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Where Actually Would The Golden Knights Be Without Marc-Andre Fleury?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

If the season ended today (which would be really nice), the Golden Knights would be raising their third division banner in four seasons to the rafters, they’d be among the top five in the NHL in points percentage, and they’d probably be the favorites to reach at least the semifinals, if not win the Stanley Cup.

Also, one prominent figure in VGK history would likely be in line for an award that has alluded him during his entire illustrious career. That, of course, is Marc-Andre Fleury winning the Vezina Trophy for best goaltender in the NHL.

Fleury has played in 19 of the Golden Knights’ 25 games, he’s won 14 of them and registered shutouts in four. He currently leads the NHL in save percentage, goals against average, goals allowed adjusted, and shutouts, and he is #2 in GSAA and #3 in goalie point shares.

To put it as simply as possible, Marc-Andre Fleury has been the best player on the Golden Knights, he’s been the best goalie in the NHL, and he’s among the top 10 players in the entire league this season.

And to think, this is a player the Golden Knights benched during the playoffs last season in favor of a trade deadline acquisition. It’s a player they essentially decided had seen his best years pass him by and were looking to move in the offseason. It’s a player, that, in all likelihood, if any other team in the NHL was willing to take on his $7 million salary, would not be on the Golden Knights right now.

So, that begs the question, where would the Golden Knights be if they had traded Fleury?

To answer that question, I’m going to attack it from a variety of different statistical angles. Obviously, the off-ice portion of his game cannot be qualified, but we’ll try to factor that in at the end as well. So, here goes.

Goalie Point Shares

The simplest way to try and determine how much different things would be without Fleury is to use Hockey-Reference.com’s “point shares” stat.

The stat is hockey’s equivalent to baseball’s WAR created by Bill James. Justin Kubatko created a mathematical formula to try and account for everything a player does on the ice both offensively and defensively. For goalies, since they only play defense, they account for double the number of defensive point shares of any skater, and the formula leads to goalies amassing many more defensive point shares than any skater.

The idea of the stat is to take the total number of standings points amassed by a team and assign them to each individual player’s offensive and defensive impact. For the Golden Knights, they have 37 points in the standings leaving about 37 available point shares to be handed out amongst the players.

Fleury leads the team with 4.8 point shares with Mark Stone about a point behind at 3.9. Thus, the stat believes that Marc-Andre Fleury has accounted for almost five of the Golden Knights’ 37 points. Lehner is currently sitting at 0.6 point shares in his five games played. Assuming he’d have played a bit more early in the season, we’ll round that up to a full one point.

So, we can reasonably remove four points from the Golden Knights’ total, bringing them to 33 points in 25 games or a .660 points percentage.

That would put Vegas in 2nd place, behind Minnesota by less than a full win in the standings. They’d remain ahead of Colorado, St. Louis, and the rest of the division and would be in 9th in the NHL overall (as opposed to 4th as they currently sit now).

Goals Against Average

Fleury’s 1.81 goals against average is unbelievably good. So good that if it continued throughout the whole season it would be the best in his 17-year career by almost half a goal per game. Lehner’s number currently sits just short of three per game at 2.96 and Dansk’s one game has him at 3.91.

Oscar Dansk’s career in the NHL is limited, which makes it challenging to determine what his GAA would look like over the course of a full season, but we have some history to go off in order to guess.

In 2017-18, Max Lagace was forced to play 16 games for the Golden Knights as the only healthy goalie and he amassed a 3.92 goals against average in that time. That had him ranked 88th in the NHL out of 95 total goalies. If you qualify it using at least 100 minutes played, Lagace ranked 2nd to last in the entire league. This year, the numbers are similar with Louie Domingue and Jimmy Howard rounding out the bottom of the league with GAA’s of 3.81 and 4.2o this season.

Let’s say Lehner was available to the Golden Knights for each of their first 10 games at a GAA of 2.96 and then Vegas was forced to used Dansk or Thompson which we will assign a GAA of 4.00.

