Oh hey look! It’s the new kid! The mouthy, over-hyped new kid, but because he has the nicest house and the latest video games and the best weed everyone’s going to go over there after school anyway. Yes, this Vegas team hasn’t really shut up since well before they expansion draft, but you’re going to get constant updates about their ticket sales and Twitter and FB are going to be filled with your fellow fans making the trip out to Vegas when their team is there. At least a group of sweaty hockey fans aren’t the worst group of people you can find yourself surrounded by in Vegas, but it’s close. Anyway, the chatter will do everything it can to distract you from the fact this team is something you’d dig out of the bathroom drain. And it’s probably going to be that way for a few years. Which it should.
Oh right… we can’t do previous year’s stats, because they didn’t exist. So we’ll just hop right into it.
Goalies: Y’know, I like Marc-Andre Fleury. He went from a Cup-winning star to having perhaps the biggest playoff meltdown we’ve seen from a goalie, to recovering from that strongly (though no one really noticed), to moving into the secondary role behind Matt Murray and then valiantly filling in during both Cup runs and never uttering a word about any of it. He punked the Caps in the second round last year, and then handed the reigns to Murray.
While we laughed at Fleury letting barely breathed-on beachballs by him in that series with the Flyers in 2012, he’s been solid since. Not great, but solid. .916-.915-.920-.921 the four years after that before a dip last year as a full-time backup. Again, not a star but pretty solid. Pretty solid isn’t going to cut it for this group of out of work rodeo clowns called the Golden Knights, however. He’s going to see a ton of shots and five-star chances, and a merely ok save-percentage is still going to mean an avalanche of goals.
He’s going to be backed up by Calvin Pickard, who is probably asking himself what the fuck kind of god would allow anyone to go to a team worse than the Avalanche were last year from the Avalanche. But you’ve done it Calvin! Bully! God has forsaken you along with the rest of us!
Defense: Are you wearing goggles? Make sure you do before you look at the skaters for this team. Jason Garrison is apparently going to be on the top pairing. Ever since the ’15 Final, and actually before it, we’ve gone hoarse trying to tell everyone how much Garrison sucks. He’s got a big shot and that’s it. He can’t move, he doesn’t know what positioning means, and his physicality doesn’t matter when he can’t get there any quicker than 10 seconds after the puck is gone. He might be paired with Shea Theodore, who was one of like 12 promising young d-men the Ducks had and this was the one they were happy to let go.
Elsewhere, Nate Schmidt will be patrolling the second pairing. He deserves better, and if the Hawks need a puck-mover at the deadline they should really be looking here. Sadly, Schmidt might already be cutting himself to feel anything having to drag around Deryk Engelland around all season, as he might be the worst player in the NHL. It’s close. There was a time when The Royal Half tried to convince us that Brayden McNabb was going to alter the look of the Kings’ blue line for a decade. Now he’s on the third pairing for an expansion team, and I’m sure the Vegas nightlife won’t make him even more immobile than he was in L.A. Luca Sbisa and Clayton Stoner are also here, because they have to be somewhere I guess. They’re trying to claim Griffin Reinhart has looked good in camp. One, we’ve been waiting for Ol’ Griff for like five years. Two, both the Islanders and Oilers, two teams desperate for young d-men who can do anything above remain ambulatory were all, “Nah, we’re good,” on Reinhart. So sell that shit somewhere else.
Forwards: Well, the top line will be winged by the evidence that Dale Tallon has lost his goddamn mind, as both Reilly Smith and Jesse Marchessault really should be in Sunrise still. They’ll be centered by star prospect Vadim Shipachyov, who lit it up in the K with the admittedly stacked SKA. He’ll probably be looking for Kovalchuk in a hurry and wondering why this isn’t as easy as it was there.
After that….oh dear lord. Erik Haula and James Neal look to be on the second line. As we in Chicago know all too well, Haula is an excellent toy to have on your fourth line. If you’re counting on him for scoring, you’re an unfortunate hockey team. One of my favorites, The Ginger Ninja Cody Eakin looks to center the third, where he’ll have to look on frustratingly as David Perron skates himself into a puddle, punches someone in the back of the head while they’re being held by two linesmen, and then misses a quarter of the season or more when one of his cardboard pieces falls off of him.
Hey, I bet you’re wondering which former Red Wings prospect that the national media couldn’t wait to tell us how expertly developed he was by being kept in the AHL until he was truly ready, when actually it turned out he just couldn’t hack in in the NHL because Ken Holland is a dope, is here. You’re in luck, it’s Teemu Pulkkinen. Remember when Stefan Matteau was going to be a thing? He’ll be skating in Rosemont if you need.
Outlook: Gonna be ugly. They at least caught something of a break in that it’s not the toughest division in the NHL. The Yotes aren’t quite ready, the Canucks blow, and the Sharks and Kings appear to be in a transitional phase. If they’d ended up in the Central they might not have cracked 45 points. There’ll be stories about their first goal-scorer, and their initial attendance, and one of these guys is going to pop for 25 goals because someone has to score. But they’re going to be awful. Like, really bad. Because Fleury is just good, and this team needs a miracle-worker in net just to stay competitive most games where they might goof a point. Fleury isn’t that most nights.
But hey, the steakhouse at MGM isn’t too far away.
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