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Photo Credit: NHL.com

WWYDW: The… Vegas Model?

Somehow, someway, the Vegas Golden Knights are in the Stanley Cup final. They have a 12-3 record in the playoffs, serving as an exclamation point on the 51-24-7 mark they set in the season.

Nobody (not even Petbugs), saw this coming. Not a damn soul. Even the Vegas Golden Knights thought they were two or three seasons off from the post-season, and four-to-five from taking a real run at the ultimate prize.

There’s been a lot of post-hoc rationalizing in all corners of the hockey world, regardless. A lot of it serves as useless navel-gazing. Every now and then, though, you find a couple of pieces that look to explore underlying reasons for the Knights success with honest, thorough analysis to see what everyone might’ve missed. This piece from CanucksArmy’s Ryan Biech does a great job of that; so too does this one by The Athletic Vancouver’s Jason Brough.

So, you’re not going to impress anyone by saying you saw this coming. You’ll just look like a giant ass. Instead, what do you think is a useful lesson that one might learn from then, with the benefit of hindsight. What would you do, if given the opportunity to pick a lesson from the success of the Golden Knights inaugural season?

Last time I did this I asked: Where does Baertschi fit with the Canucks? Is he somebody who’s going to be around with the team when they’re ready to compete? Has he done anything to prove he’s worth more than a one- or two-year contract? Is he better off being used as a trade chip?

West Coast Hockey Fan:

Edmonton wants to win now… Edmonton needs a winger … Edmonton needs a right d… Edmonton needs cap space… Edmonton makes great trades (ex. Hall and Eberle)…

hmm Vancouver has a winger (Baertschi)… Vancouver has a right d (Tanev)… Vancouver has cap space and could retain salary…. Vancouver should know they are not going to win soon…

What am I missing?

SJ:

I’d listen to offers for him, but prefer to keep him. If the offers don’t blow you away, use what leverage you have (injury history, etc.) to sign him to the best contract you can in 3-4 year range. He’ll probably prove to be worth the contract, but either way it’ll be expiring at or just after you have to pay Pettersson.

Killer Marmot:

Keep him.

Baertschi is a favourite recommendation for trades, yet I don’t see why. He’s a young defensively sound middle-six left-winger who can produce perhaps 50 points a season when he’s healthy. Those guys don’t grow on trees.

Nor are the Canucks overrun with left wingers, even assuming that this is where Petterson will play. Eriksson can move to the right side on those rare occasions when all the LW are healthy.

apr:

One of the most frustrating things in this market, and fueled by the writers on this site (a free site that I visit often) is the notion of unwanted Canucks players (Sutter, Gubrandson, Vanek, Granlund, Baertschi, etc..) will fetch a premium asset.

The “late first rounder” or early 2nd for Baertschi is prime example. What cap strapped playoff team want to give up a first for a guys who has not scored 20 goals and is looking for $3 mil a year? Or a non playoff team wanting Baertschi to block one of their prospects? Is there one? Maybe, hopefully. But the reality is that there is not a huge market for Baertschi; and by all accounts, teams are willing to wait out Benning (as in Vanek) and give him peanuts because they know this market demands so so much more.

Rodeobill:

Not only with Baerschi, but anyone who can be utilized towards making this team a legitimate contender looking forward by getting more than they are worth to that end should be considered! The age gap disparity, along with all other details are a secondary consideration to be looked at once the core of a real contending team is in place. Watching these playoffs I realized, almost every team has at least one player that stands out as a game changer, or elite. Even the bottom teams this year have a McD, a Karlsson, etc. (sorry, yotes). We have MAYBE Boeser, and unproven hopes for EP. So, yeah. If we can get a greater value back, then do it! If we can get a greater value back from trading Horvat, do it! Plugging holes in the dam is futile. All focus should be firstly on getting prospects and drafting a core that looks like they can do it, and icing a team ‘in the meantime’ a secondary consideration to that.

truthseeker:

To me Baertschi is in a weird no mans land in terms of his value. He’s probably not even an after thought to GM’s in the league. Yet he’s done fairly well here. It’s a product of his position being of such low value and the fact that there are a ton of wingers who do what he does. He’s just another NHL winger that nobody outside of Vancouver even thinks about. Like say….Brock McGinn. Yeah…exactly….who’s that. He’s a 30 point winger for the Canes. whoopty doo right?

So the idea that Sven will bring back a first rounder is just dream land. But not because he’s not performing. Maybe technically he is worth that. But he plays the least valuable position outside of backup goalie, in hockey. He’s just another winger.

