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Kingerski: Golden Knights Bad Start Predictable; Poor Offseason to Blame



Vegas Golden Knights, Alec Martinez

The fear and loathing of the Vegas Golden Knights offseason were warranted. Questions abound about the quality of the team and its ability to take a step forward rather than backward. GM Kelly McCrimmon said goodbye to wildly popular players, who played not only prominent roles in the locker room but integral roles on the ice.

Cmon, you didn’t think the team would be worse off without Marc-Andre Fleury and Ryan Reaves?

We don’t need to serve eggs with those rehash browns, but the offseason losses compared to additions are a Strip-sized buffet of analysis.

The Golden Knights underwent a heart transplant, but they’re still waiting for the new implant.

The Golden Knights lineup also underwent reconstructive surgery but is still waiting for the replacements.

In short, what went out exceeded what came in, and the changes undoubtedly weakened the team structure, too.

In five games, top acquisition Evgenii Dadonov, 32, has one assist. Dadonov has not been the dynamic offensive player since 2018-19. That season he sprung for 70 points, including 28 goals with the Florida Panthers. The following season, he slumped to 47 points. Last season, he scored just 20 points (13-7-20) in 55 games.

On Sunday, Colleague Steve Carp wrote the following: The Golden Knights were hoping to get the Evgenii Dadonov, a bona fide goal scorer with the Florida Panthers. So far, they have the Ottawa version of Dadonov, which was not very good.

His lackluster start with his third team in three seasons isn’t surprising. New players often need an adjustment period; players think before they play instinctively. For some, it takes a while before everything clicks.

For all of the comparisons between the Seattle Kraken and the 2017-18 Golden Knights, the Kraken is the only team with a worse goal-differential in the Pacific Division, and the Golden Knights rank fifth-worst in the league at -9.

Reclamation project Nolan Patrick missed Sunday’s 2-0 loss to the New York Islanders with an upper-body injury, but he, too, has only one point (1-0-1).

The Vegas Golden Knights have more letters in their name than goals scored in the season’s first five games. Despite giving up 19 tallies, the Golden Knights have scored just 10.

And lost four straight.

But even after Dadonov and Patrick find their stride (a big IF for both, especially Patrick), are they good enough to elevate the Golden Knights lineup? Dadonov is a third liner, newbie Brett Howden is hanging on in a fourth-line role, and Patrick hasn’t proven he’s an NHL scorer yet.

The bright spot is prospect Peyton Krebs cracking the lineup, but he’s scoreless in his first five games with a -4 rating. Dipping into the advanced stats, his expected goals-for is only 33%, and the expected goals-against is already 3.56.

In other words, there’s no scoring. But the Vegas Golden Knights lineup is making up for it by not defending.

Their play is a long way from being a Stanley Cup contender. Top rival, the Colorado Avalanche, also stumbled out of the gate, and consternation is swirling around the Rocky Mountains, too.

And now Golden Knights injuries are piling up. Max Pacioretty is out longer-term. Mark Stone is out, and Alex Tuch, too.

The Golden Knights scoring was paper-thin before Pacioretty hit the LTIR sheet. Now, it’s even worse.

The situation is tough, and it’s not getting better. Make no mistake, the offseason inaction to address the big problems are to blame.

As well as flatline starts by top-liners, too. Jonathan Marchessault has one point (1-0-1) and a minus-7 rating. Reilly Smith only has two points (0-2-2) and a minus-5 rating.

There’s no doubt about the need for a No. 1 center. That need led to more than a bit of speculation about Jack Eichel on the NHL trade front. Given Eichel’s health and the Buffalo Sabres’ monstrous ask, it may not be a good fit, and acquiring a top-line center is expensive.

Maybe a bonafide top-liner wasn’t plausible, but offensive support was necessary.

Stanley Cup windows do not stay open forever. The bad start was predictable, and a turnaround is not guaranteed. The Vegas Golden Knights are missing heart and goals, and only solving those issues will solve the struggles.

*Dan Kingerski is a national columnist for the Hockey Now network, and the beat writer covering the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

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