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The Golden Knights Have Real Flaws Which Are More Important Than Imaginary Ones

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights lost again. Again they fell behind in the 1st period, again they watched the lead grow to a number they wouldn’t be able to overcome, and again they salted away a pair of points at home they really should have won.

Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion as to what’s going wrong, but personally, I’m sick of the intangible excuses that are being made for this team. Tonight’s game was not about a lack of effort, a sense of complacency or any other unmeasurable factor people want to throw around. Instead, tonight was a full display of all that is wrong with the Golden Knights.

It starts with forward depth. This team doesn’t have enough of it. When Cody Glass and Jonathan Marchessault are out they don’t have the horses to fill their roles. And it would be a problem if there were any two of the top nine forwards missing.

Because of it, they’re forced to move Alex Tuch up to the 1st line to play out of position and on a line he has never fit on despite playing 13 prior games with Karlsson as the center. Some line combinations don’t fit, especially when you are playing one player out of position on his off-wing. That’s okay, but when a team is built in a way in which they literally don’t have another option outside of William Carrier, who has been exclusively a 4th liner until 2 weeks ago, it becomes a problem.

That then bleeds down to the 2nd line. The best 2nd line the Golden Knights can make is Paul Stastny between Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone. It’s a line that has proven to work time and time again, including an unreal start to the playoffs last year, but isn’t truly an option currently because it leaves the bottom six far too bare. So, that forces Chandler Stephenson, to fill a role higher in the lineup that most teams would prefer. Stastny moves down in an attempt to put a bit more skill and vision with a pair of wingers who have proven they can’t be relied upon to score.

Finally, you are left with a 4th line that can certainly do the job of a standard 4th line, but must be expected to do more because there’s not enough scoring above them.

When they need an extra player, they turn to Nicolas Roy, Valentin Zykov, or Keegan Kolesar. All fine players, but none can be expected to score at the NHL level, especially when playing alongside other non-scorers Cody Eakin, Ryan Reaves, William Carrier, and Tomas Nosek.

This is a risk the front office took when they chose to go down a path this offseason of offloading talented forwards for a prospect and a bushel of picks as opposed to attempting to bite the bullet and unload some overpaid role players. When healthy, the team has plenty of offense, when not, they’re short.

Which leads to the next problem. Defensive scoring. With Nate Schmidt having a bit of a down year to this point, the only legitimate offensive threat is Shea Theodore. He may end up outscoring the rest of the Golden Knights blue line combined. If the forwards were putting up three or four goals a night, it would be fine to have a defense focused on defending, but while missing players, the team needs some chip in from the defensemen. At the moment, they don’t have the guys to do it. Nic Hague may eventually become more of an offensive weapon, but while he’s getting his feet wet in the NHL, making sure his defensive game is under control is more important. Brayden McNabb, Deryk Engelland, Jon Merrill, and Nick Holden are all acceptable NHL level defensemen, but between them, there’s one season of more than 30 points and they’ve played a combined 35 years in the NHL. So expecting to get anything more than they’ve already given to this point is unrealistic.

Schmidt turning back into the player he was the first two seasons would help (a lot), but even then they are still short. While Colin Miller had his faults, he put up 70 points in two seasons for the Golden Knights. They have not replaced that offense in any way and are in dire need of a trade to bring it back.

Finally, and I believe this to be a temporary problem, but the goaltending hasn’t been good enough. They simply aren’t getting enough saves on save-able shots. In addition, there haven’t been as many miraculous stops that this team has come to grow accustomed to having a Hall of Famer in the net for the past three seasons. It’s cost them goals, especially early in recent games, and it’s forced the team as a whole to play from behind, something that is challenging no matter where the game is being played.

This sounds incredibly doom and gloom, as it probably should after a run of four straight home games falling behind 3-0 and dropping three straight to end a homestand on a horribly sour note. But, even despite all of these flaws, the talent is still there for this year’s Golden Knights team to make a run.

The first issue is corrected by health. If the Golden Knights forward group is at full strength, it’s absolutely good enough to generate enough offense to win any playoff series. It’s a reality of the salary cap world that every team will have flaws. If the one the Golden Knights have to live with is scoring forward depth, that’s ok, they’ll just need lady luck to be on their side health-wise come April, May, and June.

