After 67 days being out with a lower body injury, the Golden Knights are finally getting Paul Stastny back in the lineup. It appeared as though this would be the game in which the re-built second line of Stastny, Alex Tuch, and Max Pacioretty would finally all be on the ice together.
Then, morning skate in New Jersey happened and it became clear that was not to be.
Instead, Pacioretty would be kept out of the lineup completely, but the coach and front office had different reasons as to why when each was asked.
Timeline (as reported by David Schoen, Las Vegas Review-Journal)
11:30 AM EST – Golden Knights take to the ice at Prudential Center for morning skate
11:38 AM EST – Max Pacioretty skates as an extra on the fourth line with Reaves, Bellemare, and Carrier. Stastny takes line rush with Tuch and Lindberg and Eakin with Carpenter and Nosek.
11:50 AM EST – Pacioretty does not participate in normal power play drill. Instead, Karlsson takes his place and Stastny fills the role on the second unit.
12:24 PM EST – Gallant confirms Stastny will play and will be on the second line with Alex Tuch and Oscar Lindberg. Is also asked about Pacioretty…
Is there anything wrong with Max Pacioretty? -Schoen
Well not that I know of. Why? -Gallant
He was taking different line rushes and wasn’t working with the number one power play unit… -Schoen
No. Nothing wrong with Max. You’ve got to scratch somebody tonight and we’ll decide tonight after warmups… We’ll know before warmups but… he’s fine. -Gallant
1:16 EST PM – The Golden Knights, via a team spokesperson, confirm Pacioretty does have a “minor injury.”
The team feels it is best for him to miss one game rather than six. (It) is management’s decision to hold him out tonight. -Golden Knights team spokesperson
So here we are. Is Pacioretty hurt? Is he a healthy scratch? Did something else happen that they don’t want to tell us about? What in the world is going on?
Of course, we can only read/listen to what we are being told, so there certainly could be more information that could change all of this, but from what we know there are really only three possibilities of what could be happening in this situation.
Here are each of the three narratives and the logic behind fitting every piece of information we have into that particular story. After writing them all out, I can honestly say that I don’t really have an opinion as to which it might be. They all make sense, but they all have parts that make you shake your head and say, how could this happen? So, instead of guessing myself, I’ll simply present them and let you be the judge.
Gallant is scratching Pacioretty and the Golden Knights front office is trying to soften the media blowback on the decision
Explanation: With the return of Stastny, Gallant had to make a lineup decision on who to take out. He chooses to stay with Lindberg over Pacioretty, thus causing Pacioretty to be a healthy scratch. He has him skate amongst the fourth liners as an extra in morning skate and rearranges his power play units accordingly without him. Gallant then says after the game that there’s nothing wrong with Max and “you’ve got to scratch somebody.”
The Golden Knights front office, likely embarrassed by the fact that a player they spent many assets to acquire is being scratched in favor of Oscar Lindberg go into spin mode. They say it was their decision to have Pacioretty removed from the lineup to throw a wrench in the works of it being a clear cut scratch from the coach.
Pacioretty is indeed injured and Gallant was trying to cover up the injury
The plan all morning was for Pacioretty to not play and thus his participation in line rushes and power play units was never going to happen. Following morning skate, Gallant, who has a history of being not-so forthcoming about injuries, says “there’s nothing wrong with Max” in an attempt to downplay any injury Pacioretty has sustained.
The team sees the blowback of many saying that if Pacioretty is not hurt that he is instead a healthy scratch and realizes they must issue more information to destroy that narrative as it’s not true, he is hurt. So, they say it was management’s decision in an attempt to absolve Gallant from lying in his response.
Pacioretty is being held out for another reason
Say Pacioretty broke a rule or did something he wasn’t supposed to during the first portion of this trip. The team decides to hold him out of the game but they do not feel the need to explain exactly what the reasoning for it is. (We have reason to believe this has happened before with the Golden Knights, but were never able to 100% confirm it so we never reported it.)
Rather than deal with the repercussions of saying Pacioretty has essentially been suspended, the team decides to say he’s been hurt. However, the message of what they were planning on telling the media does not make it to Gallant and he says “he’s fine.” Thus creating the discrepancy. The team doesn’t like the idea of him being called a healthy scratch, but also doesn’t want to say he’s been suspended, so they say he’s sustained a “minor injury.”