I’ll start by ripping off the most painful band-aid: this team isn’t good enough to win the Stanley Cup. There are some real issues for the Vegas Golden Knights to address this summer, namely an offense that blacks out at the worst time, a power play that might be better off declining the penalty, $12M in cap space tied up in goaltending, no number one center and more.
If you were looking for a ‘look on the bright side’ column, today is not your day. If you truly want to win the Stanley Cup, unpopular decisions have to be made by the brass. That means moving on from fan favorites, making trades or declining to offer contracts, and maybe even moving on from promise and potential.
Mark Stone said it himself after Game 6: “The goal in Year Five is to win the Stanley Cup.”
If you want to do that, it’s time to take a good, hard look at this team and make changes because they have proven in their current form they aren’t good enough to do that.
The captain has taken a lot of the blame for the failure to advance. But he’s one player on a team full of guys who didn’t perform, and VHN will break that down more in the days and weeks to come. It’s not all on one guy. In fact, the first place I’m looking is farther up the chain of command.
There’s a responsibility on Vegas Golden Knights president of hockey operations George McPhee and general manager Kelly McCrimmon to continue to make the team better. Two years in a row now, a lack of scoring has killed the Golden Knights playoff run. It’s more than just anecdotal. It’s a pattern. One that needs to be addressed. The failure of the top six forwards to make any sort of goal-scoring impact in the series against Montreal is ghastly. Defensemen scored eight goals of the 13 total in the series for Vegas. That’s no way to win a series, and just over $35M in cap space produced a grand total of two goals in those last six games.
Another area Vegas clearly lost in the series was coaching. Montreal simply imposed its will on the Golden Knights for much of the series. Occasionally there were some breakthroughs, but not nearly enough to make a difference. The Canadiens kept Vegas from generating five-on-five as well as on the power play. When asked about it during the series, almost every single time head coach Pete DeBoer recycled a version of “we just have to play our game” or “stick to/trust the process”.
The biggest and most noticeable change made during the series was trying to scramble up the wings a bit in Game Five, which didn’t make much of a dent. The power play, which scored a grand total of four goals on 43 chances (9.3%), kept doing the same things and got the same results. Yet DeBoer and his staff stubbornly stuck to structure and personnel even when it was clear the ship was sinking.
Not even so much as a wrinkle to make Montreal do a double-take.
DeBoer’s post-Game 6 power-play explanation was “We didn’t play with any confidence. If we knew what was wrong we would have fixed it.”
That’s your job is to know what’s wrong and how to fix it. Or at least work towards a solution instead of sticking to the clearly-not-working process.
At least he did offer this:
“Everybody has to look in the mirror, coaches included. I think everything is on the table. We have to look at what we can do different from a coaching perceptive. We have to look at our personnel. I think everything is on the table.”
There’s more to address, and we will. We will look at cap issues, being able to make moves to better the team, which players should stay… and who should go. But for now, Vegas Golden Knights fans will have to tend to their bruises and toast the season that was. While there are 27 other teams that would have loved to be where Vegas was… the bar has been set high. Time to get over it.