Vegas Golden Knights superstar center Jack Eichel has not been himself as of late. Ever since captain Mark Stone left the lineup with an injury, Eichel has scored just one point in his last eight games and is a -8. The Golden Knights have subsequently gone 1-5-2 in this stretch since Stone's injury.
For not just Eichel, but for the entire Golden Knights team, the urgency isn't there. That's the main issue and needs to be fixed as soon as the team comes back from their nine-day All-Star break. But another issue that stems from upper management is hurting the Golden Knights.
Jack Eichel does not have good enough wingers to play with.
With injuries affecting the team as they did last season, head coach Bruce Cassidy has had to shuffle up his team's line combinations. As the team's top center, Eichel has seen a carousel of wingers around him, from Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault to Michael Amadio and Paul Cotter. None of these options have worked as the VGK are longing for the days when they had a top line of Eichel, Stone, and Chandler Stephenson.
The issue of Eichel not having any solid scorers to play with can be attributed to the way the Golden Knights are built. They have solid top-six options in Stephenson, Stone, Smith, and Marchessault. But all four of these players come with caveats.
Stephenson is a natural center, and coach Cassidy has experimented with having him as an additional center for more depth. Both Smith and Karlsson naturally form the Misfit Line with William Karlsson, which consistently creates offense for the team and is tough to break up. Stone is, of course, injured.
So with Stephenson playing center, Stone hurt, and the Misfit Line together, Eichel is left to pick from an assortment of bottom-six forwards. Just this season, he has played with guys like Amadio, Cotter, Nicolas Roy, and Phil Kessel. Some of those came even with the team fully healthy.
This issue is a result of general manager Kelly McCrimmon not doing enough to patch up his team's forward depth after they lost Max Pacioretty, Evgenii Dadonov, Mattias Janmark, and even Nolan Patrick and Alex Tuch recently. Outside of signing Kessel and hoping for the best with Cotter and Jake Leschyshyn, the team's cap issues have prevented them from shoring up their forward depth.
Remember last season when everyone went crazy about the idea of a Golden Knight's first line of Pacioretty, Eichel, and Stone? Yeah, the hockey gods laughed at that one and sent unfortunate injuries and salary cap trades instead.
That leaves us where the team is right now, with a struggling offensive unit that can't seem to score no matter who plays on what line. With the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline just five weeks away, one has to speculate on whether or not the Golden Knights could be buyers to try and divert their season back in the right direction.
There is no shortage of potential options out there at forward, with Bo Horvat, Max Domi, James van Riemsdyk, and Ryan O'Reilly all seemingly available. With his $9.5 million salary cap in limbo, the health of Mark Stone will likely decide the course of the Golden Knight's season once again.