Vegas Golden Knights officially join the NHL

Although Las Vegas was awarded an expansion franchise by the NHL several months ago, the Vegas Golden Knights more or less officially joined the league on November 22nd when the team’s name and logo was first introduced. Majority owner Bill Foley announced the franchise’s moniker during  public ceremony at the city’s Toshiba Plaza. The Golden Knights become the 31stclub in the league and will begin play at the city’s new T-Mobile Arena in October of 2017. Foley told the media that he wants his club to exhibit strength, courage, honour, teamwork, dedication and a never-say-die attitude both on and off the ice.
He added that knights are known as elite warriors and are known to protect people who can’t defend themselves. The team colours will be a combination of red, black, gold and steel grey with each colour representing the local community. Strength and durability is represented by steel grey while gold represents the desert terrain and the fact that Nevada is America’s biggest gold producer. Meanwhile, red represents the nearby Red Rock canyons and the city’s skyline while black stands for intensity and power. The team’s logo includes a knight’s helmet with the letter V emblazoned on it with the secondary logo featuring swords.
The franchise didn’t waste any time marketing the club’s name and logos as team gear and apparel, other than jerseys, was already being sold just hours after the announcement was made. The club’s official website can be found at and there’s also an official app. In addition, the Golden Knights can be followed by fans via the team’s official Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat sites. The franchise is owned by Black Knight Sports and Entertainment, LLC. with the Foley and Maloof families being the principle owners. The Maloof family formerly owned the Sacramento Kings NBA franchise and has a 15 per cent stake in the Golden Knights.
Foley originally wanted to name the team the Las Vegas Black Knights in honour of the United States Military Academy, however, he ran into legal technicalities regarding trademarks and domain names. The Golden Knights name was chosen from three finalists, which were the Desert Knights, Silver Knights, and Golden Knights. The team’s general manager is George McPhee and his job will be to assemble a roster from an expansion draft and the NHL Entry Draft and the squad will compete in the Western Conference’s Pacific Division. The expansion draft will take place on June 21st.

The Golden Knights will be allowed to select one unprotected player from the other 30 NHL teams during the draft. Vegas will also select no lower than sixth position in the NHL Entry Draft, shortly afterwards. The new franchise has a lot of work to do between now and then as a coaching staff will need to be hired and numerous other details will need to be taken care of. However, there’s no need for fans to sit around and wait for the roster and staff to be announced as tickets for the Golden Knights games are on sale now.

Is the NHL’s 5-day bye week counterproductive?

The 2016/17 NHL schedule is approximately a week shorter than usual this season due to two factors. First, the season faced off several days later than usual due to the preseason World Cup of Hockey tournament. That means each team must play its 82-game schedule in the space of 180 days. But in fact, those 180 days will actually be reduced to 175 days since the NHL has implemented a mandatory five-day bye week for each club during the season. The result of the shortened season is more back-to-back games and scenarios such as three contests in four nights, four games in seven, and five in eight nights etc.
So while the five-day bye was introduced to give players a rest, they might not need the rest if they weren’t playing so many games in such a short period of time. To many observers, the bye week is an ironic situation which may actually be counterproductive. To make matters worse, some insiders believe the condensed schedule could be the cause of so many injuries to star players so far this season. The league has seen several top players miss games at one point or another already and the campaign hasn’t hit the quarter-way mark yet.
Some of the most notable players who have been injured early on in the campaign include Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Quick, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, Marian Gaborik, Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Huberdeau, Evander Kane, Jack Eichel, Matt Duchene, Brad Richardson, Jonathan Drouin, Seth Jones, Anton Stralman, Taylor Hall, and Johnny Gaudreau. And let’s not forget Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos, who may miss the rest of the season as he’s expected to be sidelined from four to six months due to a torn meniscus.
Injuries are part and parcel of all sports and hockey players are used to playing games in quick succession, but there are still those who believe the condensed schedule has something to do with the recent rash of injuries, including Jim Nill, the general manager of the Dallas Stars. Nill has seen six of his club’s forwards suffer some type of injury or another since training camp started. He attributes it to the competitiveness, parity, and speed of the league as well as the condensed schedule.
Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman and his Los Angeles Kings’ counterpart Dean Lombardi agree with Nill and added that most players work out all year long to stay in shape and their bodies may not be getting the rest they need. Yzerman also questioned the equipment today’s players wear and if it’s offering enough in the way of protection, especially when it comes to gloves and skates. He believes players are blocking more shots than ever these days, but skates and gloves are perhaps too lightweight.

Injuries are often unavoidable, but they can also be suffered when players are tired and aren’t 100 per cent healthy. With teams playing as many as five games in eight days and also traveling from city to city between them, the five-day bye week may not be worth it in the long run. It would make a lot more sense if the league extended the season by five days to accommodate it. The good news is the bye week has been negotiated for this season only and the league may say bye-bye to it next year.  

