Despite the possibility of tying the second-best point total in team history, the Vegas Golden Knights have missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
The Golden Knights will play their final game of the season Friday against the St. Louis Blues. Then, it’s three months of golfing, fishing, and wondering what went wrong in the 2021-22 season.
We will have all summer to discuss the Golden Knight’s season and what they could have done. But for now, this is my immediate reaction take on why the Golden Knights missed the playoffs this season.
I know this may come off as sarcasm, but the thick and thin of it is that the Golden Knights did not win enough games. They had multiple stretches where they missed out on various opportunities to bolster their playoff chances and simply dropped the ball on almost all of them.
They started the season off 1-5 and lost both Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty to injuries, which we will discuss later. From then on to right around Christmas, the team was in a good spot, all things considered. They swept a tough Eastern Conference road trip and sat atop the Pacific Division standings.
Jack Eichel arrived in February and the two started off on bad footing, going 4-5 and then losing every game of a five-game road trip. But then five-straight wins in March got the VGK back into things. That brings us to where they stand now as they have gone 3-7 in their last ten games.
The Golden Knights simply lost a bunch of games this season they should have won. They went through stretches that contending teams do not go through. This season they lost to the Coyotes, Sabres, Devils, Blackhawks (twice), and Flyers (twice), all teams that are well below the Stanley Cup Playoff line.
When tough times face sports franchises it is easy to scapegoat players. But in the case of the Golden Knights, I really don’t see anyone in particular that deserves this criticism.
Jack Eichel did everything he could for the team after having neck surgery and not playing hockey in over a year. He has 22 points in 32 games and has shown flashes of the all-star player that he is. His play will only get better heading into next season.
Robin Lehner let in a lot of sketchy goals this season, but also played through injuries and got little to no support from his team offensively.
Depth scoring was inconsistent for the Golden Knights as guys like Mattias Janmark, William Karlsson, and even Evgenii Dadonov went through snakebitten streaks.
Guys like Jonas Rondbjerg and Jake Leschyshyn, who were only called up due to injuries, were minute eaters for the VGK. Both had just six points in a combined 71 games.
The powerplay was atrocious and will finish near the basement in the NHL as it is currently ranked 24th, despite all its talent.
The only consistent scorers the Golden Knights had this season were Chandler Stephenson and Jonathan Marchessault. Even Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore had their own slumps.
Let’s finally address the elephant in the room. The Golden Knights currently have 478 man-games lost to injury this season, meaning they have had a player miss a game due to injury, 478 times this season.
Assuming no lineup changes are made for Friday’s game against the Blues this number goes to 484. To put this into perspective, the division-leading Calgary Flames have had 84 man-games lost so far this season.
Alec Martinez missed 57 games, Eichel 39 as a Golden Knight and 49 overall, Stone 46, Pacioretty 44, and Smith 26. The Golden Knights will have zero players play in all 82 games this season.
Per Man-Games Lost it is estimated that the Golden Knights lost over 40 player points due to injuries this season. No matter what team you root for or what sport you follow, I think we can all agree that injuries are the worst.
With a banged-up roster, Peter DeBoer did everything he could to keep his team together this season. Putting William Carrier on the first line and Nicolas Roy at wing were two things I doubt he expected he would have to resort to this season. None of this is his fault in my opinion.
Upper management is a different story with Kelly McCrimmon and co. making some questionable moves. The Eichel deal was obviously made with sights on the cup. But that can’t happen this season.
Spending up to the brim with the salary cap came back and bit the Golden Knights several times this season. Right now they are technically over the salary cap with Robin Lehner’s injury forcing a Jiri Patera call-up.
Blame it on whoever you want, but the voided Evgenii Dadonov trade was not a good look either.
It will be a very interesting offseason for the Golden Knights with many questions looming. What will they do with Lehner, Smith, Janmark, or even DeBoer? What changes will be made before next season? Whatever it is, we are no-doubt in store for a wild offseason this summer.