Knights storm the castle
May 3, 2018
The newest addition to the league and the strip, the Vegas Golden Knights have set the media in a frenzy since the team was announced. However, it was last June when things really began to heat up. The league underwent an expansion draft, aimed at giving expansion teams a fighting chance in their inaugural season, rather than 10 years down the line. It seems they’ve been given quite the spark for a monster of a season. Vegas selected one player from each of the “unprotected” lists of all 30 other teams (teams were allowed to protect either seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goaltender, or eight skaters, forwards or defenseman, and one goalie). Players across the league both feared the worst of their impending trade to the Sin City and revelled at the opportunity to prove themselves.
The Vegas Golden Knights picked up headline players, including former Penguins in forwards James Neal, David Perron and goaltender Marc Andre Fleury. Looking deeper into the roster, most NHL-philes shouldn’t have expected much, as the team lacked significant depth. It was expected that the Knights would fade out of the headlines soon after the season started. But they didn’t. After a hot start to the season, people thought it was a fluke. It wasn’t.
Their draft selections weren’t flukes either: former Blue Perron had the best season in his 11 year career, William Karlsson, a middle roster forward with the Columbus Blue Jackets last season scored the third most goals in the NHL this year, and Malcolm Subban (brother to P.K of the Nashville Predators) played a major role during the absence of Marc Andre Fleury throughout the year. On the surface, the team did not seem like they’d reach the playoffs, let alone sweep (former) Western Conference powerhouse L.A. in the first round. They don’t have anyone who would be getting a massive contract if they were anywhere else in the league because, reminder, they weren’t deemed valuable enough to be in the top 10 of their former team. It hurts to watch Perron have a stellar season when I’m choosing who to root for because the Blues can’t take care of some of the worst teams in the league coming down the home stretch. I digress. The fact of the matter is, the Knights players could have taken the situation one of two ways: to be angered by their team hanging them out to dry, or to be grateful for the opportunity to prove oneself and maybe getting more ice time and responsibility than they would with their former team. Reflecting on a clinched Pacific Division, the Knights have played with a chip on their shoulder, exceeding the expectations of the NHL community all season.
Looking ahead, if the Knights’ front office continues to build on the solid foundation that they have, the Western Conference may have yet another powerhouse. With the poor showing this season for the Blues, I can’t imagine a solid playoff run in the near future. The Blues are squeezed in the Central Division by Nashville and Winnipeg, who are both only getting better, and now by Vegas in the Pacific. Although some may think the Predators are the new Blackhawks dynasty of a few years back, they are missing postseason prowess. As Predator Filip Forsberg said, “we’ve seen especially here (in Washington) that the [President’s] Trophy doesn’t mean that much.”
The Knights face the winner of Winnipeg and Nashville in the Western Conference Final. Winnipeg leads 3-2, but either team presents a formidable challenge; however, at the same time it’s hard to say who presents a challenge, saying the Knights have blown out the Pacific, winning for a combined 8-2 in the first two rounds. I know league commissioner Gary Bettman is somewhere smiling about the media exposure the Knights got all season long and how well the expansion has gone overall. It will hopefully serve as a positive example of what further expansion to proposed cities such as Seattle can add to the league. Since I can’t be rocking the Blue all April and May, I might be sporting the Vegas Gold. Go Knights.