The next is fixed by a trade, but it doesn’t have to be a significant trade. One the Golden Knights will eventually make. They’ve been lining up to add a defenseman since early in the season, and the time will eventually come. Of course, they’ll have to get it right and trade for the right player, but if they do, pushing everyone down a slot in the defensive pecking order will fix the problem in a hurry.

As for the final problem, that’s going to come down to Fleury. He’s going to have to be one of, if not the, best goalie in the playoffs for the Golden Knights to have a long playoff run. He can do it, everyone knows that. He just has to do it, otherwise nothing else matters. Struggling in January doesn’t matter as long as he’s at his best in April.

It’s not about effort. It’s not about complacency, and it’s 100% absolutely in no way because five guys are opening a restaurant, one has a beer company, and a few others have shot TV commercials. There are fundamental flaws to the Golden Knights roster and when they all rear their ugly head on the same night, you get what appears to be a listless performance against an average Columbus Blue Jackets team.

The Golden Knights will play better than they did tonight this season. But the way this team is built, it’s not going to be utopia every night. That’s fine, as long as the house is in order when the games matter most.

The house is not in order right now, but there’s still reason to believe it will be before it’s too late.

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48 Comments

  1. Spike McAwesome

    Two points:

    1. The point about the blue line not scoring – FINALLY! I said this in the off-season. I’m glad someone is coming around to this. Just brutal.

    2. Fleury isn’t a Hall of Famer. He just isn’t. He doesn’t have the individual accolades (never better than 4th in Vezina voting, no Jennings, no Calder), and two of his three cups came as a backup. Correct any of those problems with Vegas and MAYBE he gets in. People forget just how hard it is for goalies to get into the Hall.

    Look at these numbers:

    Fleury – 2.57 GAA .913 SV% (career); 2.59 GAA, .911 SV% (playoffs) 3 cups
    Chris Osgood – 2.49 GAA .905 SV% (career); 2.09 GAA, .916 SV% (playoffs) 3 cups, 2 Jennings, 1 King Clancy, not in the HoF
    Ed Belfour – 2.50 GAA, .906 SV% (career); 2.17 GAA, .920 SV% (playoffs) 1 cup, 4 Jennings, 2 Vezinas, 1 Calder

    It’s not the Hall of Very Good.

    • Fleury played on some real marginal teams early on before Crosby, Malkin and a host of good players. The other awards are nice but are very subjective and voted on by not so knowledgeable sports writers.
      Fleury will be OK down the stretch.

    • Jeff

      You forgot one very important stat they do look at …..wins.

    • Daryl

      MAF may have been the backup for 2 of the 3 Cups, he was the main goalie throughout the regular season for all but one of those Cups. Murray came in relief and played outstanding and ended up winning the starting role but that wasn’t until near the end of the season. ALSO, MAF has the wins. He is near the top in wins which is something especially considering how bad the Pens were before Crosby and Malkin arrived

  2. Chris Valvo

    Great write up. I would also possibly add that I think their game plan may very well be exposed to some degree.

  3. schmitty 88

    pathetic effort lose to a team that was depleated with injuries and a goalie with 5 or 6 wins look in the mirror time 88 needs a couple games on the bench he looks disinterested

    • THE hockey GOD

      bluejackets, despite all their injuries, are one of the hottest teams in the league right now playing exceptional defensive (boring) hockey, yet winning. When their injured players come back some talent may be available to be had. The VGK have not matched up well against this franchise.

      • Daryl

        I agree… CBJ may have a lot of injuries but they are still winning. They are similar to the Pens right now with all their injuries. I always hear who one team should be the other b/c their star players are out and while that might be true in theory, it isn’t always the case

    • Philip

      The teAm isnt not of And win game. It just doesnt. Becauze.

    • I think you might mean is Disinterested, AND, Distracted!!!!

  4. Richard Santomauro

    We miss Belly, Perron, Marchy and Glass. Kolesar is Reaves 2.0 on the 4th line. I also miss Haula and the year 1 version of Wild Bill.

