Welcome to GM For A Day, the second in a pair of articles in which the founders of SinBin.vegas take control of the Vegas Golden Knights and reshape the team in a way we each believe will bring the Stanley Cup to Las Vegas.
These articles are NOT meant to be taken as a prediction as to what we believe is going to happen this offseason. This is what we would do, not what we think the Golden Knights will do (that article is coming tomorrow).
Today, I (Jason) am on the hot seat. Let’s go.
Here we go…
*TRADE: Marc-Andre Fleury + 2022 3rd round pick to Toronto Maple Leafs for center Alex Kerfoot + 2022 2nd round pick and 2023 2nd round pick*
In a flat cap world, there’s no way I can continue to allocate $12M in goaltending. As general manager, I would entertain every inquiry coming in from opposing front offices. In the long run, the NHL is a cold, hard business and it wouldn’t be a secret that I’m looking to move a goaltender. I understand that it could hurt my negotiations but in the end I’m trying to move money and build some depth.
There are contending teams with issues in net and one that could use a steady tender like Fleury is the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs are loaded with talent but consistently underachieve in the playoffs. Adding a leader that just so happens to be the Vezina winner would be a big confidence boost for a franchise that hasn’t been to the Stanley Cup Finals since 1967.
To make it work I asked for center Alex Kerfoot ($3.5M x 2) to help my club down the middle. I considered asking for defenseman Morgan Reilly but he’s on an expiring contract with an AAV of $5M. At that rate, I would find a way to re-sign Alec Martinez. At a $3.5M AAV Kerfoot isn’t exactly cheap, but he’s only locked in for two more seasons. Personally, I don’t love the trade, but it was necessary. It gave me agita dealing Fleury over last season’s mismanagement. Finally fixing the roster to pay just one one starting goaltender allows for much-needed cap relief, a solid third line center and a future draft asset we can use as capital at the deadline.
19 games into the 2021 season, William Carrier and Ryan Reaves have combined for a total of two points while being on the ice for 372 minutes.
The two have a combined -7 rating, have cost the Golden Knights 0.7 points in the standings according to Hockey-Reference.com’s point shares stat, and each post an expected goals share of less than 43% (the team number is over 52%).
To put it politely, they haven’t been good offensively to start the season. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but this should. No player on the Golden Knights has started a higher percentage of shifts in the offensive zone than Ryan Reaves. Reaves has started a massive 57.6% of his shifts in a positive position while his linemate, Carrier, isn’t far behind at 55.3%, good for 4th on the team for forwards.
So, Reaves and Carrier start closer to the opposing goal more often than anyone on the team, yet have failed to score a single goal, have been on the ice for just four goals (three for Carrier), and have allowed seven. They are below 50% shares in every advanced metric including Corsi, Fenwick, shots, expected goals, scoring chances, and high danger chances. In other words, they give up more than they create, by every measurable, despite starting in more advantageous positions than anyone else on the team.
But wait, there’s more! It gets worse… WAY worse, when we look at the seven most important games of the season.
Vegas has played St. Louis, Colorado, and Minnesota a combined seven times in the first 19 games. In those games, Carrier and Reaves have combined to go scoreless and pointless, while registering a -5 rating and allowing three goals while being on the ice for zero goals for. Again, not good.
In those games, the pair started an absurd 81% (Reaves) and 84% (Carrier) of their shifts in the offensive zone. The Golden Knights took 91 defensive zone draws in those seven games, Reaves and/or Carrier were on the ice for six of them. That means one of those two was on the ice for just 7% of defensive draws while they accounted for more than 20% of Vegas’ offensive draws.
When a team is in complete control of a game like the Golden Knights were Sunday, it allows a coach to balance his players’ minutes a bit more evenly.
It was a luxury coach Pete DeBoer was given when his team held a multiple-goal lead for most of Game 1. He wasn’t forced to utilize Theodore for 28 minutes like he had in the past with Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson. DeBoer also balanced his forwards, using player’s like Ryan Reaves and William Carrier more than their season average. In fact, Reaves played the third-most minutes he had all season and hit the ice more than Max Pacioretty in Game 1.
