The expansion team’s newest hire brings three Stanley Cup rings and a laundry list of excellent finds, from Martin Brodeur and Brendan Shanahan to Brian Rafalski and John Madden. So what sort of impact should Las Vegas expect from his addition?
Las Vegas’ NHL team has its first Stanley Cup winner.
Owner Bill Foley announced the hiring of David Conte yesterday, bestowing upon him the title of special advisor to hockey operations. I first reported the Vegas-Conte connection last week and now it’s official. But what should Las Vegas fans expect from the veteran hockey mind?
A lot of New Jersey fans guffawed at the idea of Conte getting back in the game, based on how the Devils suffered in the draft at the end of the Lou Lamoriello era. But as Ken Campbell pointed out last year on the blog, Conte brings an incredible track record (and three Cup rings) with him, even if those big gets – from Martin Brodeur and Scott Gomez in the draft to Brian Rafalski and John Madden as undrafted free agents – happened a long time ago.
As a special advisor, I see him having a positive effect on an expansion franchise that will need structure and experience right away, in order to kick things off right. In George McPhee, they have that GM. And McPhee has another veteran voice in recently-hired director of European Scouting, Vojtech Kucera, who came over from the Washington Capitals, McPhee’s old squad. Think about how heavy the Caps have relied on European forwards in the past decade, then add prospect Jakub Vrana to the mix.
I’m sure Las Vegas’ first few seasons are going to be nuts from an organizational point of view; building an NHL team from scratch in this era, where so many other teams are cramming their front offices with as many great minds as possible (from young folks in the advanced stats game to old hands that ran premier junior programs for years).
Conte knows how a team is built. He’s seen it all. And if his last years with the Devils weren’t successful from a drafting perspective, it’s not the end of the world: if anything, it’s a learning experience. The man is a legend behind the scenes in the industry and Las Vegas will be better because of his insight.