  5. DOC Williams

    WHEN is the media guys that ask questions at the pressers, going to stop throwing the same “softball” questions at Gallant???? WHEN he gives his standard BS answers to the question about the team not starting well or anything to do with effort. WHY aren’t they asking him: Well, What are YOU going to DO about it???? I watch lots of other teams post game pressers and those coaches are hit with tuff and appropriate questions. Are the guys covering the Knights afraid they will have their credentials pulled if they actually ask appropriate questions. Why even have Gallant answer BS after games. It’s the same old crap, as it has been for 3 years!!!! (And NO, this is not directed at any certain person, Ken)

    • THE hockey GOD

      Coach isn’t the one making the plays on the ice, you can ask all the tough questions you want to ask, it won’t change results on ice. It is up to the players to execute.

    • Joe

      We know exactly what will happen. Gallant will just walk out of the presser, again.
      As many issues as I have with the coaching staff (the power play, Schmidt playing on his off side for three years, deciding to they had to be PHYSICAL & needed GRIT in the SCF and completely abandoned the speed that got them there) I have more with management. The league has been trending younger and faster for a decade. For every good move, it seems like they make a half dozen bad ones. You have to admit, it is impressive to screw up a clean cap in two years.

    • Dave Schoen literally just tried this and he got eviscerated for asking a legitimate question. I think people believe it’s easier to ask the “hard question” than it actually is. There’s a timing aspect, a wording aspect, and most important a relationship management aspect. We in the media do our best to ask every tough question the fans want answered and I honestly believe we’ve done a pretty good job of it to this point.

      • A Fan

        I think our overall media has to understand we’re over the ‘honeymoon’ period of having our first pro team and they have to wean into asking tougher questions. Gallant will start understanding he’s expected to answer tougher questions instead of getting pissed and leaving. We’ll have the Raiders here next year and other pro teams probably aren’t too far behind. Our media guys/gals here are like our team, a lot of talent, but they need to start ‘playing’ better. If everyone starts asking tougher questions, they can’t kick all of you out of the press events, they’ll just have to start answering the questions. But it will take a full ‘team’ effort by all the media people.

      • Disappointed

        That’s an absurd answer. He’s just a coach. Reporters ask much tougher questions to much more important people, every day. Ask a professional question at the right time. No one actually believes you’re going to get an earth shattering response at these pressers, but what you’re actually going for is a soundbite. The VGK are not going to pull credentials of the sports reporters from our only newspaper. Several of your followers are former tv news people… ask them how it’s done.

    • I agree!!!! I have made several posts,. About coaches job is to MOTIVATE, and still do not see ANY attempts to motivate!!!!

  6. THE hockey GOD

    The VGK are a second tier team in NHL at this point. When healthy they may be able to knock off a reeling top tier team in playoffs but this year they have only beaten one top tier NHL team (Dallas , they beat, but are they really a top tier team ?): the BLUES.

    When players miss the net with their shot, that is sign that they are tired team. Some time off may help. But they need help at all three key positions right now. Forwards, defense, and back up goalie. I don’t see much in their system depth that can help right now. Sure they can bring up one of their four or five developing d men, but I don’t thing that is answer right now. They have nothing ar forward position, other that Perri. Maybe he can regain his NHL scoring touch and go on a streak?

    • Venessa

      My husband and I discussed this issue last night. Are VGK really a good team or are we kidding ourselves into thinking this mediocre team is better than they are? After this past stretch of games, I am leaning towards mediocrity with bursts of good.

    • ark_keeper

      We’ve played one game against Boston, NYI, and Washington; one of those was OT loss and another 1 goal loss. We’ve won against Pittsburgh and 7 other teams currently in playoff position.

  7. Good recap of the problems. When one looks at the Pens, they have the same health issues but the talent and enthusiasm of the replacements is evident. Not much depth as far as talent is concerned is troubling. Players that left are having good years. Most games the shots are there but weak at best for may of them. Net presence is really poor. Time to get guys who are down low and kicking some butt. This goes for forwards and defense. Point shots get it there but there is no one THERE. Need two good Dmen. As for Fleury, he will be OK if there is some defensive help down low. As for Subban, I see a trade for a solid backup.

