Sin City has finally brought in a major sports team. After announcing that the Oakland Raiders were bringing their NFL organization to Vegas, the announcement of an expansion NHL team brought life to The Strip. A city that has thrived on tourism and gambling brought a whole new attraction to its streets. Then, a crazy thing happened. Vegas’ front office intelligently picked their team from the pool of available players. They built a stout defense. The team brought in a proven goaltender in Marc-Andre Fleury. Finally, the team built an offense of older, established players.
Follow that up with the beginning of the NHL season. Through the first quarter of the campaign, the Vegas Golden Knights have pulled off an amazing feat – they are leading their division with 31 points on 15 wins and an overtime loss. They have outdone most of the outside expectations of the team.
Inside the locker room, though, the team knew it could do this. Fleury said he wanted to win and wanted to win now. In combination with this, the team has lost 2 games on home ice to date. Now that the Knights are rolling, they have momentum. But can they keep the “luck” that some are claiming they have?
Losing Big on Home Ice- Sign of Things to Come?
In their most recent game, the Golden Knights fell to the Dallas Stars 3-0 in T-Mobile Arena. This marked only the second time in 11 home games that the team had failed to defend its home ice. Back in October, the Detroit Red Wings flew out to Vegas and lit up the Golden Knights in the third period, ending their three-game season-opening win streak by a 6-3 score. Through the first two periods, Vegas had established a one-goal lead before allowing four goals in the final frame.
Tuesday night brought the second loss to T-Mobile Arena, as the Stars got their revenge on Vegas. The Golden Knights had scored an improbable goal late in the third period to beat Dallas on its home ice in the season opener on Oct. 6, but the Stars would not need such luck. Instead, they came onto the ice with a mission and completed that mission spectacularly. While this could be a sign that the luck has swung away from Vegas, it seems unlikely. Instead, it was simply a mere blip, an outlier amongst other games where the team proved its worth.
Luca Sbisa Returns
One of the stars of the team’s tremendous defense this year has returned to practice. Luca Sbisa has been out of commission for a while but is close to returning. According to the team, Sbisa is traveling to the game against Minnesota and should be back in action soon. His presence has been missed by the team, though they have made due in his absence. As an alternate captain for the Golden Knights, he is a labeled leader and someone that can bolster the defense.
His return also means the return of some good stats. Through this point in the season, Sbisa has played 16 games. In those 16 games, he has one goal, nine takeaways, 23 hits, and 30 blocked shots. Sbisa traveling with the team gives him the opportunity to play during their two-game road trip. Sbisa is a dynamic defender and has proven that, when necessary, he can make himself useful in the offensive attack.
Losing Off-Ice Appeal?
One of the teams strongest appeals is its Twitter handle. The social media presence for the team has been one of the most appealing draws to new fans. One scroll through their page will tell you why – the tweets put out by the team are nontraditional, a blend of information and entertainment. This combination allows for engaging reads and updates on the newest NHL squad.
Part of being new to the NHL is being new to visiting all of the arenas in this league. So we need some help with this.
Why is there a lighthouse here in Minnesota? pic.twitter.com/XYd8tFuXBd
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) November 30, 2017
For an example, over the last 24 hours, the Golden Knights Twitter account has enjoyably chronicled the journey to Minnesota. From saying that the team was loading up the plane, but that everyone knows what a plane looks like to landing in a snow-less Minnesota, they are all over it. However, some on Twitter are not as into the Golden Knights account as they may have been at the beginning.
Despite the backlash from other team’s fans, the Twitter game in Vegas is still going strong. It is doubtful that jealous fans from other teams will ever slow down the Golden Knights’ social media team. They are trendy, they want to make their team likable, and they are doing a fantastic job. The marketing of the new team, in addition to the team’s on-ice success, has truly been remarkable for a team that is just now breaking onto the scene.
Making Long-Term Moves
The question that lingers for everyone involved in hockey is this – are the Golden Knights for real? Time will only tell. However, the team is starting to make moves to ensure that the team will contend for more than the first quarter of their inaugural season. They have begun signing players to long-term deals. One such player is Brayden McNabb.
McNabb is the first player to garner an extension, but more players will be falling in line shortly. The team is sure to be vetting its players like any other team, while also essentially allowing them to “play for extensions”. Vegas can watch as they discover which of their players form the most cohesive lines and establish significant chemistry. It is conceivable that players like Sbisa, James Neal, Maxime Lagace, and William Karlsson are next on the team’s extension radar.
The team’s prowess in running a winning program is already sticking out. They drafted some of the best defenders possible from the expansion draft. They went out and built the team around a goalie. They found stars from other teams that may have been considered “past their prime” but are now shining again. Whatever the case may be, Vegas has established itself as a team that is ready to stay relevant from Day One and will continue staying relevant for years to come. New fans and established hockey blood can only hope that is the case.
Eric Hall has been an avid sports fan for as long as he can remember. Growing up in Ohio, he learned about hockey through heated college games between Ohio State and Michigan. His NHL love was universal, and to avoid becoming a bandwagon fan, his allegiance fell to the newest expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights.