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Vegas Golden Knights

Are Golden Knights Best Expansion Team Ever?



Nic Roy day with the Cup

Before we answer that question, we readily admit that the vast majority of people reading this article will be somewhat partisan in their answer. We all love the Vegas Golden Knights and wholeheartedly believe that it is the greatest team in all of sports, let alone the best expansion team ever.

But we are going to prove that there is a very good case to state that the Golden Knights are the best expansion team of all time, even when you take into account the achievements of other teams across basketball, football, baseball, and hockey. The fact that the best NHL sportsbooks have Vegas down as one of the main favorites to win the Stanley Cup again just helps in proving our point. 

Let’s stake out the facts and records of other top expansion teams over the years and prove once and all that no team has ever done it as well as the world-famous Vegas Golden Knights. 

First Year? No Problem

Most expansion teams in their first season of play downright suck. It is not even a controversial or demeaning thing to say. It should be completely understandable that an organization that has only just come into existence and has never played a competitive game will struggle in its rookie season.

You may just about remember how the Golden Knights decided to go their own way with that kind of thinking. Absolutely no one predicted that Vegas would reach the Stanley Cup finals in that first year. Even most of the fans were just grateful they finally had a hometown team to get behind. So losing that first finals series could never be regarded as a failure.

Not the Fastest Champion 

But it is true that the Golden Knights were not the first expansion team in the history of sports to win a championship. After six seasons of existence, and missing the postseason just once, Vegas lifted the famous old trophy last year. The consistent level of success the team has enjoyed has meant that it cannot even be thought of as an overnight success. 

There are five other teams that won a championship in a quicker time, though. The fastest-ever expansion-to-championship team was the Milwaukee Bucks. It took three years at the end of the 1960s and beginning of the 70s for the Bucks to win it all – thanks in a very big way to winning the rights to a young Lew Alcindor – later to be known around the world as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Other Top Expansion Teams

Picking up the finest player of a generation for an NBA team can make all the difference, obviously. But there have been other examples of expansion teams winning a championship in a quicker time than our beloved Golden Knights. The Arizona Diamondbacks were terrible in their first season but ended up winning the World Series just three years later.

The Baltimore Ravens, Edmonton Oilers, and Florida (now Miami) Marlins all took five years from rookie season to lifting a trophy. The Ravens won the Super Bowl thanks to the bulldozing defense that crushed opponents, the Oilers timed their inception perfectly to coincide with the emergence of the one and only Wayne Gretzky, while no one still really knows how the Marlins won a World Series in 1997 after four previous years of lackluster play. The fact that they then went and repeated the trick in 2003 and have never really challenged again is one of the mysteries of American sports.

Golden Knights are the Best

We have already alluded to the belief that the Golden Knights’ Stanley Cup success can be seen as a greater achievement than Milwaukee winning the 1971 NBA finals. That’s because having Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on a five-man team is like having at least one extra player. In basketball, even just one superstar can take you a long way.

 The appearance of a young Wayne Gretzky in that 1984 championship-winning Oilers team can be regarded in the same light. Although hockey relies on more players to work well together, having “the Great One” on your team sure does make a difference. A hockey season demands so much more – for a longer time – out of its players than some other sports as well.

Vegas Golden Knights, Reilly Smith passes Stanley Cup to Jonathan Marchessault

Future Success to Prove the Point

As we said at the start, we readily admit to being a little biased when it comes to answering that initial question. But we think all the historical evidence backs up our claim. On top of that, the Vegas Golden Knights have continued to show that early success was not a fluke.

It might have only taken the Bucks three years to win a championship. But it took another 50 to record their second. Until the D-Backs made it to the Fall Classic last year, they had hardly featured in the postseason, while we have already mentioned the oddity that is the Marlins season-by-season record. 

The Oilers enjoyed a flurry of success in the 1980s but have done little since, while the Ravens have probably been more consistent than most but come up against the strict salary cap rules and draft system of the NFL. The Vegas Golden Knights have only ever failed to make the playoffs once and have consistently been a high-performing team without always having some of the most well-paid or prodigiously talented players.

The Golden Knights can be crowned the best expansion team of all time – and will continue to prove that point in the years to come.