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The Golden Knights Identity; What Is It? What Is It Supposed To Be?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When Pete DeBoer was first hired a common term he would use in talking about his new team was “identity.” He said it in a number of ways but the refrain was always the same, that the team had a great identity and when they played with it they were almost unbeatable, but recently it had been lost and they were playing without it.

Here’s one example from five days after he was hired.

I think for me just playing aggressive, and dictating games and wearing teams down with our depth because we have the ability to roll four lines and be really hard to play against. I think we want to get back to that. Not that that slipped totally off the table but that’s something this team did better than anybody in the league for a long time and we want to try and get that type of identity back. -DeBoer on 1/20/20

I have to admit, it’s a term that’s always troubled me. Identity. I don’t even really know what it means. Everyone uses it, heck I’ve even used it, but if you pinned me down to explain exactly how it relates to a hockey team, I can’t do it. So to hear it over and over again from the new head coach as basically the primary focus on how to solve the issues the Golden Knights had been having, I couldn’t help but tilt my head the way Wiglaf and Rupert do when I ask them if they want a piece of cheese.

What is the Golden Knights identity? What’s it supposed to be? Has it changed?

I’ve spent the last three weeks pondering all of this and finally had a chance to ask a few players, and the coach, specifically about it. Take a listen to it all, in its raw form. First is Jonathan Marchessault, then Nate Schmidt, Paul Stastny, and it ends with Pete DeBoer.

I’ve listened to each of those four interviews about 10 teams apiece and I still have no clue how to define the Golden Knights identity.

It’s just a bunch of buzzwords that apply to every hockey team.

Relentless. Heavy. Fast. Aggressive. Play as a unit. Hard to play against.

Put that aside for a second though, I’ll get back to it.

However anyone defines it, it seems to have shifted. Well, sorta shifted. Actually, no it hasn’t shifted at all. It’s exactly the same, it just looks a little different because this team is more skilled, or to use a simpler term, better.

But it’s not. Or at least it hasn’t been when counting wins.

Both teams have the ability to check off all the buzzwords. The makeup of the team really isn’t that different aside from adding a new buzzword, “heavy,” which really just means “we have Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty now.”

So why aren’t they playing the same way? Why are they going through all these problems? Why was the identity lost in the middle of the third season?

The answer is, no one knows exactly, even though everybody does know in theory, they just don’t want to admit it.

Everyone wants the magic of Year 1 back. The players want it back. The old coach wanted it back. The new coach wants it back. The front office wants it back. The owner wants it back. And you, the fans, want it back.

But it’s not coming back and when you get a moment of truth from anyone involved they’ll tell you it’s not coming back.

We got one from Nate Schmidt in the middle of those interviews.

It’s always the unknown that screws you up. -Schmidt

He’s acknowledging that the first year Vegas was an unknown. The city, the surroundings, the arena, the team itself, no one knew what to expect and it screwed them up.

When’s the last time you heard someone say “Holy Jesus, are we in a hockey game or is this like a pool party out there?” For those who don’t remember, that’s an Alex Ovechkin quote from January of 2018, and while it was certainly the most colorful of the bunch, we heard stuff like it every single night.

That’s not coming back. Ever.

But that doesn’t mean the Golden Knights can’t put a good team on the ice or that they’ll never repeat the success they had that season. No one else has ever had a season like that and yet someone else has won the Stanley Cup every single year.

Back to the identity thing. They do need to be relentless, heavy, fast, aggressive, and hard to play against. Of course, every team does, and they have been at different times this year.

I don’t know, it’s probably the same identity as every team. -Stastny

Exactly.

But because the roster is better than most of the other teams in the league, I think what everyone is trying to say is simple. Everyone just needs to not suck.

Forwards, don’t suck. Defensemen, don’t suck. Goalies, really don’t suck.

That’s this team’s “identity.” (I think. I still don’t really understand the word.)

If everyone plays like they are capable of playing, no one even needs to go above and beyond, and this team will win. If a few guys suck, they’ll lose.

Marchessault said it when he said, “we were just unsuccessful.” Schmidt said it when I asked “if you play like you should are you going to win” and he instantly responded “yes.” Stastny said it when he said, “everyone pulling on the same rope.” And DeBoer said it when he said, “have that identity with this type of skill.”

Even without the element of surprise, the identity of this team is one that thinks they can win and win big. The coach believes it, the players believe it and the front office has gone to great measures to prove they “feel” it too.

They just need to do it and do it when it matters. Otherwise, the identity will be golfing, and nobody wants that.

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11 Comments

  1. DOC Williams

    I don’t know or care, what ya want to call it. I’ve said for weeks and so simple for me … Just play with EFFORT & PASSION and PUSH, PUSH, PUSH against the opponent. Look at the first 4 games after the break. That tells you all you need to know!!!!!!! I know, columns need to be written and the like … but their is no mystery here on what or how the Knights need to play!!!!!! VERY simple! So, lets just get on with IT. IF the boys play like those first games back, they will win the division………PERIOD!!!!!!!
    (Oh, PS (if I may) ….. Regarding “wild bill” … no choice but to put him on third line, right now.