In my opinion his value is higher to the canucks on the ice than anything he will ever bring back, including the garbage odds of a second round pick or lower who will only have a roughly 35% chance of ever even making it to 100 games in the NHL. Sven’s already blown that kind of production out of the water.

So basically just sign the guy to a year or two and keep doing what they are doing. Give him opportunity and hopefully he either blossoms into an even better player we want to keep, or into a trade chip that will bring something of real value back. Or he breaks and is just another canucks footnote.



  • truthseeker

    Personally I think that the message is, players buying in wholeheartedly to a coach with a good system, is far far more important than any other current factor, in creating a winner.

  • Killer Marmot

    It’s great to have stars like McDavid, but depth might be more important. The ability to play 60 minutes of quality hockey without giving your opponent a break from the pressure can be awfully successful.

    • truthseeker

      yep that too. It’s why I want the canucks to be a bit brutal when it comes to contracts. Dictate terms to guys like Boeser and Pettersson when contract time comes around. Sign them long term but force them to sign for 6 or 7 million. Then when they are about to hit free agency trade them for a ton of young talent/picks. Keep the cycle going. Rewarding loyalty is great and all, but then you end up like the Hawks. Until the salary cap goes away, sentimentality can’t be a factor. Unfortunately I don’t think Benning is that type. Nor are most “hockey guys”.

      • TD

        I agree with cycling players out in their prime if the team has prospects ready to fill their spots. Too many teams including the Gillis Canucks kept half the team together and signed them to long awful contracts. Gillis should have traded Raymond in his prime instead of Grabner. Grabner was the same type of player , but was younger and on a better contract. The trade value for Raymond would have brought back a better return than Gillis got for Grabner.

        But you can’t play too much hardball with your stars before they look to leave. You can’t pay too much, but the market is generally set for players and the agents know it.

        • truthseeker

          That’s the point of cycling though. You sell your young stars at a premium. Can you imagine the market for Boeser when he’s 25 or 26? Even trading him in his 27 year old year would bring back a major haul (if he’s what we think he will be).

          The Gillis NTC model was one way to do it, and the “sign a couple 10 million superstars” is another way, if you have them, but both of those methods will eventually lead to a crash and some down time.

          And sure you can play hardball. What are they going to do? If they sit out you do an Yzerman and let them. Once they start missing some NHL paychecks they’ll start playing. And I’m not saying you have to be disrespectful to the players. You lay it out clearly for them. “Our organization will not pay you a max contract while we have you under contract control. Sorry, but we want the team to be as competitive and deep as possible so our max contract will be 7 million per season for only the absolute best players. When you approach free agency we will trade you to another team and you can decide to resign with them or test the market for maximum value. This is how we run our organization to give you the best possible chance of winning the stanley cup.”

          They’ll play. And they’ll play hard because they will be chasing their free agent dollars when the time comes. Maybe they won’t have the most positive opinion of the organization but so what. I love the twins and what they did for the canucks, city etc….but if we want to be consistently competitive while there is a cap I don’t believe there is a place for sentimentality. Or, if you choose sentimentality, like almost all teams do…then you will have to expect losing seasons during transitions.

          • crofton

            You make it sound like Henrik and Daniel held Vancouver to ransom on their last contract. It was, in fact, a “home town discount” contract, a loyalty to the team that drafted them contract, with no acrimony from them or threats to sit them from management.

          • truthseeker

            No…I didn’t make it sound like that at all. The point was that while I loved the fact the Sedins played their entire career here and had the retirement they did, in the future, those issues should be at the bottom of the priority list when it comes to resigning a player.

            For example if Boeser is a great player and does great community work etc…and even if the canucks are at the top of the standings with shots at the cup, when he’s about to hit free agency you trade him. Simple as that. Maximizing the value of an asset. If you keep him for what will certainly be a max term contract, then you will have him when he is in decline at a dollar amount that’s too high. That’s a mistake in my opinion.

  • apr

    I don’t think anyone looks at the Bad News bear as a model championship Little League team, with an alcoholic coach, a girl pitcher, and a band of misfits. But they made it work. There are so many elements to this Vegas team that cannot be replicated; cripes, Sbisa is wearing a letter. Imagine Sbisa wearing a letter in Van. Imagine the field day the local media would have with Benning conspiracy theories. From Florida giving them their first line, to Minni giving them their fourth line; to the super dumb moves that Columbus made – its been a litany of a lot of things going quite well. Good on them; I hope they win. That said, it would be pretty hard to accept Seattle being a better team than the Nucks in their first year.

    • Neither has Washington (2004), St. Louis (2006), Tampa Bay (2008), New York Islanders (2009), Edmonton (2010, 2011,2012, 2015), Colorado (2013), Florida (2014), Toronto (2016), or New Jersey (2017) with their recent #1 overall draft picks.