  8. Mike G

    * Zero production from bottom six all year
    * 1L center production way down
    * 2 1/2 NHL caliber D Men
    * Subpar goaltending
    That’s a recipe for a mediocre team at best. Other teams have had much worse injury problems and overcame them ( Pitt, Col, Az ).
    Still lots of time and I don’t really care what seed we are as long as we get in and are playing our best hockey. Problem is I’m starting to question if our best hockey is even good enough with this team?

  9. Mike StG

    Great piece Ken (and not just because I agree with every word)! From the 1st game they played Tuch off wing his discomfort was obvious. When he’s entering the OZ with speed he has difficulty managing the puck along the boards and when circling behind the goal. It’s very difficult for him to make cross ice passes or shoot effectively from his backhand side. As long as they keep playing him LW he’ll remain invisible. His tendency to cross over to the right side also creates issues for the line as the RW has to compensate. I think their forward depth is partially a result of their being a new team with undeveloped prospect pool, which should improve over time as well. Stastny DOES belong at C2 and moving him to C3 in an attempt to improve balance and boost L3 scoring is not working. A defense upgrade would help but won’t magically fix those deficiencies. Last, I agree that lack of effort is probably just a pat response from Gallant. They’re just not that good of a team as currently constructed, but he can’t admit that publicly. If they ALL play 110% they’ll win against any opponent, but that’s unsustainable. They need better players where they’re deficient so they don’t end up with the catastrophic lapses they’ve been having. Again, great piece – your best yet!

  10. FN VGK

    Very good insight.
    One thing I have noticed more recently (specifically 1st line) is the amount of time 19 and 71 have to spend in our zone playing D. To me, it seems like WAY MORE THAN the past 2 seasons. Forechecking is one thing, but both of them below the goal line pressuring, while our D is camping out in front of the cage, is insane to me! 200 ft rushes on every shift, and every time we gain control….no wonder 71 isn’t scoring!
    Just a sad observation, knowing what the top liners are capable of.

    • Jeff

      71 isn’t scoring because he isn’t a scorer. He’s a top tier defensive forward playing a first line role and overpaid when on any team with good forwards he’d be a 3rd line center.

  11. Scooter

    This team is not a Cup contender, no matter how healthy they are.

  12. cab ride

    oh, so Columbus can overcome injuries and so can Pitt, but the Knights can’t?? The difference? the Knights have to overcome their weak goaltending, while Pitt and Columbus get outstanding backup goaltending.

    And “Struggling in January doesn’t matter as long as he’s at his best in April.”

    oh really? if they don’t MAKE the playoffs because of weak goaltending in Jan Feb and March, then that comment is moot and irrelevant.

    a pollyanna, softball media that won’t speak for the fans and grill Gallant and McCrimmon makes it all continue unabated.

    Babcock, DeBoer, and Laviolette have all been fired already this season, and their record and experience is far more highly regarded than Gallant’s is. but hey, he will just shrug off another bad loss and take a few friendly questions and then leave.

    A team that stinks in the first period every night, and yet the coach says it is “not his job” to fire them up before a game.

    instead of Knute Rockne, we get Gerard Rock-head.

    Maybe Gallant should start using some of his bug-eyed rants on his players instead of the refs.

  13. Tim

    I’ve been saying this for a while the team is not built to make a run for the cup. ken has brought up many points that I’ve been making. On the offensive side Eakins, Tuch, and Karlsson are just putting in the time Marchessault besides his hat trick his goal production also way down.
    The D is a joke Schmidt isn’t the same player, Theodore turns the puck over half the time, McNabb plays a solid game, Engelland his PK is OK but otherwise he’s no help. Hague being young third line D for now, Merrill and Holden fair at best. Think about it our total D production doesn’t come close to John Karlsson production and that’s one against seven so how can we be a contender. In my opinion Stone, Patch, Riley Smith, and Fleury and I’m a little worried about Fleury are keepers after that it’s open season.
    Tuch, Karlsson, Schmidt, Marchessault, Theodore, under long term contract there not going anywhere. Nosek, Reeves, and Carrier have been the best line for two and a half years always playing hard not like the other three lines there keepers.Stephenson looks OK plays center or wing with speed. Cody Glass did fair good vision didn’t put the puck in the net enough for my liking.
    Weneed a top four winger that can add more speed who can put the puck in the net. Next we need two Top 4 D men and dump two of the three between Merrill, Holden, and Engelland. We have to put some life back in the team right now there on life support.

