The best story in hockey in maybe ever rolled along last night with a thrilling 1-0 win in their playoff debut over the LA Kings, and gave us one of the all-time great pregame introductions we’ve ever seen.
Playoff and hockey fever has truly taken Las Vegas by storm.
And why not, it’s a fun team that skates fast, hits hard, and has a goalie who never gives up on a shot.
Yet, the whole time I watch last night’s game all I could think was, “How the hell is this team in the playoffs?” Outside of Marc Andre Fleury, the average hockey fan wouldn’t recognize 95% of the players on the roster, and yet, there they were all season long, dominating their opponents and rolling to a division title in the first season.
I said this on Twitter last night, and I’ll say it again right now, and I promise you it is not meant to take away from what Vegas has done this year: Almost every NHL GM should be embarrassed by what Vegas was able to do this season.
This was a franchise that built a team out of spare parts that do one thing: skate fast. And then they added one above average goalie, and DOMINATED for most of the year. Meanwhile you have idiots like Petier Chiarelli up in Edmonton who trots out 5-6 ham-fisted idiots who can’t skate but give you “hits” and “heart” and “leadership” or whatever other buzz word old hockey types love to talk about, and then they /shrug/ at why they missed the playoffs, despite having the best player in the world.
How does every owner of a team that missed the playoffs, or barely got in despite high expectations, not walk into their GM’s office and go, “What the fuck, how is this team of cheap scrubs that nobody has ever heard of skating circles around us, while you have a full pocket-book, and we look like a pee wee team?” It’s honestly pathetic that there are no consequences for these GMs that put together teams like Vancouver, Detroit, Edmonton, Dallas, and others did.
Yes, there was more talent in that expansion draft than ever before, but it was solid role players who didn’t fit, or were viewed as depth pieces, and one decent goalie. It wasn’t like Patrick Kane or prime Ken Dryden was available. There is no way a first-year team made up of guys who their previous teams didn’t want or didn’t fit, should be able to win a division title in the first year.
Again, they had one goal, and with the exception of a couple of stay-at-home defensemen, did nothing but draft the fastest, cheapest guy available from each team in the expansion draft. It’s not hard to figure out.
Go back and look at the list of players available in the expansion draft. How many were an old, slow, overpriced guy that teams LOVE to dump off on expansion teams? And how many of those did Vegas take? Almost none.
And yet, these so-called experts and hockey lifers who are managing hockey hot beds in Detroit, Montreal, Edmonton, and Vancouver, somehow couldn’t figure this out, and wonder what happened as their slow, old, expensive players got raced around every night by Vegas.
You always hear about fans wanting younger faster players to get a chance if they think a team might be mad, well Vegas did that, and it paid off in a big way. If you’re going to be bad, there’s no point in signing Kris Russell, Milan Lucic, Frans Nielsen, or whatever 30-plus-year-old veteran is available. Baseball has figured this out, but somehow hockey, with the exception of maybe Pittsburgh, Toronto, Nashville, and of course Vegas, hasn’t.
We constantly joke that we could do a better job of running our favorite team than the people who are actually in charge, and I’m not kidding when I say that in the NHL there are no less than five GMs who that is probably true about.
Again, this takes away nothing from what Vegas has done on the ice, and I hope they make as deep a run as possible, because with every game they win in the playoffs, the shame and embarrassment that every GM who missed the playoffs should feel grows deeper.