To change results, I’m going back through all 19 games Fleury has played and change the score to add either one goal (if it’s a Lehner game) or two goals (if it’s a Dansk/Thompson game) at the end of regulation. If the adjusted score would have sent the game to OT, we will give VGK 1.5 points for the game, assuming they would win half and lose half of the OT games.

Based on how they have used Fleury, it’s fair to believe Vegas would have used Lehner in all of the first 10 games. (I would have given him one off, but with days between each of the first seven and then the COVID break, I’m giving Lehner all 10.)

ANA – Win to Loss (-2)
ARI – Win to Win
@ARI – Win to Tie (-0.5)
LAK – Win to Win
ANA – Win to Tie (-0.5)

Then, the remaining 14 games go to Dansk or Thompson adding two goals to the opposition’s total.

ANA – Loss to Loss
@SJS – Win to Tie (-0.5)
COL  – Win to Loss (-2)
COL – Loss to Loss
@COL (Tahoe) – Loss to Loss
@COL – Win to Win
@ANA – Win to Loss (-2)
@MIN – Win to Loss (-2)
@SJS – Win to Win
@MIN – Loss to Loss
@MIN – Loss to Loss
@STL – Win to Loss (-2)
@STL – Win to Win

That’s an 11.5 point difference meaning Vegas would now have 25.5 in 25 games or a points percentage of .510.

This would have Vegas in 5th place in the West division, on the outside of the playoff picture. However, they’d be just .009 away from the Kings. In Lehner’s 10 games, Vegas would have been 6-2-2 for a points percentage of .700, keeping them in 1st place. If Lehner comes back any time soon, that tiny distance between the VGK and the playoffs would be made up easily.

Stars of the Game

It’s reasonable to say that any time Fleury was a star of the game that a replacement goalie would not have performed as well. Every game here on SinBin.vegas I assign my “VGK 3 Stars of the Game.” I select the three Golden Knights players I believe played the best and had the most impact on the game that night, win or lose.

If Fleury was a star in my VGK 3 Stars of the Game, we will add two goals for the other team to the regulation score and re-calculate the game.

ANA on 1/16/21 Win to Loss (-2)
@ARI on 1/20/21 Win to Win
@ARI on 1/24/21 Win to Loss (-2)
@SJS on 2/13/21 Win to Tie (-0.5)
COL on 2/14/21 Win to Loss (-2)
COL on 2/22/21 Win to Win
@ANA on 2/27/21 Win to Loss (-2)
MIN on 3/3/21 Win to Win
@SJS on 3/6/21 Win to Win
@STL on 3/13/21 Win to Win

That costs Vegas 8.5 points in the standings leaving them with 28.5 in 25 games or .570 points percentage. That would have the Golden Knights in 4th place, still easily in playoff position, more than two wins ahead of the Kings for 5th. They’d actually be closer to 3rd (STL) than 5th.

Conclusion

So, the various ways to calculate it have the Golden Knights losing somewhere between 5 and 11.5 points in the standings after 25 games. Those are pretty substantial numbers. However, this is assuming the replacement goalie was terrible every single night, which is unlikely.

In the absolute worst-case scenario, which is saying the Golden Knights literally lose every single game that was within two goals at the end of regulation, they would STILL be less a single point away from a playoff position in the West.

More likely, the number is closer to the smaller total, like maybe six or seven points (and probably even less if the other goalie was decent just a few times), which would have Vegas no longer in 1st place, but comfortably in a playoff position with Lehner’s return seemingly right around the corner.

Finally, we have to look at the intangible piece. This team loves Marc-Andre Fleury. They play hard in front of him every night and they don’t want to let him down. It means something. How much? Who knows? But it means something.

However, if Fleury weren’t here, we’d likely be in the same situation Vegas was in back in 2017-18 where they knew they had to give even more effort because they didn’t have the advantage in the net they know they often have with Fleury.

