You asked and we answered. Here’s the need-to-know info on the 31st expansion team as it prepares for franchise game No. 1.
I thought of calling this blog ‘Golden Knights 101,’ but it’s 2017. Vegas fans won’t need offside calls explained on the jumbotron. Most of you know what you’re getting into as hockey fans. So “411” is a more appropriate term.
The 31st NHL franchise embarks on its maiden voyage tonight, and I wanted to answer any questions the fan base (or hockey fans in general) had about the team. First off – if you want proper insider info on the Golden Knights, your best bet is beat writer Steve Carp. But I’m here to help from the perspective of someone who covers the entire league and who was lucky enough to attend the expansion draft and visit the Golden Knights offices, where I met with team president Kerry Bubolz.
It’s almost time for puck drop. Let’s get it started!
1. Steve Niles (@SteveNilesCBC) asks: Not a fan, but…does the nature of expansion make it easier or more difficult to get good when compared to just a plain bad team?
Excellent question, Steve. First off, we can’t approach the Vegas Golden Knights like we do any other expansion team in NHL history, as this is the first expansion team of the salary-cap era and thus faces far different challenges than any squad that came before it. Or maybe I should say far fewer challenges. Various teams’ salary-cap woes meant the Golden Knights had a lot more leverage than previous expansion teams did, whether it meant taking on bad deals like David Clarkson’s for draft pick compensation or grabbing NHL-caliber players who were too expensive for contending teams’ tastes, like Jason Garrison in Tampa Bay. General manager George McPhee could’ve built a far more competitive team for Day 1 if he wanted to. He could’ve rejected all offers for side deals and stolen some good players left unprotected. Instead, he opted to hoard draft picks and made a ton of side deals at the expense of building a good 2017-18 team. Either way, the Golden Knights benefitted a lot from the way the NHL set up the expansion draft. They chose to go the pack-the-system-with-picks route. I’d argue they had it easier than any expansion team that came before them.
2. Ole Christian Foss (@ocfoss) asks: What’s the status on Vadim Shipachyov? Is he playing NHL hockey tonight or is he actually staying in the AHL?
I’ll treat this as a blanket question also concerning Shea Theodore and Alex Tuch. Well, McPhee was clearly hoping to move a defenseman before game time, and he was clearly aware the Knights’ AHL affiliate was battling the Texas Stars, meaning the farm players would be close by with Vegas visiting Dallas for Game 1 of their season. But the plan appears to have backfired. Theodore, Shipachyov and Tuch are three of the Golden Knights’ most promising players, but they also happen to be waiver exempt and are thus the current casualties as McPhee tries to find trades. But you never know – my guess is McPhee is still trying to make a move or moves as we speak in hopes of fixing his lineup in time for the game. So watch for updates. I assume it’s too late, though. Then again, we thought it was too late for Vegas to land a local TV deal, and look what happened this afternoon!
3. Tomas Djupsjobacka (@tdjupsjo) asks: How do you see Alex Tuch’s role and future? Same question re: Cody Glass?
Tuch was an intriguing prospect when the Minnesota Wild nabbed him at the 2014 draft. That was clear, as he went in the first round, 18th overall. As a 6-foot-4, 222-pound beast of a power forward, he needed some time to develop, and he also didn’t really have a clear path to playing time on a contending Wild team loaded with veterans. Slowly but surely, though, Tuch improved while playing at Boston College. He has potential to top out as a scoring-line forward who gives opposing defenders fits because of his size. I could see Tuch becoming an Erik Cole kind of player who flirts with 30 goals from time to time. I don’t think Tuch will be a star, though.
Glass is a different story. He’s shown a really nice offensive upside in the WHL, and when our prospect guru Ryan Kennedy spoke to scouts leading up to our 2017 Draft Preview magazine, one of them said Glass would be the next Mark Scheifele. The upside is there. Glass possesses good size and reach and all-around playmaking skill. I think Glass has the goods to become a first-line center in the NHL.
4. Matt (@HskrsStarsBucs) asks: Who wins tonight? Dallas or Vegas?
I’ll bet on the Golden Knights to win…their home opener. Not tonight, though. Dallas is the pick at home. T-Mobile Arena will rock for Vegas’ opener Oct. 10 against Arizona. On top of the novelty, the Golden Knights will have emotion behind them, as they’ll want to lift up a city that has been savaged by a devastatingly horrific attack in the past week. If any city deserves something to cheer for right now, it’s Las Vegas.
5. Nathaniel Mata (@Nate_Mata) asks: Hey Matt. Curious if the Knights will regret drafting so many defensemen considering it wasn’t the trade bait they expected right away?
It’s possible they will – but I don’t think yet. Just wait until a team loses a crucial defenseman to a major injury. You know it will happen. Then a trade market for veteran blueliners might suddenly appear. In the short term, though, this is a pretty embarrassing situation, yes. McPhee overthought the waiver system and now has to ice an opening-night lineup missing three crucial players. It’s just one more hint that the goal of this season is to tank. In that sense, if the goal is a lottery pick, spending a few games with a less-than-optimal lineup isn’t really a bad thing.
6. Dan Burhans (@raisedonthepond) asks: How would a Golden Knights “fan” get to watch a game? Sounds like they don’t have a sports channel picking them up. Relocation in 3, 2, 1…
This is a complicated situation. The problem is the Golden Knights partner with AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, and local cable company Cox doesn’t provide that channel, leaving the citizens of Las Vegas without an easy-to-access local hockey broadcast. It seems the goal was to win over a larger region of potential fans in the Rocky Mountains – but in doing so, the actual Golden Knights market has been left out in the cold. Update: not anymore! Carp reports that a last-minute deal has been struck between Cox and AT&T to show games on AT&T Sportsnet Rocky Mountain. Great news!