Random Thoughts on the NHL – June 21, 2021
Some NHL followers were grumbling on social media over how the Vegas Golden Knights got more favorable expansion draft rules compared to previous clubs entering the league. Those complaints arose during the Golden Knights march to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final and resurfaced as they reached this year’s semifinals
The previous rules hamstrung the expansion franchises of the 1990s, ensuring for some a long, difficult road toward playoff contention. Some struggled longer than others, largely because of impatient owners, incompetent management or both.
In hindsight, the Golden Knights benefited from those changes to the expansion draft rules. But let’s be honest folks, no one looked at their initial roster and thought, oh, yeah, that’s an instant Cup contender.
Their most notable player was goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, considered past his prime by that time. There were also several skilled veterans in Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, David Perron and James Neal, plus some promising players like Shea Theodore, Alex Tuch and William Karlsson. The rest of the lineup was comprised mostly of depth players.
Anyone who declared the Golden Knights a playoff contender entering 2017-18 would’ve been considered naive. Those declaring them a Cup contender would’ve been dismissed as lunatics.
Yet here they are four years later, a club with a solid foundation forged by the former general manager (now team president) George McPhee and built up by current GM Kelly McCrimmon, well-coached first by Gerard Gallant and now Peter DeBoer.
It wasn’t favorable expansion draft rules that made the Golden Knights what they are today. It was savvy management and coaching, something the Seattle Kraken hope to emulate approaching their inaugural campaign.
One benefit of this season’s compacted NHL schedule is we don’t have to endure the cringe-worthy train wreck of the league’s annual award show. Instead, the individual awards are announced by the league, with the winner giving his acceptance speech from his home via Zoom or Skype.
It’s so much better than seeing NHL stars gathered in Las Vegas chafing in their finery enduring has-been musical acts and unfunny comedy routines. This year’s winners seem almost relieved they don’t have to go through that dog-and-pony show.
The league should make this a permanent change but they won’t. The powers-that-be think hockey fans want to watch their favorite stars sitting through its lame-ass version of the Academy Awards. Most couldn’t care less. Those who do so only for the opportunity to mercilessly mock it on social media.
Loyalty is a big reason why Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour turned his club into a rising force among NHL teams. It played a part in why he’s this year’s winner of the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year.
The Hurricanes wanted to re-sign Brind’Amour and he wanted to stay on one condition: that his entire coaching staff also received new contracts. It took weeks to hash out the details but the two sides got it done.
Brind’Amour was a team guy when he was a player and he’s the same as a coach. That’s why his players work as hard as they do for him. It’s why the Hurricanes have a bright future as long as ownership ensures Brind’Amour has the players he needs to contend for the Stanley Cup.