So, I’d say you can reasonably say it offsets… if not goes the other way.

In the end, that leaves me with my official thesis on where the Golden Knights would be without Fleury this season:

Marc-Andre Fleury has been the best player on the Golden Knights and the best goalie in the NHL, but if he had been traded in the offseason, the Golden Knights would still be firmly in a playoff position. Plus, they still have Robin Lehner on the roster for the potential end-of-season playoff push, presumably the entire playoff run, and they’d have $7 million in cap space in which they could add another piece to the roster. Yes, Fleury has been awesome, but even so, in the interest of winning the Stanley Cup, Vegas would still be in a better place without him.

(Though they’d be in a much better place without Lehner.)

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45 Comments

  1. Knights fan from Minny

    OMFG, Ken. Just pull up to the pump and squeeze the nozzle WIDE OPEN pouring gas on the fire…… !! Comment section gonna get lit today 🙂

    • DC

      Apparently MAF knew something the VGK management did not know when it tried to unload him last season.

  2. James N Faklis

    Long live Marc Andre Fleury!

  3. Carl

    Oh man this is BRUTAL!

    Build a guy up like the hero he is, then dump the truckload of feces right on top of his head!

    Tsk, tsk!

  4. Mike StG

    There is another intangible not included in the article. You talk about playing hard in front of Fleury. A bigger intangible is how having him in net frees up the defense to activate and play with confidence that he’s back there and can stand on his head to make otherworldly saves. That actually affects how they play and is partly responsible for their success in transition and defense-driven offense.

    • Daryl

      Agreed… the players in front of your net can play so much better when they know they can trust their goalie. They are more relaxed and more likely to take a few chances.

  5. Mikegron32

    Ken you fail to mention what it would’ve actually cost VGK to deal MAF when you were screaming to deal him. It would’ve involved eating a pile of dead salary and then throwing in some draft picks on top of it, and then watching him play at a Vienza level for another team. So.. would I rather have MAF under that scenario? Yes most definitely yes. I love what you do for VGK hockey but you would absolutely suck as a GM

    • Lot of assumptions here as to what I would have done had I been the GM.

      I would have never been in this spot in the first place. Not a chance I trade for a starting goalie at the deadline on 2019-20.

  6. bob

    The two players who were “shopped” around before the season started were

    1) Fleury
    2) Pacioretty

    The best trades the Knights NEVER made. Someone with some sense came to the table. Why “someone” didn’t care for Fleury is beyond me. Maybe now “someone” has realized his mistake?

  7. EK

    Interesting. Personally I like it better this way. Here’s hoping that they do make some sort of changes regarding 4th line before the trade deadline. Can they do it without moving a goalie? I guess we will see.

  8. DOC (Go Knights Go)

    Very rarely agree with Ken on anything. But I do agree here, that, we would still be in solid contention no matter who was playing in goal. I said before season that we were fortunate to have Flurey and Lehner as our goalies. I stand by that as I feel Lehner WILL do his part to help us win this season!

    • Daryl

      Of course VGK would still be in contention with either goalie…. hell, they would still make the playoffs without either of those two goalies. That’s how bad this Division is. And when the post season gets around, we will only see one goalie, just like last year. We just don’t know which goalie that will be

  9. Blitz

    Fleury’s does alot more than stop shots. He actively gathers pucks that come into his end so he can dish it out faster and keep the other team away. I don’t see our other net minders doing that, certainly not as much. Lehner’s not mobile enough and Dansk was really reluctant to get out of net and collect pucks, maybe by instruction (who knows). Regardless, Fleury gets pucks moving the other way faster with less chance of contention. I think this gives the offense more chances and takes away defense pressure. Another factor that I want to mention is shoot outs. Lehner is dreadful in shootouts. I would assume with any share he will face a couple of shootouts per season and percentages say he is going to lose a good portion of those. A good wall, not a good mover. My two cents to add to the discussion.

