In this edition of Vegas Golden Knights News & Rumors, Robin Lehner dominated all the headlines this past week after calling out the NHL, the NHLPA, and multiple teams for a variety of reasons. In other news, Alex Pietrangelo was one of three players named to Team Canada for the 2022 Winter Olympics. A likely Olympic teammate of his in Mark Stone says he and his team are learning from last season after a shocking and upsetting elimination in the playoffs.
Lehner Goes on Twitter Tirade
On Saturday, Lehner went on a Twitter rampage, which started out with him calling out the Buffalo Sabres for the ongoing Jack Eichel saga, as well as how they treated an ankle injury the 30-year-old goaltender suffered while a member of their team.
While those comments alone had lots of people talking, Lehner was only getting started. Shortly after, he accused “many teams” of giving players pills such as Benzodiazepines and Ambien while they travel. He then called out Philadelphia Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault in what most assumed was in relation to distributing pills, but later clarified it was instead criticism of how he coaches his players.
Since opening up about his own battles with mental health and substance abuse, Lehner has been one of the biggest personalities in the NHL, and isn’t afraid to call things how he sees them. He has also done a ton to address culture issues in hockey, and is very encouraging of any struggling with mental health issues to speak out.
Due to how much attention his tweets got, the NHL had no choice but to get involved. They reached out to him to set up a meeting, one in which Lehner left feeling happy about.
“It brought everyone to the table,” he said. “The rest will be behind closed doors. It’s something I’ve been advocating for years and I’m encouraged by the approach they want to take.
“To build off that, I’ve tried many avenues to bring some change with some things I’ve gone through in my career and I don’t want to see anyone else [go through it] because I know how close it’s been for me, my family, my kids, close personal friends, teammates.”
While we will likely never know exactly what went on in that meeting, it is safe to believe Lehner when he says he was happy with the outcome. This is a player who doesn’t appear to bow down to anyone, and has zero issues in saying how he feels.
Pietrangelo to Suit up at Winter Olympics
As the Winter Olympics get closer and closer, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), NHL and the NHLPA requested teams give a list of three players who are guaranteed roster spots in the tournament. To no one’s surprise, Team Canada and St. Louis Blues general manager (GM) Doug Armstrong named both Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid to the team. The third player he named happened to be Pietrangelo.
Pietrangelo spent nearly a decade playing for Armstrong as a member of the St. Louis Blues. Though he chose to sign as a free agent with the Golden Knights last offseason, his former GM still holds a ton of respect for him.
“He’s a great 200-foot player,” Armstrong said when speaking on his decision. “He was paired as a shutdown player (in 2014 and 2016) and he did a great job at that, but he’s a 200-foot player and his game has evolved even since 2016. The last six years, to me, he’s just one of the top defenders in the league. … What you’re trying to do is build a team and we’ll start with 200-foot players and I think Petro’s a great example of that.”
Though Pietrangelo wasn’t quite his usual self in his first season with the Golden Knights, there is no denying he is still one of the best blueliners in the game. While some may argue he probably wasn’t deserving of being one of the three first players named to the team, it should surprise nobody that he is on the team.
Stone and Golden Knights Building off Last Season
Perhaps the most shocking series of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs came when the Montreal Canadiens knocked off the Golden Knights in a six game series. By all accounts, Vegas was the far more talented team, but as Stone acknowledged at the time, he and the other top players on his team failed to perform. He has since had time to digest what went wrong, and is hoping they will learn from it.
“You go through those ups and downs and you learn,” Stone said. “I think our team, not just personally, but as a team, is going to learn from all this stuff. … Everybody’s kind of learning how to handle that pressure and find a way to get over that hump.”
The Golden Knights will be very motivated heading into the 2021-22 season, which is a scary thought for the rest of the league. Since coming into the league in 2017-18, they have been one of the most dominant teams, and that was no different during the 2020-21 campaign as they finished with a record of 40-14-2.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Oil On Whyte, NHLtradetalk.com, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.