  14. TRADES !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    GOLDEN KNIGHTS IN THE MARKET FOR A DEFENSEMAN

    THE ATHLETIC: Jesse Granger reports league sources are claiming the Vegas Golden Knights are shopping around for a top-four defenseman to take some pressure off Nate Schmidt and Shea Theodore. Given their limited salary-cap space, Granger believes it’ll have to be a dollar-for-dollar swap. He feels a deal could happen at any time between now and the Feb. 24 trade deadline.

    Granger suggested the New York Rangers’ Anthony DeAngelo as one of the most attractive defensemen potentially available in the trade market. His puck-moving skills and low salary for this season ($925K) would make him a perfect fit. Another would be the New Jersey Devils’ Sami Vatanen, though his $4.875 million salary-cap hit and pending UFA status could rule him out.

    Other sugessted options are Los Angeles’ Alex Martinez, San Jose’s Brenden Dillon, Chicago Erik Gustafsson, and Carolina’s Jake Gardiner.

    SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vegas’ cap limitations will force GM Kelly McCrimmon to get creative. He could be forced to ship out a decent salaried forward to bring in that top-four rearguard.

    I’m surprised to see DeAngelo mentioned as a trade candidate. Granger believes his defensive play is why he could be available in the first place. His restricted free agent status with salary-arbitration rights could be another. The Rangers aren’t under any pressure to move DeAngelo now, but his situation could be worth monitoring in the coming weeks.

    The Anaheim Ducks, meanwhile, have let it be known they’re willing to use their salary-cap space to help other clubs with limited cap room. However, they’ll also want good, young assets as part of the return.

  15. Tim

    To expand on my above comments some more problems. First three biggest mistakes were not resigning David Perron for 4 years at 4 million a year he’d look pretty good right now, next the Thomas Tatar disaster, and finally Erik Haula and I can see with his injury they were Leary. Next anyone thinks Malcom Subban is going to help lead us to the promised land your badly mistaken. He looked like a dear in the headlights his last game. The problem is we have no cap room and to many needs so I guess all you can do is bite the bullet until next year. I loved Gallants latest saying We looked like we played in sand that goes along with all his other excuses like We had to many passengers, We didn’t have the jump, We played two good periods, We’ve been home to long Etc, Etc. When your making millions of dollars all these excuses wear thin after awhile.

  16. new Knights

    gotta believe that it will be DeAngelo or Vatanen because they shoot right handed, which is a major need for the Knights. DeAngelo is preferred because of his low cap hit. $925k
    DeAngelo has 11 goals and 25 assists, more than the entire 5 bottom vgk dmen except for 27 and 88.

    but also, where is the goalie that they need??? the Rangers have said that Georgiev is now available. cap hit $792k

    get rid of Eakin and Subban for used puck bag

    • Mike StG

      I’ve been talking about Tony D for at least 6 weeks now (though no one follows me). If you were the NYR would you resign him or trade him? Don’t think he’ll be available. Vatanen has produced almost nothing offensively this season and with his age doesn’t seem like they would resign him (thus he’d be a rental, which Foley said they’re not interested in). Given their urgent need at D and the above probably Gustafsson CHI. Maybe Gardiner CAR if they’re willing to offload him. Or Petry MON if Habs don’t get back into playoff picture by all star break. Right D isn’t critical since Nate and Shea are both playing on right side.

  17. DOC Williams

    YEA!!!!!! What a bunch of great comments. I actually agree with most. I am slowly coming to the realization, that because of the horrible cap situation, we may NOT be able to fix this team, for playoff success THIS season. (Possibly not even making the playoffs)? I said a number of weeks ago: “Are we really as good as we think we are”? Maybe not! But, I still preach that IF we played much harder with more passion, more often, we can win against most anyone. But, I also believe, that lack of talent won’t normally win many playoff series! So now I say that I think we will still get in the playoffs somehow, but, don’t think we’ll be very successful when we get there!