Take a look at how DeBoer was able to roll his guys out in a dominant Game 1 compared to the rest of the playoffs and regular season.
Shea Theodore Game 1: 19:40 TOI Season Average: 22:14 TOI Postseason Average: 22:57 TOI
Mark Stone Game 1: 16:00 TOI Season Average: 19:25 TOI Postseason Average: 18:44 TOI
William Karlsson Game 1: 16:21 TOI Season Average: 18:52 TOI Postseason Average: 19:13 TOI
Max Pacioretty Game 1: 14:38 TOI Season Average: 17:55 TOI Postseason Average: 16:42 TOI
Ryan Reaves Game 1: 14:50 TOI Season Average: 10:09 TOI Postseason Average: 10:04 TOI
Thanks to Antoine Roussel, Reaves was needed more than normal but it wasn’t just “to keep the flies off the honey.” Extra minutes for Reaves and Carrier equates to less postseason wear and tear on the top-six. Being that it was Game 1, DeBoer should have some well-rested stars for tonight’s matchup.
Going forward, if the Golden Knights and Canucks go deep in their second round series, or games go into overtime, DeBoer should have a bench full of fresh legs. Hopefully, the Golden Knights won’t be forced into a four or five overtime period game, but if they do, the advantage goes to the team that spread their minutes out in earlier games.
If the Golden Knights are able to perform as they did in Game 1, I’d expect DeBoer to deploy the same strategy again tonight. Any situation that has Vegas up by multiple goals, the bottom six, and the fourth line specifically, should see more ice time. But chances are the Canucks will permit that by sending Roussel on the ice to create his typical havoc.
Remember, Reilly Smith said this about Roussel and his antics.
"He's running around out there but I don't think he's distracting anyone but himself." -Smith on Roussel
The early going of any series is going to come with what is commonly referred to as a “feeling out process.” Teams usually play pretty close to the vest, not revealing their entire game plan for the series and it tends to lead to slow-moving hockey. It doesn’t always go that way, but there’s no better way to characterize the opening frame of Game 1 between the Golden Knights and Blackhawks.
Not only did neither team score in the 1st, there weren’t even many great chances. Between the two teams, there was a total of five-shot attempts from inside the “house” in the entire 1st period. Most chances came from far away and both teams did well to thwart the opposing team’s attack.
I thought they played hard and were pretty hard defensively. You could tell they were trying not to give up much either. -Pete DeBoer
As the game went on though, the Golden Knights took what was already a slow game and made it even slower. In the 1st period, they were looking to strike quickly when in the offensive zone, and with Chicago’s commitment to defend it led to short offensive possessions. In the 2nd, that started to change and the game did with it.
I think we did a better job controlling the puck in the offensive zone in the 2nd period and on. They’re a rush team, so we don’t want to get into a track meet with them. Once we can get them to stop in the d-zone we can control the game a little bit more. It all came from offensive zone time and holding on to the puck behind the net. -Reilly Smith
Instead of playing the brand of fast transition hockey that helped carry the 2017-18 Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Final, these Golden Knights slowed the game down, controlling the puck with more purpose, and methodically broke down the Chicago defense.
All four Vegas lines followed the same pattern as the game went on, defaulting to more of a cycle game than we’re used to seeing. Where Chicago’s defense preferred to collapse into the dangerous ice in the 1st period, the controlled offense from the Golden Knights forced them to open up in the 2nd and 3rd. Playing from under the goal line drug Blackhawks defensemen to the puck opening up shot lanes from the point and half-wall.
For the better part of three seasons, William Carrier has played a role on the 4th line, and he’s played it well. His versatility, however, has allowed both coaching staffs to use him up and down the lineup. When injuries occur, his quick, forceful style has no trouble handling more minutes and shifts.
After his latest stint on the 3rd line, Carrier is heading back to the place he knows best, 4th line left wing. It’s not a problem for him though, he accepts his role on the team and enjoys his strong bond with linemates Ryan Reaves and Tomas Nosek. Also, let’s face it, the 3rd line isn’t as fun.