      • And yet Pittsburgh, Chicago, and LA, stacked with top picks, have all won multiple times.

        No one has ever argued that tanking is the only way to build a contender, or that tanking guarantees a cup. The argument is merely that it’s the most efficient way of accumulating the high-end talent necessary to compete for a cup.

  • There are two things to take away from Vegas:

    1. There are lots of talented players in the NHL who, for one reason or another, haven’t been put in a position to succeed and are thus undervalued. Vegas has a good collection of both old school and new school minds in their front office who were able to effectively identify these players and give them opportunities to shine. The Canucks have attempted to do this since Benning took over, too, but haven’t been nearly as effective at identifying these players. They need a boost to their pro scouting department.

    2. You can accomplish anything when you have a starting goalie who posts a .950 save %, including a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals with a motley crew of castoffs.

    • liqueur des fenetres

      Re: point 1, blame the salary cap, as it forces teams to make big bets on guys they drafted so as not to lose them while overpaying to bring in new talent. And then management won’t deviate from the structure — we’ve all seen farmhands get 4th line duty when they’re better suited to offensive roles.

      What frustrates the most about NHL coaching is that night after night the same roster takes the ice, allocated the same way until a losing streak forces some sort of shuffle. It would make far more sense to let the younger players have an expanded role and more ice time when up against bottom feeders, but field the A formation in the games that matter.

      • I understand coaches being risk-averse before Christmas, and after Christmas if they’re a playoff bubble team, but by February when the standings have shaken out and most teams know if they’re in or out, I don’t really get why coaches don’t get experimental and take some risks – maybe you lose a couple games and home ice advantage, and maybe you discover a player who is able to elevate his game or a new way of doing things that elevates your team as a whole.

      • DJ_44

        What frustrates the most about NHL coaching is that night after night the same roster takes the ice, allocated the same way until a losing streak forces some sort of shuffle. It would make far more sense to let the younger players have an expanded role and more ice time when up against bottom feeders, but field the A formation in the games that matter.

        I think this has little to do with coaching. It is with NHL roster sizes. If you are running an 13-8-2, or even 14-7-2 roster, how much shuffling do you expect? Waiver considerations etc have more of an implication then coaching.
        Vegas was caught in a similar situation forcing Theodore down to the minors to protect assets.

  • wojohowitz

    The Swiss were outshot by the Canadian team 18-1 in the third period and still beat them by playing the same way that Vegas plays. Goaltending, clearing rebounds, clogging the shooting lanes and limiting high percentage scoring attempts. Only a coach that can adjust strategy will beat them.

  • argoleas

    First observation: Do the VGKs have a #1 Dman? I do not see one. Just looks like good 6 Dmen that fit into the system. Maybe one should stop obsessing over needing a Karlsson or Doughty. Maybe having 6 2nd paring Dmen (and I cringe when I put Sbisa in that category) is better than having one superstar and then suckage. Not saying having a Karlsson or Doughty is not important. But for $12M, which is what they will command in 2019?

    Second observation: Does this team have a 3rd and 4th line? They seem to have 3 2nd lines and a 1st line (courtesy of Florida and Columbus). Speed and skill are prioritized. Tip of the hat to mgmt’s expansion draft team.

    Third observation: Having a superstar goalie that is a proven SC winner helps. Always.

    Fourth observation: Gallant works with the roster he has, not the one he wished he had. He adapted. He gave opportunity.

    Final observation: Cap Hell. Lots of players seem to be overperforming, and VGK may start to overpay. Expansion drafts allowed VGKs to pick contracts, but now contracts will pick them. Let’s see where they are in a few years. Huge challenge to mgmt to not make mistakes that EVERY GM has made. Looking at you, William Karlsson!!

    • Super Pest

      Excellent points. I suspect that this is the year for them. Otherwise, back to their original timeline. Big decisions to be made with UFAs and RFAs. Will the fire in the belly still be there next year to prove the previous team made a mistake?

    • Rodeobill

      and to add to that, having a fanbase/media and situation with zero expectations. Without that kind of pressure coaching, MGMT, and players have a lot of leeway to experiment and play with different ideas, be creative, focus on playing the game rather than thinking how to respond when they get nailed to a cross after having a bad game. Everyone started expecting them to be bad already, hell, they would be heroes for making the playoffs this year, now they made the finals! Its easy to put more of your limited attention span and focus on the game when its not divided by worrying about wagging shame fingers every decision you make.

