There are no forced smiles from anyone associated with the Vegas Golden Knights despite going 1-5 on a recent six-game East Coast road trip.
Offensively, the team has played well, but too many defensive lapses have turned tight, close games into frustrating losses. Injuries have led to inconsistent play between the pipes, putting a spotlight on the Golden Knights’ on-ice flaws. Still, they have secured enough collateral with the fans to keep emotions calm during this rough stretch in the schedule.
The number of injuries sustained by the team’s netminders has been downright baffling. I mean, how many NHL franchises do you know that have employed four goaltenders in the first 10 games of the season. I’m guessing not too many, and if you do then we’re probably talking about what a dismissal year they had. It’s amazing that the Knights have been able to tread water while the sharks are encircling them.
The Knights’ Revolving Goaltender Door
One of the big stories in the opening week of the season was the rejuvenated play of Marc-Andre Fleury, as the ageing superstar’s performance level went well beyond preseason expectations. His contributions led the Knights to the best start ever by a first-year expansion franchise.
The rebirth of Fleury’s career was short-lived, as the netminder has been out of the lineup since sustaining a concussion against the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 13. Now, the Knights’ front office is scrambling to find a suitable replacement because the position has been decimated by an unbelievable amount of injuries.
After Fleury’s injury, primary backup goalie Malcolm Subban started three games before he was sidelined due to a lower-body injury. Minor league call-up Oscar Dansk received his 15 minutes of fame before exiting stage left due to a leg injury in the first game of the East Coast road trip. This has forced Vegas to make the call for two unlikely candidates, Maxime Lagace and Ryan Ferguson, to man the crease in the interim.
Lagace is experiencing his first taste of the NHL after languishing in the minors, while Ferguson looks young because he is young. Knights coach Gerard Gallant’s main objective is to use Ferguson only in an emergency, and send him back to the juniors with a valuable lesson in understanding the mentality needed to compete in the NHL.
Golden Knight Fans Patience Will Be Tested
We have all heard the old sports axiom that “injuries provide opportunities for others,” and certainly the Golden Knights’ depth chart in goal has been challenged. It could turn out to be a blessing because their young netminders have gained valuable NHL experience, while the front office has been given another opportunity to reevaluate their players and decide if an upgrade is needed.
Could other reinforcements be brought into the mix? Possibly, especially if Fleury and Subban are ruled out of the lineup for an extended period of time, but nothing in the nature of a franchise-changing acquisition. Patience will be needed to weather this storm.
Rash decisions must be avoided at all cost because the threat of giving away promising young talent for a short-term solution is too risky. It’s wiser to take your lumps now and build a hockey team that contends for many years to come rather than mortgaging your future for a brief moment of fame.
Fond memories are great in the chase, but if no hardware has been gained then the effort is lost. The Golden Knights have too good a foundation being developed in the minors to be thrown away for a playoff berth that ends too soon. The risk isn’t worth the reward at this time.
Thomas Conroy covers the Vegas Golden Knights for The Hockey Writers Network He has been writing about sports since 2007, first as a contributor for Bleacher Report and Football Nation. Recently, Conroy was a co-editor for the Bolts Beat website on Fansided. To read more his work, please him on Twitter @tsconroy