The Golden Knights celebrate after beating the Washington Capitals in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on April 28, 2018, at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas..

USA TODAY Images

Silverman: High-Flying Golden Knights Are A Blight On The NHL 

League Made It Too Easy For Vegas Expansion Team

Steve Silverman
May 29, 2018 - 12:01 pm
Categories: 

The first-year Vegas Golden Knights started winning from Day 1 and haven't shown any signs of stopping. They're playing for the Stanley Cup against the Washington Capitals, and are off to an impressive start after winning Game 1, 6-4, at home Monday night.

It’s a tremendous story for the expansion team and the city of Las Vegas, and for casual sports fans, it’s something to take note of.

But for those who love the game or have a rooting interest in one of the other 30 teams, there’s something nasty about the Golden Knights’ success. It’s not supposed to be easy to win in the NHL, or any major sports league, for that matter.

It’s about going through a process and learning and improving. What does it say about work ethic and the quality of a league when a first-year team can come in and dominate? It’s ridiculous.

MORE: Golden Knights Broadcaster Dan D'Uva Chats With Francesa

The St. Louis Blues made it to the Stanley Cup Final in their first year, but the 1967-68 season was the year of the NHL’s great expansion. Six new teams came into the NHL that year as the “West Division.” The league set it up so that the East Division – consisting of the Original Six – would send its representative to the Stanley Cup Final, and the expansion West would do the same thing.

The Blues finished in third place that season with a 27-31-16 record, behind the Philadelphia Flyers and Los Angeles Kings. The Blues beat the Flyers and Minnesota North Stars in the first two rounds of the playoffs and then met the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Final. They lost in four straight games, but all four were decided by one goal and two went into overtime.

The Golden Knights were 51-24-7 during the regular season, and they have rolled through the Kings, San Jose Sharks and Winnipeg Jets. They are a powerhouse.

How can this be, and what do all the teams that have never won the Stanley Cup say? From the perspective of the humble athletes that man this sport, they bear it fairly well. There is no obvious jealousy that reveals itself through pointed remarks, but it has to hurt quite a bit.

MORE: Lichtenstein: Comparing Vegas To Past Expansion Teams Like Isles Is Knight And Day

Perhaps nobody feels it more intensely than the fans of the Capitals, Jets, Wild, Sharks, Blues, Sabres, Canucks, Coyotes, Senators, Panthers, Predators and Blue Jackets.

There is no reason to look at general manager George McPhee, head coach Gerard Gallant or players such as Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, William Karlsson, Colin Miller and Marc-Andre Fleury with any kind of anger or blame. All of these Golden Misfits – as this team has taken to call itself – were all brought in to do a job.

McPhee had a long and successful run in Washington before he parted ways with the Capitals, and Gallant had shown his skills as a head coach with the Florida Panthers before he was unceremoniously let go.

The players were all either acquired in the expansion draft or through shrewd trades. There’s no reason to take out any anger on these key participants.

However, the NHL made it easier for the Golden Knights than previous expansion teams. Teams had the option of protecting seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender, or eight skaters (regardless of position) and one goaltender.

During the previous expansion involving the Minnesota Wild and the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2000, 26 of the 28 teams were allowed to protect either one goaltender, five defensemen and nine forwards, or two goaltenders, three defensemen and seven forwards.

Two teams – the Nashville Predators and Atlanta Thrashers (who would become the Winnipeg Jets) – did not lose any players since both of those teams part of expansions the previous two years.

That small difference in the expansion rules has made a big difference on the ice.

The other issue with the Golden Knights is the way they have turned the Stanley Cup playoffs into a Las Vegas nightclub act.

Some may see the ornate pregame shows as a brilliant innovation for the NHL, but there is no dignity with the way the Golden Knights start their games. The screaming and shilling done by their public address announcer gives the NHL a WWE feel that drags down the sport.

Shouldn’t a first-year team be somewhat respectful to those that have come before it?

There is not a hint of humble to the Vegas Golden Knights, and they are laughing at the rest of the league.

It’s not right, and one can only hope that this first-year team gets the comeuppance it so richly deserves.

Follow Steve on Twitter at @Profootballboy