The hockey world was on pins and needles all day Wednesday, waiting to see what 30, or more, players the Vegas Golden Knights would end up with in the expansion draft.
Throughout the day leaks of who had been selected, or what side deals were being made trickled in on Twitter and by the time the picks and trades were “official” revealed we knew roughly 75 percent of what Vegas selected.
Now, I know that this is not the final roster that will take the ice come October, and by the time I hit publish on this they probably will have made another handful of trades involving the players they did draft, but it really feels like Vegas left a lot of talent on the table.
If you haven’t seen it yet, here are all of the Vegas picks and deals from yesterday, courtesy of NHL.com.
And to be honest, it really feels like it could have, and probably should have been better.
Sure they grabbed a handful of legit NHL players, most notably in net with the selection of Marc-Andre Fleury, and then a few legit goal scorers in Jonathan Marchessault and James Neal, and really, they probably have the most depth on defense. Not really big stars there, but a lot of guys who either have potential or can step in and be solid for them from the start.
But again, they likely won’t have many of these guys around, particularly Neal, who I would be shocked if he makes it to Friday with Vegas. They’re hoping to flip more of these guys to get more picks and more prospects.
It also feels like the goalies could have been so much better and deeper than what they ended up with. Sure Fleury is you clear-cut No. 1, and face of the franchise, and Calvin Pickard at times flashed signs that he could be a starter, even on a bad Colorado team, but beyond that is a guy who couldn’t get playing time on the Islanders.
Then look at the guys the passed up: Petr Mrazek, Philipp Grubauer, Antti Raanta, Louis Domingue. All guys who were more proven than Pickard and not that expensive. Even if they had no plans of actually playing them, those are valuable guys who could have netted a return in a league that always wants goalies.
Oh, and if you’re wondering why, it’s because NHL GMs are a bunch of gutless cowards who do all they can to help each other out, and don’t want to risk anyone getting their feelings hurt. Looks at this shit:
These are grown men who are supposed to be competing against each other pic.twitter.com/j7D2w1Zz2G
— DTM About Heart (@DTMAboutHeart) June 21, 2017
Basically, Vegas could have had a very strong team in the first year…but their GM didn’t want to hurt the other team’s GMs. What a bunch of bull.
Part of me understands this thinking, sort of starting off like the Philadelphia 76ers and tanking to get high draft picks, and lots of them of them via trade, but part of me also would have loved to have seen the team go all-in in year one and ice a competitive team.
To be clear, this will probably be the most successful expansion team in NHL history, but they are still going to be bad. We’re talking, Colorado last season bad.
But one thing Vegas did do well, kind of, and again this ties back to the tanking and trying to load up via the draft, is turn their not picking certain players into picks. Here is all of their draft picks for the next three seasons, subject to change as more trades roll in.
Not bad. pic.twitter.com/pBY3LpAE7w
— Mike Hannah (@MikeHannah_) June 22, 2017
If that’s hard to see, they have a whopping 12 picks in this year’s draft, including three first-round picks, five more than the usual total of seven. They have just six in 2018 for now, and then they have 10 in 2019, so at the moment they are up seven picks, which again could grow in the coming weeks.
Again, I get that early on they aren’t landing a big-name free agent, and the best and fastest way to get a star is through the draft, but you would think that early on they want to try to ice a somewhat competitive team to keep fans interested, especially in a very unproven hockey market.
And that doesn’t even take into account that the draft is a crapshoot, and you never know what you’re going to get. Granted, the best way to go about that is to stockpile picks like Vegas is doing, but there is still no promise.
So if you were hoping to see a competitive Vegas team in Year 1, sorry, that’s not happening, but maybe by Year 3 or 4 they might have started to turn the corner thanks to all these draft picks.
Either way, Vegas let teams off easy by not taking a bunch of talent that could immediately help them, and that sucks.