My Vegas problem

Bulldog explains why he's not feeling the love for the Golden Knights

May 24, 2018 - 8:26 am

Photo: Stephen R. Sylvanie - USA TODAY Sports


It’s a great story. Hollywood would, perhaps, be mocked for producing such a cliched feel good sports story.

A new team joins a league, they get to pick players from other teams in the league to stock their roster, and it appears as though the players made available will not be of much use to the new team. They are mostly depth players and, in many cases, existing teams have made deals with the new team to ensure the protection of their more prized players.

Most all observers agree, including the owners of the new team, that it will be a long process to build this team of cast-offs into any sort of contender.

In the aftermath of a heinous tragedy in the city the new team plays, they get off to a really hot start. The community rallies around the team. Fans around the league wait for them to falter, but they never really do. Then the new team wins their division.

Well, just wait until the playoffs start. Wrong. They roll through the first three rounds of best of seven series, boasting a robust 12-3 record. They’re set to play for a championship when 11 months ago, they didn’t even have a team.

All of this is pretty much incredible, right?

So what’s my problem?

Well, maybe like many things that are tough to defend or make us on some level feel guilty, I’d tell you it’s complicated.

Generally speaking, most of my problem with the Vegas Golden Knights making it to the Stanley Cup Final is that I’ve spent my entire life buying into the notion that the NHL’s prize is the hardest championship to win. A part of that challenge is carefully constructing a championship caliber roster. It does not make sense to me that this group of mostly middling NHL players can make it this far.

Remember, I’ve just watched our team in Buffalo shovel multiple seasons into a landfill to get favorable draft position and improve it’s chances of being a contender.


So how are they doing it? Well, amongst the players that are not middling NHL players is their goalie. Marc-Andre Fleury has been a star on Stanley Cup winning team, and has a .947 save percentage in these playoffs. That’s insane. Good luck beating a team with a goalie who is playing like that.

Their leading scorer is William Karlsson. In his previous two full seasons in the NHL, he totaled 15 goals in 162 games on a shooting percentage of about seven-percent. For Vegas this season, Karlsson scored 43 goals. His shooting percentage? An absurdly high 23.4-percent. Maybe he’s a consistently good player in the NHL moving forward, but there’s no way he’s scoring on such a high percentage of his shots again.

The other two thirds of the Golden Knights' top line, Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith, were a package deal from Florida in the expansion draft. The Panthers traded Smith to Vegas to unload a contract they didn’t like and agreed to expose Marchessault, a 30-goal scorer the previous season, in the expansion draft.

This could be its own story, this Florida trade with Vegas. The Panthers signed Smith to a five-year, $25 million contract in July of 2016 after he had scored 25 goals. When Smith dropped to only 15 goals the following season, they had so badly soured on him that they agreed to let Marchessault go via the expansion draft if Vegas would take Smith and his now onerous contract in a trade that saw a fourth round draft pick go back to Florida.

Here’s how all three of those players did for Vegas.

  • Karlsson: 82 games, 43 goals, 35 assists, 78 points
  • Marchessault: 77 games, 27 goals, 48 assists, 75 points
  • Smith: 67 games, 22 goals, 38 assists, 60 points

Will they keep it up? I’d bet on Marchessault and, to a certain degree, Smith to give them close to that. Karlsson’s bonkers shooting percentage makes him less likely to be a consistent 40-goal man in the NHL, but he’s obviously got some real talent that had yet to be tapped into.

Look, full credit to these players. They’ve had these fantastic seasons and have earned the right to play for the Stanley Cup. Good for them and good for you if you’re loving every minute of it.

I’m continuing to struggle with a team being thrown together like this even being half decent let alone playing for a championship. That struggle is some parts frustration over the realization that my favorite sport has too much randomness and luck involved in determining outcomes and jealousy over the struggles of my own favorite team.

So yeah, I know how this makes me sound.

Area man yells at cloud.

Hey kids, get off my lawn.

I’m just trying to own it. I am not enjoying one of the greatest sports stories we’ve ever seen and a part of me hates this about myself.


Go Caps!

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