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Are the Golden Knights Serious Contenders?

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Are the Golden Knights Serious Contenders?

The Las Vegas Golden Knights currently sit at the top of the NHL's Western Conference. (Photo Courtesy of Twitter)

The Las Vegas Golden Knights currently sit at the top of the NHL's Western Conference. (Photo Courtesy of Twitter)

The Las Vegas Golden Knights currently sit at the top of the NHL's Western Conference. (Photo Courtesy of Twitter)

The Las Vegas Golden Knights currently sit at the top of the NHL's Western Conference. (Photo Courtesy of Twitter)


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by Peter Valentino

The Las Vegas Golden Knights currently sit at the top of the NHL’s Western Conference. (Photo Courtesy of Twitter)

When the Vegas expansion bid was approved in June of 2016, the universal opinion among fans was that it was another wasted money-grab by Gary Bettman. The team was seen as another Arizona Coyotes, a southern hockey team hemorrhaging money because it was a poorly run team in a terrible market. This was the first professional franchise in Las Vegas, so there was no proof that sports would do well there. The Raiders announced their impending move to Las Vegas in 2020.

The team was going to have to obtain a foothold in a weak market before a historic football team moved to town. The team’s expansion draft in June had some steals, but overall, the team was expected to just get their footing in the league first. While some were happy to see a new team in the league, the outlook on the team’s inaugural season was bleak.

Well, guess what? At the All-Star Break in 2018, the Vegas Golden Knights have the best record in the Western Conference, have played the fewest number of games in the league and have captured the attention of fans in southern Nevada along with the rest of the country. The team comes out fast, attacks early and somehow has incredible depth.

Las Vegas has rotated through five goaltenders this year due to injuries, but still seems to keep winning. The Knights have perfectly mixed no-name young underachievers like William Karlsson and Reilly Smith with veteran players such as James Neal and Marc-Andre Fleury. There’s also a bit of sick poetry to this team, too. Head Coach Gerard Gallant was fired on a road trip by the Florida Panthers, and was forced to take a taxi and a separate flight back to his home. When he was named Vegas’ head coach, Gallant cherry-picked Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith from his former employers and used them both as intricate parts of his hockey machine. The success of this team is unprecedented, unimaginable and unlikely, but it is also incredibly respectable.

This team’s style of hockey is like the 1970’s Soviet Union, relentlessly attacking with every player performing to the best of its abilities, and the Knights are only going to get better with all of the draft picks they have stockpiled. This team will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.

With this team leading the West, how realistic is a cup run? What seemed blasphemous in October might become a reality in June. As mentioned earlier, this team has the veteran presence in Fleury and Neal to be able to lead a young team to the cup. I see this team possibly getting bounced in the first round, too, because of its overall lack of team playoff experience. I think that out of the Pacific, the Sharks could come out to represent the division in the Western Conference.

There is still half a season to go in order for the league to figure itself out, as well as a trade deadline to get through. Vegas probably should be active at the deadline with all of the picks and assets they have. Regardless, the start of the Vegas franchise has been nothing short of a success. The team is not only primed for a playoff run, but primed for a great next few years and a solid spot in the Vegas market.

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Are the Golden Knights Serious Contenders?