NHL scoring cools off after torrid start

The 2016/17 NHL season got off to a high-scoring start over its first couple of weeks, but has settled down considerably since then. Although it may not seem like much, teams were scoring an average of 3.05 goals per-game to start the campaign, which would have ranked as the 39th-highest total out of 100 seasons if they had kept it up. It also would have been the first time since 2005/06 that the clubs would have averaged at least three goals per-game over an entire season. The highest total recorded was 4.79 goals per-outing back in 1919/20 with the lowest being 1.46 per-contest less than a decade later in 1928/29.
Of course, the style of the game has changed over the years and is sometimes cyclical as we’ve seen high-scoring, fire-wagon hockey in some eras and tight-checking systems in others. In addition, the size of goaltending equipment has been altered several times over the decades and the composite hockey stick was recently introduced. There were several other theories to explain the high-scoring start of the current season though. Some experts believed the number of rookies in the league was a factor since there were 68 first-year players listed to open the season, which represented 10.3 per cent of the league’s players.
These skilled newcomers are seen as being young and fast with a habit of playing an offensive style of hockey. However, most of them aren’t as experienced when it comes to playing in their own end. This leads to mental lapses and physical mistakes which often results in more goals. By mid-November, goals per game for each team had leveled out to 2.77, which would rank just 61st in NHL history. Another reason for the quick start could have been the World Cup of Hockey tournament which was played in September just before the season faced off.
Players were for world-class hockey at an earlier date than usual and many of them entered 2016/17 already in mid-season form. While skaters were setting off the goal light on a regular basis, some of the league’s top goalies struggled. Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings suffered a long-term injury in his season opener while Montreal’s Carey Price was sidelined for several games with illness and Frederick Anderson of Toronto missed the much of the preseason and the World Cup with a shoulder problem. Other netminders such as Brian Elliott of Calgary, Ben Bishop of Tampa, Tuukka Rask of Boston and Martin Jones of San Jose all struggled to find their top form.
Goaltenders’  save percentage over the first two weeks of the season stood at 90.3 per cent on average, which ranked 19th lowest out of the 33 years the NHL has been recording the statistic. By mid-November, that number had risen to 91.2, which would rank as sixth-best  in history. Goals per team could have also been up early on since power-play opportunities were 3.68 per-game per-team early in the campaign and that number has fallen to 3.34, which is the 43rd-lowest total out of the 53 years the stat has been kept.

Whatever the reasons were for the high-scoring opening to the 2016/17 season, things quickly cooled down. Rookie scoring suddenly tailed off with Winnipeg’s Patrick Laine being the only first-year player among the top-32 scorers as of November 12th. The league’s top goalies were back in fine form and everything else from power-play opportunities and goals to penalty-killing and goals-against averages were more or less back to average for the NHL, at least for the past decade. Therefore, even with the influx of so many creative, high-scoring rookies this year, fans shouldn’t really expect to see anything out of the ordinary.   

NHL witnessing dramatic and exciting youth movement

When it comes to the age of NHL players, the league actually goes to extremes since there are those as young as 18 and as old as 44. In fact, Czech winger Jaromir Jagr of the Florida Panthers is believed to be the oldest athlete in any of the world’s major professional sports leagues at the moment. Jagr is perhaps just a freak of nature though and he’s definitely not the norm in the NHL these days. The league is witnessing a youth movement at the moment with many of its top stars and prospects still even a year or two away from drinking age, at least in the U.S.
The NHL has always been home to a handful of excellent young players each season, but the league faced off for the 2016/17 campaign with over five dozen rookies in the clubs’ lineups. While Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, John Gibson, Shayne Gostisbehere, Artemi Panarin, and Colton Parayko led the way last year and were named to the All-Rookie Team, there are newcomers who may overshadow them this season. These include Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander of the Toronto Maple Leafs along with Jimmy Vesey of the New York Rangers, Patrik Laine of Winnipeg, Zach Werenski of Columbus, Travis Konecny of Philadelphia and Matthew Tkachuk of Calgary.
As of November 5th, Nylander, Matthews, Laine and Werenski all had at least 10 points to their name from anywhere between nine and 12 games played and a dozen of the league’s rookies were scoring at over a 40-point per season pace. This isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of fine veteran players left in the league, but just three of the top-20 scorers were over the age of 30. These were Evgeni Malkin of Pittsburgh, Joe Pavelski of San Jose and Montreal’s Shea Weber. Many of the other top players are still under the age of 24, including Mc David, Eichel, Nathan MacKinnon of Colorado, Jonathan Drouin of Florida, Johnny Gaudreau of Calgary, Seth Jones of Columbus and Florida’s Aaron Ekblad.
It appears that many young players are simply better prepared for the rigors of NHL hockey these days and are more physically developed and mature when they reach the league. This means some of them are ready to help out their teams immediately and have a positive impact on the sport. They’re proving that men as young as 18 and 19 are already good enough to compete with seasoned veterans and established world stars. It should also be noted that most of the league’s youngest players are generally playing for weaker teams since they were taken with the highest draft picks from rebuilding clubs.
This is why Edmonton has been able to stock the cupboards with so many excellent young prospects over the years and Toronto has several in their lineup this season. There’s a lot of pressure on these youngsters to produce and help their team out immediately and most of them are passing the test with flying colours. There’s no doubt the NHL has been is getting younger and younger over the past decade with 25-year-old Matt Duchene of Colorado already skating in his eight season as a prime example.

Some veteran players are finding it harder to stick with their teams these days and older free agents often have a difficult time finding bidders. We are seeing more and more veterans attending training camps on professional tryout contracts while others such as Brooks Laich, PA Parenteau, Ondrej Pavelec, Milan Michalek, Rob Scuderi and Mason Raymond being sent to the minors, placed on waivers or simply released by their respective clubs. This year’s crop of youngsters are bringing some much-needed excitement and scoring into the game and the race for the Calder Trophy as the rookie of the year should be one of the best in years. We might even see some of them challenge for the league scoring title.