  18. Daryl

    I completely agree with everything you have stated. I wouldn’t want to put Vegas’ issues on any one aspect, but I do think it starts with the forwards. Not only are they not scoring early (or at late at times) they’ve also had bad turnovers which have lead to odd man rushes. In the past MAF would make those saves, but he hasn’t been doing it as much this season.

    That leads me to our goalies. They just aren’t making the saves they need to. They have given up too many goals from shots near the blue line. These are saves they should and need to make. If they just stop the ones they should, I’m ok with them not making highlight film saves.

    Now to the defense. Like you said, Vegas needs another offensive defenseman. I like have shutdown defenseman on the team for things like the PK and keeping the lead, but when you are behind you don’t want someone like Engelland out there (and you know how I feel about him). I really like Hague and think he can turn into a great defenseman, but his skating just isn’t where it needs to be yet. If Vegas can find a good offensive defenseman to trade, it would make a huge difference.

    Obviously, this is all just my opinion which isn’t worth much!

  19. Gregory Condon

    Total lack of effort is the reason why we are where we are. Remember after the Stanley Cup run the players promised the following year they would be more motivated to win the following year. What happened to that? We lost in the first round to the Sharks. Again following the loss they were going to be more motivated to win this year. Has not happened. We use to be fast, hard hitting and had a great fore check. All gone now and that is why we are where we are, probably not a playoff team is the way I see it now.

  20. yeah, no

    yes, that is why Carrier looks impressive on the forecheck, because the other Knights are NOT working hard enough.. If every player worked as hard as Carrier, the Knights would be a lot better off.

    but don’t expect Gallant to motivate them, he says it’s “not his job”. no, his job is to take softball questions, give out pablum generic answers, and then walk away.

  21. The problem with all the information and opinions is just that. The situation is less than ideal that is not even debatable but that is the hand Vegas presently is holding and not sure because of the various circumstances discussed there is an immediate solution. So when facing defeat as most indicated is the situation do you pick up your tent and head for home or maybe a better idea is looking in the mirror and making up your collective mines to do something about it. Weakness is power when recognized.

    Remember the year one team wasn’t a power house – they were a bunch of cast-offs who didn’t accept the fact or no better they couldn’t win – and look where that ATTITUDE took them. These guys can be substantially better and have demonstrated that ability. Are they perfect – far some it – could they use help yes – can they do better absolutely. So the question becomes why not – it starts from within with pride which has all to do with attitude – it’s all a matter of mine – if you think you are beaten you are – if you believe you are not who knows – will a winning attitude propel you to the top I guess you will never know unless you give it a shot. These guys are professionals – or at least purported to be, so maybe it’s time to act the part. No more excuses just get out there and play the very best you can – who knows what might happen- maybe just maybe you might prove all the naysayers wrong.
    Look at it this way what do you have to loose – look up instead of hanging your head come on you are much better than that.

  22. Tim

    Just saw Nikita Gusev getting the hang of it up to 27 points and should go much higher as the season progresses and that’s on a bad team. To bad we never gave him a chance but oh well. If you get a chance look at our Chicago Wolves roster I don’t see much help coming. One thing we do have are a lot of draft picks the next two years and hopefully they’ll make smart decisions.

  23. All the comments look to what we don’t have, not sure that solves anything. Yes the tank may be half empty but that doesn’t mean your out of gas. Did anyone read Ken’s latest post misery loves company? I would hope Vegas fans are more than a fair weather group. Supporting a winner is easy hanging in when the going gets tuff is the hard part. Pretty easy to kick people when there down . This makes all of us as guilty as those we are criticizing. Are we happy with what’s happening of course not – are we in a position to change that of course not would be like it to change hell yes. The magic wan is in the hands of the current players. They either think enough of themselves or they don’t let’s pray its the former. I wouldn’t write them off just yet.

  24. VGK 2018

    Ken, you do realize that the team was pretty average before Marshy went down, Glass has done nothing all season (PP not included) on the wing and/or not playing with Stone/Patches and finally Tuch has been a disappointment on Every line he has played on but certainly looked out of place with #71 at center. While I agree depth is a problem the fact that many players have not lived up to yours/mine/the teams expectations is the real issue. I mean other than Patches and Carrier name a player who has exceeded expectations?

  25. Nathan

    To quote Aaron Rodgers: “R-E-L-A-X”.

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