(Ed. Note: It’s the NHL Alternate History project! We’ve asked fans and bloggers from 31 teams to pick one turning point in their franchise’s history and ask ‘what if things had gone differently?’ Trades, hirings, firings, wins, losses, injuries … all of it. How would one different outcome change the course of history for an NHL team? Today, it’s our final one, and obviously our most important post: Ken Boehlke of The Sin Bin on the Vegas Golden Knights! Enjoy!)
By Ken Boehlke
While most people who were tasked with this year’s version of “Greg makes everyone else do his job for him” had hundreds if not thousands of choices to re-write their favorite team’s history, my task was a bit different.
Thus far in the life of the Vegas Golden Knights, they were awarded a team (I’ll let our friends in Quebec toy with that option), they hired George McPhee (he gets a pass until Martin Erat 2.0), picked a bunch of players (let’s wait for them to out-suck the 2016-17 Avs before we kill them) and are a ways off from playing their first game.
So, it’s slim pickin’s to say the least, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t options to pick from in order to fill the revisionist history of the Vegas Golden Knights.
That NHL Draft Lottery sure was awful, having the first pick would have been nice, but with the change I made, that’ll take care of itself.
Hiring a different coach, signing some free agents people have actually heard of, or picking the good players that were available in the Expansion Draft rather than cashing in for the future were all available as well.
But none of that felt right because what do I know, maybe they’ve done everything right to this point and the Vadim Shipachyov, James Neal, and Marc-Andre Fleury led Vegas Golden Knights will shock the world and Leicester City their way to the Cup.
So instead, I went in another direction.
We go back to a decision that seems trivial to most. A decision a majority of the hockey world didn’t even realize happened, and a decision just three letters long that would unquestionably have left fans of the NHL’s newest franchise scoffing at Bill Foley’s “Playoffs in Three, Cup in Six” mantra and believing, the Las Vegas Golden Knights are Cup contenders… right now!
That’s right, I said the Las Vegas Golden Knights.
When Bill Foley invited all comers out to T-Mobile Arena to unveil the adjective he chose to proceed the word Knights, show off his new logos, and introduce the city to their new favorite brand, he did so having made the onerous decision to leave those three letters, L-A-S, off the name of the team. Once the video finally played, the name Vegas Golden Knights was revealed, and many in the crowd rubbed their chins and thought, “Isn’t the name of the city Las Vegas?”
It may sound like a joke, but people were, and still are, legitimately pissed. Look, here’s an article I wrote, more than two months before they announced the name, hinting that Vegas may be chosen instead of Las Vegas. 67 comments, most of them angry, and that was just with of the possibility of “the missing Las.”
Believe me on this one, November 22nd, the night it became official, was much worse.
Luckily, Puck Daddy has given us the chance to go back in history and see exactly what would have changed …
What if the Vegas Golden Knights were named the Las Vegas Golden Knights?
So off we go, into the time machine, for easily the worst “What If” article in Puck Daddy’s 31-team series.
The first difference is an obvious one, and one that would have made my life a hell of a lot less awful for the days following the name unveil. We would have never heard mythical team names like the Frisco 49ers, Big D Cowboys, Jersey Devils, and Golden State Warriors (oh wait, never mind on that one). I would have avoided the weirdos who stormed up to me screaming bloody murder and asking how they go about cancelling their season tickets, seriously, it wasn’t just one person, and Twitter would have been about 2% more bearable where people were just picking on the colors, the logo, the word Golden, the word Knights, the connection to the city, and everything else they were bitching about, rather than the missing “Las.”
But enough about me: No one cares, I know. What exactly would have changed on the ice if that Las was indeed on the team name rather than them choosing to go with Vegas Golden Knights? What could possibly have been different? The answer is everything, literally, everything.
The biggest change would have come at the NHL Draft Lottery. Due to the fact that the Golden Knights would have been alphabetized under the letter “L” rather than “V” their combinations of ping-pong balls would have been different. Naturally, a team starting with the letter “N”, which is pretty darn close to “L” if you ask me, won the lottery, meaning obviously, if the Golden Knights were Las Vegas Golden Knights, they would have won.
(Dumb logic? No [expletive], Greg asked me to do this for an Expansion team, just effing play along.)
So the Golden Knights now own the 1st overall selection in the NHL Entry Draft, and are heading into the Expansion Draft with much more confidence and bravado, much less willing to accept lousy offers like a 1st round pick to lay off the Islanders mediocre forwards and take Mikhail Grabovski’s LTIR eligible contract. Phst, 1st round pick, laughable, George McPhee now wants three first rounds picks, and you’ll give the Las Vegas Golden Knights GM what he wants, or else.
But it doesn’t end there, the protection lists would have been vastly different. Marc-Andre Fleury would never have waived his No-Movement Clause and accepted a move to Las Vegas. The only reason he did so in real life was because he thought the franchise was going to be fun, whimsical, and open to pranks because if they were willing to be progressive and drop the Las, there’s no telling how much freedom he, as the veteran on the team, would have.
But no, they are the Las Vegas Golden Knights, serious, and here for business. Fleury ain’t having none of that nonsense. Therefore, the Penguins had to expose Matt Murray, and were forced to give up multiple first round picks in order to keep Murray in Pittsburgh, and LVGK got Ian Cole via Expansion.
Let your imagination run wild with the rest of the teams, but by my count the Las Vegas Golden Knights would have ended up with 24 of the 31 first round picks in 2017, give or take a few, and about 25% of the first rounders over the next three drafts.
Selecting 1st and 2nd they would pick Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick, they would trade picks 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, and 31 in multiple deals to acquire Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene, Brent Burns, Carey Price, Patrick Kane, Erik Karlsson, Vladamir Tarasenko and Alex Ovechkin.
Having an acceptable core, George McPhee would decide it would be better to have a more seasoned coach, so he fired Gerard Gallant before he even coached a game, and used two of his 2018 first rounders to trade for Joel Quenneville.
The Las Vegas Golden Knights would go on to win the Stanley Cup each of the first 10 seasons they participate in…
But no, instead they are just Vegas Golden Knights. A team stocked with the likes of Jason Garrison, Deryk Engelland, Teemu Pulkkinen, and some dude named Stoner. Their season points total at local sports books is set at 68.5, and the under is the favorite. The thought of making into 2018 still “in the hunt” is laughable, and Foley’s “Cup in 6” idea seems about as promising as the possibility of Wyshynski pulling the handle of the MegaMillions slot machine at the Bellagio and walking away with a cool $15 mil.
Oh what could have been. Oh well.
Viva VEGAS Golden Knights… I guess.
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