This season Kevin Iole, die-hard VGK fan and legendary combat sports columnist, will be presenting columns a few times a month on Sundays. Kevin is back today to take a look at a depth position, notoriously slim in recent years.
Writer Mark Twain popularized a saying in the 19th century that is still frequently used today: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.
I believe in advanced statistics, but I also believe in the sight test and the sight test indicates that there is something seriously wrong with these Golden Knights.
They lack a passion in their game that has been there for most of the four-plus years of this franchise. They’re an extremely talented team, and with elite players like Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, Alex Pietrangelo, Max Pacioretty, Shea Theodore and others, of course, they’re a team that should easily be in the discussion. on the Stanley Cup.
But ask yourself: Could you honestly see the team that couldn’t hold a two-goal lead in the 1st period on Friday at home to division rival Los Angeles Kings really win the Cup? Stanley? Could you see this team, which came into Friday’s game having been shut out consecutively, really win four games against, say, Calgary, Colorado and Tampa Bay? Or win four against Edmonton, Minnesota and Carolina? Or win four against Los Angeles, St. Louis and Pittsburgh?
For as much talent as there is on the roster, there is no longer a spark. The team no longer plays with a passion, that zest for life that made it so fun to watch in the inaugural season. There wasn’t just a spark on the Original Misfits; they had fireworks pretty much every night. But try to get a spark out of those Golden Knights and it’s often not there.
In 2017-2018, do you remember how William Carrier recklessly dumped his body? How many times did the fourth line of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Carrier and Ryan Reaves extend zone time thanks to a big hit and then a good cycle? It had a ripple effect on the rest of the team and that’s why coach Pete DeBoer has thrown Reaves, Carrier and Tomas Nosek so often over the previous two years. He knew what that meant.
If you want to look at the stats, let’s look at the goals. It’s a grim picture, believe me. Mattias Janmark hasn’t scored a goal in his last 13 games. Nic Roy – who I absolutely love as a player and think will play a huge part in the future of this franchise if they re-sign him – scored a goal in the last 15. Evgenii Dadonov, who is paid $5 million to score goals, has zero goals in his last 10 and has a meager point on the power play since Dec. 14.
Do you want more? William Karlsson has scored a goal in his last nine. Jonathan Marchessault is only slightly better, with two goals in his last 13. Chandler Stephenson has scored two goals in his last 15.
Keegan Kolesar’s job isn’t necessarily to score goals, but he’s only had two in his last 16 games. More troubling, however, is that he doesn’t dish out those massive punches that a guy with his thick 230-pound frame can, and did. in the past.
It’s an ugly picture.
DeBoer spoke of a lack of desperation during his press conference after the highly unsatisfying 4-3 loss to the Kings in overtime on Friday.
Playing desperate hockey is a cliché that players typically use at playoff time when they’ve fallen behind in a series. But this team hasn’t really played desperate hockey in a long time.
They have to get annoying to play against them. They have to bump into the keeper once in a while and anger other teams for it. They need to throw the kind of hits that Carrier and Kolesar used to throw regularly. They must skate as if trying to win a race in order to get the puck.
This team has been called a competitor by so many people for so long that I wonder if they take it for granted. Yes, injuries hurt. They’re not defending as well as last year, and their goalie duo aren’t playing as well as Robin Lehner and Vezina Trophy winner Marc-Andre Fleury did last year. So when there is a defensive error, it happens more often than last year.
Now, with so many teams making the playoffs, what matters isn’t so much the standings but simply qualifying. Montreal proved it last year. In the 1990-91 season, Pittsburgh defeated Minnesota in six games to win its first Stanley Cup.
Pittsburgh was seventh of the 16 teams that qualified for the playoffs that year, and Minnesota was 15th. So while it’s easier to finish higher and have theoretically easier early matchups, the point is to make it to the playoffs.
But that Penguins team that won had a guy named Mario Lemieux, and at the trade deadline he added Ron Francis. It also featured an 18-year-old rookie, Jaromir Jagr, who turned into a demon in the second half of the season. Jagr ended his career as the NHL’s second all-time leading scorer.
The Golden Knights have nothing like that on their roster, talented as they are.
General manager Kelly McCrimmon doesn’t have much flexibility due to the uncertain status of Mark Stone, his second-highest-paid player who may or may not be out for the rest of the regular season.
If Stone regains his health before the playoffs, he better do it before the trade deadline so McCrimmon can free up some space to accommodate him on the roster. Because McCrimmon has been playing this team squarely in salary cap hell and he can’t have everyone active if he’s on that roster.
If they could find an agitator who could play, that would be the best-case scenario. The perfect player is Boston’s Brad Marchand, who is a brilliant player who also drives opponents crazy. He’s not going anywhere. Neither did Montrealer Brendan Gallagher, who is another such player.
McCrimmon is going to have to find a guy like that who, while maybe not as good, makes a more intangible difference.
The Golden Knights have the talent to win the Cup, but they won’t win it the way they play. Fortunately, the playoffs don’t start until May and McCrimmon has time to deal with it.
It won’t be easy and he’ll likely have to pay too much to get a deal done, but that’s the price the Knights are paying for knowingly going over the cap by more than $10 million.
The pieces are there, but things can’t go on like this and still see this team as a legitimate contender.
It’s a big lie to say otherwise.