The Defensive Liability Perspective
With Las Vegas inaugural season come and gone, setting NHL history and possibilities for any new expansion team we look ahead to next season and the burning question…. Can they repeat? Short answer is not a chance. Vegas in the first season in the NHL shocked the world finishing on top of the Pacific Divison with a record of 51-24-7 an amazing accomplishment by an expansion team even with 3 goalies going down. Let's take a look at some of the factors which will lead to a fallen knight.
Let's start off with the division itself; yes they have Coyotes and Canucks where for the next few years we won't be seeing them out of the basement of the division for some easy points. That being said Edmonton and Calgary who finished 5thand 6thin the division are looking for a solid bounce back year after underperforming greatly and with Calgary's recent addition of former knight, James Neal the Flames have added to what should be a great forward group on top of Calgary's already solid blue line. California team will always be a very strong opponent in the Pacific division with newly acquired Russian sniper Ilya Kovalchuk joining the LA kings, we should see a much faster and better LA Kings team.
During the off season, there was a few losses for Vegas losing James Neal (25G,19A) and David Perron (16G,50A). With their departure in the Knights lineup there will be a solid gap that would need to be filled with 2 of the top 6 forwards going. Vegas has locked up starting goal ender Fleury that will bring stability to the crease signing at 3 year extension for $21 million BUT that's if he doesn't get hurt again and plays that high level of skill again. The knights D core is for the most part unchanged which some games they were on fire and some games they looked like a pylons.
Can Vegas overcome the scoring depth loss? Will the Pacific be to much for the Knights to handle? All these questions will be answered in due time, for now we can only speculate as they have proved everyone wrong last year. Personally I don't think it's possible for them to repeat. Towards the end of the season they came back to reality a bit but spiked again in the playoffs. I think the Pacific will look a lot better next year, they won't be as lucky with the goals off turn overs and teams have now had time to watch game tape on the knights which they had an advantage last year of being a new team. Vegas won't bottom out but they will be fighting for that last wildcard spot in the western conference.