  10. goalie trade

    Goaltending is a position of ups and downs, hot and cold, daily changing perceptions, in their careers in the NHL.

    for instance, Fleury was great in Pitt, until he had a couple years of bad playoff series vs the Flyers, where he gave up soft goals. That led to Matt Murray taking his place, and winning 2 consecutive Stanley Cups with Fleury sitting on the bench, and then ending up in Vegas…. Murray then flamed out in Pitt, and got traded to Ottawa, where he is still struggling.

    Fleury was replaced last season by new shiny toy Lehner, but now he is back on his game, and rightfully is the toast of the town once again.

    meanwhile, Lehner has been looking slow and off his game since training camp, and then injured and unreliable for a long stretch this season.

    So again, the ups and downs of the goalie life. That is why drafting them in the first round or giving them long term contracts is risky.

    • Flower carried the penguins to the finals that 2nd year because Murray got hurt early first round, he only came
      Back for final so flower played a big role in that cup and he a huge role in development of Murray. Murray was never the same after flower left. Flower is a special person that is hard to find this day and age. I also think he never stops trying to get better and he has found ways to improve over the years. I don’t think all guys that get fat contracts are the same. And he would be great with any good young goalie ad he winds down his career , be a mentor like he was with Murray . Hard to put a number on guys like flower. Like Steve Yzerman, 20 yrs as captain, he was worth twice his salary just because of his leadership .

  11. Tim

    Ken nice breakdown told you so months ago keep both goalies. Lehner will be back soon and say what you want he’s a professional and hopefully can get back up to speed. The way our blue line has improved with Whitecloud, Hague, and Coghlan plus McNabb back with Martinez, Theadore and Petro we’ve definitely improved our defense which with either Fleury or Lehner that helps. We may not be a Stanley Cup team but were a solid team and fun to watch. I also like our prospect pipeline and right now we all should be cheering for New Jersey to lose every game. It very well can be in the top 4 of the second round which should bring in another good prospect.

    • This is where you and I disagree. If you aren’t good enough to win the Cup, do everything in your power to make it happen or start over. That’s my mindset.

      • Tim

        Ken your closer to the Knights then we are but you hear morand more talk shows say you need two good goalies not one and a fill in. Knights mission accomplished except you can’t control injuries or in Lehner’s case maybe something personal. Hindsight’s 20/20 but if we new Coghlan and Hague along with Whitecloud were going to be this good Petro at 8.8 million is a luxury we really don’t need. I’ve always been a baseball guy first but sports are sports and the eye test doesn’t lie.I’ve said it before he’s our Erik Karlsson , Jeff Skinner, Matt Duchane but what’s done is done.

        • It is accurate that to be as good as you can possibly be in the regular season you do need two goalies. However, the Golden Knights are leaps and bounds beyond the team competing for the final playoff spots in the division. So, they should have a laser focus on the playoffs. In the playoffs, you absolutely do not need two goalies. $12 mil in goalies can help Vegas win the President’s Trophy, but it is a hindrance to them winning the Stanley Cup.

    • DOC (Go Knights Go)

      Agree ….. Although I think we DO have a cup contending team!

  12. knights fan in minny

    up s creek without a paddle

  13. Julie

    It’s a bit twisted to keep looking for ways to get rid of Fleury especially after we know from Foley that Fleury will retire as a Knight as long as we wants it. We’re “better off” without Fleury and even more better off without Lehner, right? With who exactly? Demko, Allen, Charlie Brown? It was overlooked in fantasy land, but Fleury overall has done more than make saves as others have pointed out, but also kept the team in the game many many times – this year- on the way to the Stanley Cup. You can’t buy that coupled with the bond he has with the team.

    The saddest thing about this article is the turn on Lehner. He is reading this article right now thinking, et tu, SinBin? He hasn’t produced nearly what SinBin or VGK management purported he would produce. It hurts to be wrong. I get it. We don’t know if and when he will come back as strong as ever. But that doesn’t matter does it, because we know he could be the #1 goalie in the league and SinBin would still be crying that there is no cap space. At some point, Vegas has to develop its players. They made the investment, now see it through the season. This year, they have some things to resolve but they have the resources to do it.

    How appropriate that today is the Ides of March.

    • Miri

      Julie – I hadn’t originally planned to post for this story, as any substantive remarks I might have made were well expressed by others. But I couldn’t resist coming back to compliment you on your comments here, some of which I’m still chuckling about hours after reading. Combining Shakespearean references with your brilliant (and apt) bus analogy definitely should have you in the running for “comment of the year.” Excellent!

  14. Well Ken – you didn’t come out and say so but obviously your on Lehner’s payroll as his agent or PR man. Do you honestly believe you can address worth with stats and assumptions the way you laid out the article or are you simply trying to justify your position when you were all for getting rid of Fleury? He was, is and continues to be the face of the Knights whether you like it or not and he obviously has shown you and management what fools you are. I realize that is a tuff pill to swallow but facts are facts not what if’s..

    • Ok, let me clarify for you.

      I believe Fleury is better than Lehner (albeit I think the gap is incredibly slim). I believe if they can trade Lehner and not have to eat salary or picks, they should do it immediately.

      • Ken – my man we agree for sure. Again like I have said previously nothing personal against Lehner I just believe performance wise Fleury is more than a slim amount better.

    • Julie

      HD, how are you doing these days? It seems to me SinBin just threw Lehner under the proverbial bus. They rolled two tires over Fleury and four over Lehner. It shocked me because they pushed Lehner hard to be Fleury’s replacement. Now he isn’t even as good in a fantasy Fleury replacement scenario from their perspective. In reality, if Lehner comes back it won’t matter how good he is if the cap situation doesn’t change from what I gather from the article. If the point of the article was to make us feel good that the rest of the team is great without Fleury or Lehner, I think it could have been handled better. Like maybe showcasing the strengths of Stone, Coglan, or how Theodore is juicing up to get more into it since coming back from him being out, etc. Other than that, it’s odd to me that the local writers of VGK would think this is a good way to motivate anyone. If they were writers from any other city, I could see it. This is like a hit job from the inside.

      • We pushed Lehner hard to be Fleury’s replacement?

        That definitely never happened. We suggested that the team did that… Many times. But at no point did we ever say that in a podcast, article, or tweet.

        Please stop making things up.

        • Julie

          Oh, Ken, give us all a break, ok? You flat out said Lehner should be the starter because he was nominated for the Vezina. “Enough said”, ring a bell.

          Articles on how Fleury lost his starting position to Lehner for all kinds of your reasons.

          You got your kid to make a drawing to even mock Fleury during the playoffs for being benched citing Lehner being the better choice.

          You are STILL harping on scenarios in a fantasy world with Fleury out of the picture knowing what we know now for some skewed reason.

          Take some honest responsibility for what you post. You will feel better and we’ll all be better off.

          • That never happened. The first part.

            The other stuff mostly happened but you are still putting words in my mouth. I believe Fleury is better than Lehner, the organization doesn’t.

  15. Michael A Rice

    Fleury is LAS VEGAS.
    I’m talking from a fan perspective, I like him a lot for things he has done on and off the ice.
    I know he loves Vegas, like to see him win best goaltender this season.

  16. DOC (Go Knights Go)

    Sounds like Panda might get the start tonight vs the sharks?

    Hope so. Flurey needs rest … Panda needs playing time!

    Either way, we can’t let up on these pricks tonight!!!!!!