I had a great time playing up there but for right now I think Karly is coming back. So I’ll head back with Reavo and Nosey out there… I think our 4th line has more goals than the 3rd line. -Carrier
Carrier didn’t bitch and moan or pout. It’s an important job being a utility player that occasionally fills in for injured teammates. There’s zero ego with Carrier. He gives max effort every night, never veers from his aggressive style, and will do whatever the coaches ask.
It’s all about roles. I can go out there and play top roles but I’ll probably turn the puck over more times than I’d make the plays. Sure, I would pick up more points than I have now, but as a 4th line we can’t do that. We have to be a plus-one line every night.-Carrier
The Golden Knights recognize #28 as a hard-working, heavy forechecking type player. A better scouting report would be, Carrier’s a bull that will create an exciting scoring chance and a glass shaking check in the same shift. His nightly consistency gives DeBoer the option to use him to help pick up the tempo, or bring some life to his club.
This group of guys know what role we have. Each guy knows what they have to bring night after night. It’s working out for us. Everyone is mature and everyone’s got their role. If you don’t get your role, than those guys aren’t with us no more. I think they’re trying to keep the guys around that fit best with the team. Every guy here has their own role, and we try and fill them as best we can. -Carrier
When Carrier talks about maturity and understanding roles, you realize how dedicated he is to winning. He executes his assignments, knows everyone else’s, and is prepared for anything. He’s highly aware of the team’s objectives.
I was a point a game guy in juniors. Maybe now, I don’t try those plays the top guys make. When there’s a chance to create an offensive play I’m going to try it out. I think it’s all about poise, confidence and making plays.-Carrier
This season, Carrier is on pace for career bests. He’s already passed his mark for most games played, and will more than double his highest point total. He’ll tell you to put the statistics aside though because winning means more than any personal accomplishment.
It’s bye week for the Golden Knights so naturally the players will find ways to escape the game and recharge. Some will spend quality family time, others will soak up the sun in Speedos (unnecessary image), and one might be chilling out on a bass boat reeling in some stripers.
Striped bass. The water is pretty clear and it’s nice and quiet. It takes you away from the Strip and the hockey life. It’s nice to get out there and refresh yourself.- William Carrier
Known for being an outdoorsman, William Carrier is an experienced angler, fishing all across the globe. Much like many people in this area, the physical forward peacefully enjoys Las Vegas’ favorite fishing hole.
Yeah, Lake Mead. I have my boat down there, my bass boat. Our schedule has been tight this season but I’ve been out on a few off days. It is really clean. I’ve been all over the world fishing and the water is really clear. Depends on where you go. If you go further out the water’s clear. You can see 40 feet deep.-Carrier
With his boat secured in a Lake Mead slip, Carrier tries to get out on the lake as much as he can. However, with limited off days and travel, he values the time he can spend casting his reel. Fishing isn’t ideal in the wintertime but there’s enough bites to jump on his bass boat and cruise.
Right now, when I go out there it takes me two hours to catch 16-20. You can find them based on water temperature and depth. Right now, those shiners are really deep because the water is cold on the surface. I’ve caught a couple of nine, ten pound Striped bass. Normally, the average is one to two pounds. It’s fun for the kids. You can go out there and catch 40 or 50 fish easily in day. If you get on a bunch of them, it’s pretty much a catch with every cast. It’s fun for guys that are just starting out.-Carrier
**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**
Right now, there’s not a whole lot of positive things happening with the Golden Knights. A three-game losing streak and a sudden lack of offensive productivity will do that to a team.
But I would like to point out one good thing that may be flying under the radar, that being the play of William Carrier.
When Chandler Stephenson was acquired by the Golden Knights last month, he was referred to as a “Swiss Army Knife” due to his versatility. Carrier may not have as many tools as Stephenson, but he has proven to be a versatile cog in the Knights’ machine.
The 25-year-old left wing has displayed some offensive prowess over the first half of the season and is projecting to having a record year scoring-wise. Carrier has five goals and eight assists so far.
But the number I’m most impressed with? His games played. The Knights have played 48 games to this point. Carrier has been in the lineup for every single one of them. That’s a far cry from his first two seasons in Vegas where injuries forced him to miss significant amounts of time.
