What better place to sign a deal with the devil than Sin City? Nevada ain’t no holy land. Especially Vegas itself. People from a vast amount of creeds would say to stay away from that “forsaken place” Unless a person is from the 12 Tribes of Let’s Get It On, Vegas is a no-no. The Vegas Strip – a place full of the things every Christian practitioner would hate. Gambling, lust, excessive alcohol consumption, lies, and bad hangovers with a random woman that person met on Adult Friend Finder.
Gary Bettman chose this city to bestow the league’s newest expansion franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights. A team that after 46 games in their inaugural season, sit atop of the overall NHL standings with an outstanding record of 31-11-4. Vegas is sitting two wins away from tying the record for most wins by a first-year expansion team which is set at 35 wins by the 1993-1994 Florida Panthers.
Usually, first-year teams would suffer the raft of a fast-moving NHL season, but surprisingly Vegas has not. Critics have been silenced. Bill Foley and the ownership group must have sold their souls for three lifetimes to the devil because the Golden Knights are playing like a Stanley Cup contender. Vegas is for real, but the question for the Golden Knights is how soon is now?
Vegas Golden Knights: How Soon Is Now?
Lucifer was once an angel, but as the tale goes, he had fallen from his mighty high ground to an underworld which he could reign supreme and create a new regime. Temptation was his power and curiosity was his best friend. After all, the apple did not eat itself. The same goes for the NHL and the expansion process. As always, like the devil Gary Bettman is, he advised the owners to chose Vegas as a city to expand to. Not too long after, they have a team and are rising up to the task of being successful. How was that so?
The Expansion Draft
The 2017 Expansion Draft was a solid one for former Washington Capitals and now Golden Knights general manager George McPhee. The draft was full of numerous hard working players that were the chosen to be the cast outs of their now former NHL teams. For whatever reason, they were told that they would not be protected by their respective teams and that they would be made available to the Vegas Golden Knights. To most players, that was a slap in the face. Especially for former Pittsburgh Penguins franchise goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, a goalie that stood on his head for the team for many years and helped the team win three Stanley Cups.
That is a tough pill to swallow. The Penguins put hard times on Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury made the most of his, some would say, wanted a change of scenery by playing well. Although Fleury has dealt with injuries throughout his first year with Vegas, he currently boasts an 11-3-2 record with a 1.68 goals against average and a .946 save percentage. That is impressive for a goalie that most experts thought best years were behind him.
Unfortunately, the Penguins were not the only teams that put hard times on their players.
The Nashville Predators left one of the team’s better players unprotected. That player is James Neal. Neal shared a role in “Smashville’s” success in the playoffs. Neal scored timely goals and helped to be a leader to Nashville’s younger players. He was only a 41 point winger in 2016-2017, but many Nashville fans felt like he had more to offer. Maybe they were right because James Neal currently has 21 goals and 11 helpers through 46 games for the Vegas Golden Knights this season. If Neal stays on pace, he might have a shot to tie his career high of 81 points that he set in the 2011-2012 season playing for none other than the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Not to mention, Florida cast out Jonathan Marchessault has been playing lights out. Marchessault has scored 17 goals and netted 27 helpers. Marchessault currently sits seven points away from tying his career-high point total of 51. This success has earned Marchessault a six-year, $30-million contract, or an average of $5-million annually.
Is Now, Now?
Like the wolves in sheep’s clothing that they are. The Vegas Golden Knights are not letting the critics determine their faith. They are humans and they want to belong in the conversation. Their play on the ice has proven that. The Knights are not a pretty team on paper, but they are doing what it takes. Vegas plays a hard and gritty game. Head coach Gerard Gallant has got the team playing with an edge. They do not play to their opponents, they make their opponents play to them. Everyone on the team is contributing. Most importantly, the Knights are playing as a team, not individuals. That is usually what happens with expansion teams. Credit head coach Gerard Gallant and his staff, along with GM George McPhee and the front office for building this mentality.
Stats and analytics cannot measure how important a team’s mentality and desire to win is to their success. Vegas, from the start, has been motivated to play hard and give it their all. They are the city’s escape from the tragic Vegas shooting that took place last October. They had something to play for from the start. When a team has something to play for, history will show, that team shares a certain amount of success. Nobody thought Vegas would be the top guns in the league halfway through the start of their first season, but then again nobody thought 15 years ago that Vegas would have an NHL hockey team. Everything happens for a reason. In retrospect, critics have to shut their mouths after saying Vegas was going about things the wrong way. The Knights are still an NHL team and they need to belong, one way or another.
As the sons and the heirs of criminal devotion to the game of hockey. The Vegas Golden Knights are now the new golden standard for expansion teams and 100-year-old NHL franchises. Whether the devil is at play or a higher power is at work, the fact still remains that the Golden Knights are first in the league standings and are bound to make the playoffs. Can they win it all or at least have a deep playoff run? Who is to say they cannot? They have proven everyone wrong so far. They are hockey’s version of the “Miracle Mets”. Obviously, they need a Stanley Cup to cement that. Luckily, for Vegas fans, nobody can say they are snorting angel dust anymore. Now is now. The Vegas Golden Knights are the real deal.