a large video switcher, audio, replay and video editors, chyron operators, producers, etc. It’s close quarters. It’s literally on the back of a truck. There’s the possibility that you can offload some of those editors and replay operators outside of the truck. The switcher needs to be there. As does audio and producer. Perhaps editing and replay could be done back at the studios, but then you are only getting replays of whatever was fed to them, not of alternate angles. So it’s not ideal. -Shawn Tempesta, Las Vegas Media Professional
Local broadcast media pro and good friend of the site, Shawn Tempesta, told us broadcasting games will be a challenge, but it is possible to work around certain problems. Maybe networks will scale back, limiting the number of employees working in the same areas.
Graphically it will be tough. Usually each game has two crews, two production trucks, etc. You could see graphics handled at their studios versus at the arena. Or maybe what Olympics do with generic graphics. Chances are they do a bare bones, clean broadcast and move the graphics to the home studio. -Tempesta