His ability to stay in the lineup has been huge. Coach Gerard Gallant is playing him up and down the lineup and wherever Carrier lands, that line seems to perk up, save for Saturday when virtually everyone was a no-show in the 3-0 shutout loss to Columbus.
Every line we put him on seems to be the best line on the team. -Gallant on Jan. 4
Carrier’s still playing his usual physical game, even though his total number of hits are down from a year ago. He’s currently third to Ryan Reaves and Brayden McNabb. He’s still one of, if not the, fastest player on the ice for the Knights. He’s still winning footraces and battles for 50-50 pucks. But he’s being more offensive-minded and his underrated passing skills are starting to gain notice. He had a beautiful backhand pass to Paul Stastny that led to a goal in the 5-4 overtime win over the Blues. His forechecking has helped keep plays alive in the other team’s end and while he may not be garnering assists, Carrier’s value for making plays in the offensive zone should not be overlooked.
That what I used to think of him, seriously. We’ve been with Will for two and a half years but this year he looks more confident. He’s going to the net, he’s carrying the puck and he’s making plays. He’s 25, coming into his own and playing great hockey. … We like what he’s doing, he’s working hard, and he’s got a lot of speed. I don’t think he’s hitting as much as he did in the past but he’s playing great hockey. –Gallant
The fact he’s involved in fewer collisions no doubt has helped his durability and allowed him to remain in the lineup. Consider his first year with the Knights he was injured twice — in Nashville and at Washington and he appeared in just 37 games. Last year, he got hurt at Anaheim and again against Winnipeg and was limited to 54 games.
Assuming all remains well, he will set a personal high for games played next month when the Knights are in Florida to play the Lightning and the Panthers.
Where does Carrier best fit in? I still like him on the fourth line playing with Reaves and Tomas Nosek. They make things happen and they put pressure on opposing defenses. But from an offensive skillset standpoint, I also like having Carrier play with Stastny, a veteran playmaker who knows how to set up his linemates and provide them with quality scoring chances. They seem to work well together when Gallant pairs them up.
Carrier is still going to take the body, regardless of who he skates with. He’s still going to try and blow by defenders using his speed. It’s a question of how much do his offensive numbers rise playing with more skilled offensive players? And is that the right thing for the team?
Saturday, he played with Keegan Kolesar, who was making his NHL debut, and Stastny. Predictably, they didn’t do much.
No one is saying that Carrier is going to make a run at the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer. But with 13 points, he’s even with Tuch and ahead of Cody Eakin, Cody Glass, Nosek and Reaves. Yes, the two Codys missed significant amounts of time. But the fact is Carrier is having a very good season and the fact he hasn’t missed a game all year is a victory, both for him and the Knights.
**Steve Carp is the author of “Vegas Born — The remarkable story of the Golden Knights.” Follow him on Twitter @stevecarp56. All of Steve Carp’s work here on SinBin.vegas is presented to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm. For over twenty-five years, the Jimmerson Law Firm has been widely recognized as one of Las Vegas’s preeminent full-service law firms. Specializing in high stakes business, civil and family litigation, the Jimmerson Law Firm has an unparalleled track record of winning when it matters most. To reach the Jimmerson Law Firm, call (702) 388-7171 and tell them SinBin.vegas sent you.**
Ever since he was traded to the Golden Knights, Chandler Stephenson has done everything he’s been asked to do. And he’s done that and more.
From centering the team’s most talented line, helping the penalty kill, and even scoring a game-winning goal in 3-on-3 overtime. Stephenson has done so well in his role that the team trusted him to play another, 1st line forward.
I don’t really think there’s too much of a challenge. With the type of players I’ve been playing with, you know they make my life really easy. Stoney, Patch, Smitty, Karly, are all All-Stars in my mind. They’re fun to play with. -Chandler Stephenson
You think it would take some time to adjust during a game to new linemates, even for the professionals. However, Stephenson feels no pressure to make immediate chemistry with anyone Gerard Gallant has assigned him with.