  2. Tarnished

    Schmidt was a 6th and 7th dman for the Capitals, Theodore was a developing young player in ANA, Engelland was a 3rd pair guy in Calgary…..Wild Bill was a 4th line center in Columbus….Fleury was sitting on the bench watching Matt Murray win back to back Stanley Cups….etc etc etc

    This is why season 1 was a miracle that will never be duplicated, because the players got big new contracts, and are now comfortable and complacent, and no longer hungry with a chip on their shoulder.

    They don’t have enough talent to win on skill alone….they have to outhustle and outmuscle the opponent for 60 minutes….. and when they blow big leads in the 3rd period because they can’t keep up the frantic pace of the first period all-out forecheck, or when their mediocre goaltending does them in, it is not unexpected if you look at it realistically. They got castoffs, and they are now looking exactly like what they got.

  3. A Fan

    I agree with most that was said here. They should be the best team in the Pacific. But being honest with ourselves, who knows based on the up and down way they play, (and there isn’t any reason to assume that will change this year based on before mentioned play) where they’ll end up in the standings this year.

    There still needs to be some change by the trade deadline. The defense needs some change as has been talked about by everyone. Some players with not be on the team by next year, such as Eakin, Engelland. (Deryk will be with the team or AHL team in some other capacity) Interesting to see how/if Reaves is back next season. I personally think he’ll be back but with a change in salary. Subban will not replace Fleury as the #1 when that times comes. (let the flames begin, lol) We’re no longer an expansion team, we’re a NHL team…period.

    The first year ‘identity’ is gone forever. It’s like a first impression, it only happens once.

    • Sean Doherty

      Play like every game will be your last one! If you are not “huffing and puffing” at the end of every shift, you are not giving MAXIMUM EFFORT! Goalies: VGK needs to use Subban every 2-3 games so he is READY and Fleury is rested; or TRADE him for someone THEY WILL USE! The BEST teams use (2) goalies, why doesn’t the VGK use all assets available? How about using “healthy scratches” to drive home the need for RAISING expectations/results; hold every player RESPONSIBLE and accountable for their actions.
      ***It was EASIER to fire Gallant and his Assistant (even Fleury said as much!), time to put up or SHUT UP.
      Reward for good results, “healthy scratches/lowered playing time” for LACK of expected effort and results!
      A lot of $$$ is spent in supporting the VGK, make the players aware of their accountability to the FANS, TEAM, CITY, and to each other. Maybe name a CAPTAIN who will hold everyone ACCOUNTABLE on the ice as the coach MUST do on the BENCH.
      STOP making excuses and start EXPECTING “POSITIVE” results!

  4. DOC Williams

    Yes, that 1st year could never be matched, that’s just logical. BUT, that doesn’t mean you can’t play ALL OUT, just the same. (I’m tired of mentioning this, because it’s just common sense. So on to the “trade or not” BS. 🙂 … A) – Get a steady, tuff guy that is going to win the puck battles on the boards. B) WHY not give the pairing of Whitecloud & Hauge(sp?) a chance as 3rd pair. They have played a lot together in Chicago. C) Although a quality backup netminder IS needed, I doubt they will “use up” trade bait, at this time. Also, ROY needs to be back up between Revo & “energizer bunny” #28!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Mike Brown

    What should the Golden Knight’s identity be?

    THEY get to choose, not us and there are ONLY two choices.

    1. Do they want their “identity” to be we come to every game to WIN ?

    OR

    2. Do they want their “identity” to be we come to every game to not lose ?

    #1 are what WINNERS believe.

    #2 is like playing “prevent defense” in pro football in the 4th quarter, 2 minutes to go, 2 points ahead and the other team has the ball their 40 yard line. It’s the plan of losers.

    I think about half the team plays like # 1 and the other half plays like # 2.

    DeBoer is slowly convincing the # 2 crowd to play like the # 1.

    That is the “identity” the 2017/2018 team had.

    I WANT that identity back understanding the magic it produced can not be reproduced.

  6. THE hockey GOD

    what is should be and what it IS now, today , are two different things. What is is not three years into these organization is: a team with core players that are three years older, and three steps slower. Deal with the truth and facts.

  7. THE hockey GOD

    what it should be and what it IS now, today , are two different things. What it is now three years into this organization: a team with core players that are three years older, and three steps slower. Deal with the truth and facts.

  8. Tim

    For the life of me I can’t see why we are so up and down. I assume most teams have got faster and are playing with more intensity. When were down were toast and when were up you on the edge of your seat knowing the hammer is going to fall. It hasn’t been a fun year of watching the Knights we usually end up with a sick feeling after another wasted chance to get points. Tonight it’s the Wild what team will show up I think we all feel that way. It’s sad when your 4th line is your most energized line to the point where they start them to get off to a better start in the game.

  9. Tarnished

    the fact that they have to start the 4th line to “drag the other guys into the game” tells us all we need to know about the guys on the first 3 lines. They are COMPLACENT now.

    and the fact that Gallant said it was “not his job” to fire up his team before a game, ended up with it being not his job at all.

  10. DOC Williams

    What a listless performance last night vs Minn. There is nothing to say. Either these guys WANT to make the playoffs or not. It’s COMPLETELY up to the players! They KNOW what kind of effort it will take these last 20 games. I’m tired of talking about it. Bring on the AHL!!!!! 🙂

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