    • kermit

      All of this, plus they have had the good fortune of playing in the Pacific Division at a time when the three California teams are in decline and the other teams are either stuck in the mud at the bottom or rebuilding. This may be more of an advantage in the playoffs, with the current NHL bracket system, than it was during the regular season. Winnipeg and Washington have been forced to take a much tougher road through the playoffs.

  • TheRealPB

    The first lesson I’d take is to stick to your own guns and not try and remake yourself in someone else’s image. It would be as problematic to emphasize only speed and skill or building out from the goaltender or D as if we took up the “Boston” or “LA” heavy model. As someone else said, what the Las Vegas model shows more than anything else is that there are a lot of NHL players who don’t get a decent shot on their own teams and a real shot to succeed on an expansion team. Brian Bradley scored 86 and 79 points with an expansion TBL team; Scott Walker became a mainstay with NASH. It’s just that the Las Vegas team had the deck stacked for them and got way more of a shot at underutilized players than any other team has had before. It thus makes any real lessons from them not possible for an existing franchise.

  • Ken Priestlay Fan

    2 lessons:

    1. That if you’re gonna do expansion, having expansion rules that produce a competitive team are the best thing for the sport.

    2. That a roster comprised entirely of decent players is more than a match for a ‘traditionally’ constructed roster of a few stars, a few good players and then whatever supporting cast can be scraped together under the cap

    • Nuck16

      I’m not convinced this is good for the sport. In some ways it kind of cheapens The Cup. I agree, the draft rules should produce a somewhat competitive team, so they don’t suck to watch and they are not getting high draft picks for the next 5 years…but they should also not be instantly taking cups away from teams that have been building for years to compete for a cup. If Vegas does start to regress, what will their fans think…they’ll be spoiled so they might lose interest.
      Bettman said Seattle will have the same draft rules but what would you expect…to say anything else imply he may have made a mistake, which Bettman would never do. Look how stubborn he was trying to keep the Coyotes in Arizona.

    • wojohowitz

      Sbiza is a good example. He`s not a regular but he does fit in, much like Yannick Weber in Nashville getting a new contract. Then there`s Anders Nilsson looking like he`s unbeatable. So why do these three look better when they are not Canucks than when they were or are?

      • DJ_44

        Sbisa played very well in Vancouver, especially the last season and a half. Bloggers, media, and the twitterati had it out for him, but he was a solid top 4 guy. The exact same role he plays in Vegas except with a “A” on his jersey on a much older and experienced team. Media and some fans have favourites that can do no wrong, its the coaches fault, it other players fault…anyone but the players; other that are actually solid get labelled and ridiculed.

        Sutter would fit in seamlessly in Vegas and Gallant would play him lots. But here? Apparently overpaid and poor corsi is all that needs to be said.

        • truthseeker

          He played well at the end but not that first season. It was pretty ugly watching him at times. But yeah he did a great job turning it around.

          Still, it’s like Bonino. That guy sucked majorly with the canucks. Honestly I don’t remember a canuck that floated around as much as that guy did. Maybe Krutov? At least that guy was deadly on break aways though. I couldn’t stand watching Bonino. He was just awful. Goes to a deep team, gets put in a low pressure role with no expectations and finds something that works for him. Still doesn’t mean he’d now be a good addition to the canucks. Just like I wouldn’t really want Sbisa back all things being equal.

  • truthseeker

    Way to go Caps. I love it. A cup final with two teams that are nowhere near the top of the league in possession. (The Caps right near the bottom) Fancy stat guys must be pulling their hair out….lol. Not that I think this is proof of possession not being that important. The lack of correlation between possession numbers and standings is enough for that anyway. But still…It’s kind of fun to rub it in.

    Kind of torn….want to see Vegas win it cause of the story, want to see Ovi win it just because he deserves it. The looks on his face as the time ticked down were awesome.

  • Nuck16

    Every player on their roster is trying to prove their former team blew it by not protecting them in the expansion draft…with Fleury leading the way in that regard. For whatever reason, proving someone wrong that slights you is a very powerful motivating force. That force will not exist next year to the same degree so it will be interesting to see if they fall to the bottom…

    • LiborPolasek

      Ditto, McPhee a veteran GM in the NHL shrewdly took advantage of both the expansion and cap rules. Hockey is a game were a goalies’ perfomance matters the most and Vegas in my opinion is benefitting from the leadership and play of a championship goalie in Fleury.

  • DJ_44

    For the quality of player that could command Max value,you can attempt to low-ball them on their first non ELC contract… One year, or two years…… The bridge… And that is only if they do not have arbitration rights. If they are elite… You will pay the arbitration award or lose them for nothing.
    The player if extremely disgruntled, could easily lower his trade value by stating he will not sign with any team that acquires him.