They do all the dirty work and they let me play my game without telling me where to go, or do this, do that. They just let me play. That’s nice and relaxing at the same time. -Stephenson
Position adjustment doesn’t bother Stephenson either. Mainly he’s been a center in Vegas, but he’s played plenty of wing in the NHL. Either position, he will find a way to pitch in.
You have a little bit more responsive at center. At wing, your more of a straight line. It’s not too much of difference for me since I’ve played so much over the years. At center, you know you need to be more defensive but for the most part it’s pretty similar. -Stephenson
The same goes for forward William Carrier. One of the original Golden Knights has mostly been relegated to the fourth line playing alongside Ryan Reaves, Tomas Nosek, Nicolas Roy, and others over three seasons. Lately though, he’s been bouncing around filing holes when needed.
It’s not the way anyone envisioned it coming to be, but the 3rd line of William Carrier, Cody Glass, and Alex Tuch was formed three games ago. In those three games, the Golden Knights have earned points in each and won two on the road.
They’ve also received three goals and five assists from that line. They’ve created eight scoring chances in 26 minutes of play and have a 54% Corsi.
But where they’ve been best is in the eye test. Since the Golden Knights have been a franchise, they’ve never had a 3rd line look as good as Carrier, Glass, and Tuch have looked over the past three games. Tuch is driving offense, Glass is controlling the defensive end, and Carrier is winning puck battles helping set up the cycle to spend time in the offensive zone.
Tuch has returned to the right-wing, Glass to his natural center position, and Carrier is playing with the most offensive talent since he’s been a Golden Knight. It’s not the perfect line, but it’s certainly an upgrade on what they’ve gotten throughout this season with Cody Eakin as the center.
Tuch scored just one goal in 10 games with Eakin. He has three with Glass and Carrier. Glass has just three assists in 23 games playing with Eakin. He has two in three games with Tuch and Carrier.
However, the fourth line hasn’t looked quite the same without Carrier. Ryan Reaves has struggled without Carrier recording just five hits in three games while Carrier was on the 3rd line. Tomas Nosek still appears to play better as a center than a winger. And Stephenson scored the goal, but doesn’t quite seem a match for Nosek and Reaves.
Eakin remains out week-to-week with an upper body injury, so the decision on where to put him when he returns is not imminent, but after just three games on the road, it might be time to start considering where else he might fit.
The key question moving forward will become usage. Eakin has averaged about 15 minutes of ice time each season with the Golden Knights. That’s normal for a 3rd line center with penalty-killing duties. But, if he finds himself relegated to the 4th line, his TOI will likely drop under 10 minutes per game as has been the case for Reaves in 66% of games this season. That also means relying more heavily on Glass, something Gerard Gallant has not shown a willingness to do. (He’s played more than 14 minutes in less than half his NHL appearances.)
Vegas has never used an interchanging line system throughout an entire game, but they may want to consider it when Eakin is ready to return. With Glass, Eakin, Carrier, Reaves (or Nosek), Tuch, and Stephenson, there are multiple combinations that can be deployed depending on the situation.
Rather than lay out the standard two lines and roll them over, they could be mixed and matched depending on draw location, score, matchup, and stamina. Here are just a few of the logical trios that could be made out of that group.
I’m assuming most Golden Knights fans have a daily routine of checking the latest NHL standings, league leaders and Vegas player stats. Oh, and SinBin.vegas of course. If you’re one of those people then you might notice some unfamiliar point leaders seven games into the season.
Some of Vegas’ depth players are having the fastest starts to their careers. Players that most think are bottom six, PK’ers or checking forwards are pleasantly surprising the coaching staff and fanbase.
Tomas Nosek has four points (3 Goals, 1 Assist) in eight games. Nosek’s career high in goals is eight, so he’s halfway there with 74 games remaining. Last season, Nosek didn’t register his fourth point until November, 27th. His third goal of the 2018-19 wasn’t scored until December, 12th.
William Carrier is on pace for around 15 goals this season, that would almost double his career-best (8 goals), which he set last season. Carrier didn’t score his first or second goals until mid-November of last year. The bruising fourth line forward had a total of nine points (8 goals, 1 assist) in 2018-19, he’s already tied his assist number from last year and is projected to crush his career totals. Hopefully, in games played as well.