  17. Stephanie

    One can argue so far HAD they given the young d a REAL chance. quite possibly almost 9 mill would be free .Theres also some dispensable salaries i can think of . It is what it is .But there’s absolutely no way I wanted to lose Fleury .!!! Lehner is looking for a home. This doesn’t really have to be contentious.whats wrong with sharing on the playground?..For example until this season Alex Tuch was NOT living up to expectations or his “steal of a contract” . I’m sure you’re happy he finally is playing up to expectations and what they had hoped he’d be capable of .But I was getting concerned
    Theres always going to be things that look genius and things that are mistakes .obviously thats happened . .And this season losing Fleury or Patch wouldve been not a good thing for the team. Imho

  18. A VGK Fan

    Ken, you sonofabitch, JUST ADMIT YOU WERE WRONG ABOUT TRADING FLEURY. No one is perfect. Just admit it instead of beating around the bush with your BS articles! The longer you take to admit you were wrong the more you credibility goes to shite. JUST ADMIT YOU WERE WRONG.

  19. Julie

    Ken, you responded to a poster asking why you liked Lehner better. Your answer was very clear about how Lehner had been nominated for the Vezina. Other posters brought it up several times later how they saw it meant a lot to you and that was your main criteria. I even brought it up to you when I challenged you about using Fleury’s signed puck after positioning yourself as in the Lehner camp. I will let you dig that all up.

    Dates of articles where it’s clear Lehner was favored and/or you favored getting rid of Fleury (which in essence pushes Lehner):
    8/14, 9/23, 9/25, 9/26, 10/27, 11/23

    There is even a post from you on 10/27 where you said, “If you believe Foley wants to win. You believe he wants to get rid of Fleury. If you believe Foley would put personal relationships before winning, then he can be ok with it. It’s one or the other, not both”. This is with the article where you say there was still time to trade Fleury. The 11/23 article is quite clear on your position with Lehner.

    I don’t care if you disagree with me. But I don’t have the time or the inclination to “make things up” or put words in your mouth.

    • A VGK Fan

      I’m glad you see what I’m seeing Julie. Instead of Ken just admitting he was wrong about moving fleury, he doubles down with BS articles. I’m glad people are starting to call him out more and more. If he keeps this up I will contact his sponsors who I know personally (kutner, jimmerson). Maybe he will change his tune then

    • Hi Julie – l guess l opened a can of worms. He can’t defend either of his positions now despite how he tries. He always indicated how fortunate Vegas was to land the elite walrus. Good for a laugh but certainly gives rise to seriously consider anything he writes as really being news worthy unfortunately. Not good when you can’t remember what you said previously. Oh well.

  20. Mike StG

    Ken, Not piling on here (and I’m pretty shocked at some of the searing criticism leveled in these comments, although I know it doesn’t bother you), but… one more intangible with Fleury is his ability to steal a game. The 4 breakaways that LaBanc and Kane had tonight would have been at least 2 goals against most goalies, and 1 against the best (and Lehner). One goal ties the game and who knows what happens in OT. You could say the analytics have factored that in, but they really can’t. In his wins since Robin’s injury he’s probably stolen at least 6 points. And Fleury’s ability to flat out steal games for Vegas is what makes him special, beloved and so valuable to the team. I hope he retires here, as the 3rd winningest goalie in NHL history. And I do realize you’re not against Fleury. My comments only address the premise of the article. As Patch said, “The dude is the MAN!”

  21. Excellent article Ken. Interesting analysis and sound assumptions in your calculations, well done. Also, very strong comments – everyone has intelligent takes and no strange off the rails political rants, at least so far, which is a small miracle in itself.

  22. Kris

    I mean so far the only thing Fluery hasn’t done in his career is win a Vezina. Not sure how teams (management) doubt the guy still. He’s a team guy with a great attitude, and his play speaks for itself.

    Everyone has ups and downs and needs a good support cast (1A and 1B goalies is never a bad thing) but what DeBoer (or whoever made the call in the playoffs last year) was pretty silly in hindsight.

  23. knights fan from minny

    GIVE IT MORE GAS……!!

  24. Jason Mason

    Where in all of this “what if,” “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve” stuff is the scenario of where the VGK would be points wise if Fleury had been dealt before the season and Lehner had been hurt…like he is now?

    Give us a team point total for Dansk and whoever backs him up while we wait for a starting goalie to get back off IR.

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