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The Full McCrimmon; How the Loss to Dallas Altered Golden Knights Franchise



Kelly McCrimmon, Vegas Golden Knights GM

Vegas Golden Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon sat before the assembled local and national media Thursday in advance of the Western Conference Final. The questions were wide-ranging, from Mark Stone to how he reconstructed the Golden Knights since the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.

The Golden Knights again stand on the precipice of the Stanley Cup Final, the fourth time they’ve had the opportunity, though they’ve reached only that one Final.

The Golden Knights had missing pieces.

A No. 1 center and a big No. 1 defenseman, emphasis on big. Alex Pietrangelo hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2019 with the St. Louis Blues, and the team he beat was now-Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy’s Boston Bruins.

That’s why McCrimmon targeted Pietrangelo in Oct. 2020.

“There are really good defensemen in the NHL that aren’t big … I sure think in the playoffs, the size of your team does have an impact. We’re big up front as well, and when we played Edmonton, they have a really big team. When you watch the different series, it can be tough for people to get to the front of the net if you’re not big enough,” said McCrimmon. “And I think the flip side, more specific to your question, is a big defense is helpful at this time of year. Obviously, you have to be able to play right … I think the growth on our back end of the Hague-Whitecloud pair has been significant, noticeable, and helpful to our team.”

The Jack Eichel trade was polarizing. Eichel earned a bit of a reputation in Buffalo, and he battled the Sabres organization to have disc replacement surgery on his back rather than the treatment prescribed by team doctors.

Some teams simply passed or refused to go all-in for Eichel. Wanting a top-line center, McCrimmon paid the price. MCrimmon seemed to hint that losing to Dallas in the 2020 bubble playoffs was the motivation to get Eichel.

“Our interest in Jack was based on when we go back … when we were in the bubble in Edmonton. So the last time we played Dallas in the playoffs, it became clear that you need a No. 1 defenseman to be a Stanley Cup contender. When you look at what Tampa had with Hedman, St Louis had Pietrangelo,” said McCrimmon. “I think if you go back and look at the teams that win a Stanley Cup, that’s part of the makeup of those rosters, and I think in the same breath, so was the No. 1 center … So that’s that’s the motivation behind the trade.”

A top center and top defenseman. Eichel more than doubled Connor McDavid’s even-strength production in Round Two and defended as well as he ever had.

Losing to Dallas in the bubble showed McCrimmon and shoved him to make the big deals for Eichel and Pietrangelo.

Perhaps Golden Knights fans will thank Dallas if the VGK advance.

The other spark plug for the Vegas Golden Knights is Mark Stone. The scrappy winger missed a few months with a back injury and was a constant target of the Edmonton Oilers. He is the difference maker.

“He’s the player that really, since the day he arrived, has been the straw that stirs the drink. For the different traits that he brings to our team, the things you see with his outward emotion and passion to win,” said the Vegas Golden Knights GM. “His excitement when he scores. His excitement when a teammate scores, (and) just how complete of a player he is with his hockey sense, his skill set — he’s a really good defensive player, really good offensively. Big (too).”

McCrimmon didn’t have an update on injured goalie Robin Lehner.

It will be the fourth bite at the final four, and this time the Golden Knights have pieces they haven’t had before. The Golden Knights are a decided favorite to beat.

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