Vgk weekly update
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Chris Gawlik’s  VGK Outlook – 1/11/21 VGK is a Fringe Playoff Team

Franchise Sports Media

 

VGK version 4.0 is just days away.

 

VGK Weekly Update
Photo Credit: Knights On Ice

The 2019/20 campaign was unique, to say the least. VGK flirted with their second Conference Championship in just three seasons, however, they fell to the Dallas Stars in five games in the Conference Finals. I am not sure if you can call last season a letdown, I mean VGK is just three years old. And it was our second time to the Conference Finals in our first three seasons. But I am calling it a letdown. VGK was a bit snake-bitten after Thatcher Demko saved nearly everything thrown his way in the Conference Quarter Finals. Anton Khudobin stood tall in the Conference Finals for the Dallas Stars and sent VGK to the golf course.

The 20/21 campaign will have many changes due to COVID-19. Teams will play a 56-game season and only play games within their division. Divisions have been re-aligned as well. The Pacific, Central, Atlantic, and Metro Divisions have been furloughed for the upcoming season and re-aligned as the North, South, East, and West. Each division has sponsorship as well.

 

New Divisions

 

VGK Weekly Update
Photo Credit: Knights On Ice

VGK will compete in the newly formed “Honda NHL West Division.” Familiar ice enemies are the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, and San Jose Sharks. The Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild, and St. Louis Blues are the new invaders. The Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, and Vancouver Canucks have been relocated to the “Scotia NHL North Division.”

Is the new “West” division more competitive than last season’s “Pacific Division? The Flames, Oilers, and Canucks combined for one hundred – nine victories and two hundred – forty points last season. The Avalanche, Wild, and Blues combined for one hundred – nineteen victories and two hundred – sixty -three points. Head-to-head, VGK went 6-1-1 and accumulated twelve out of a possible sixteen points against the Flames, Oilers, and CanucksVGK did not fare as well against the Avalanche, Wild, and Blues going 3-4-0 and accumulated six out of a possible fourteen points. The new “West” division seems like it will be very competitive to say the least.  And keep in mind, teams only play games within their division this season.

 

Schedule

 

Current rivalries will be intensified, and new rivalries will be forged. This season will feature a Major League Baseball type of schedule. VGK will play the same opponent for two, three, or four consecutive games. Teams are going to be very sick of each other, to say the least. VGK has a total of seven games that will be played in consecutive nights and will play nearly every other night for the remainder of the schedule. There are a few gaps two or more nights in the schedule, I would assume that is for games that will potentially have to be re-scheduled throughout the year due to Covid. February 14th to the 22nd will be a pivotal point in the season as Vegas will face the Avalanche in four straight games, with one of those games being outdoors in Lake Tahoe. The earliest VGK could possibly see a team outside of the “West” division is the Conference Finals, let us hope that happens!

 

Roster

 

VGK Weekly Update
Photo Credit: NHL

So long Nate Schmidt, Paul Stastny, Nick Cousins, Jon Merrill, and Deryk Engelland. Engelland is not gone, we just will not be seeing him on the ice as he retired.  Welcome aboard Alex Pietrangelo, Tomas Jurco, Danny O’Regan, and Carl Dahlstrom. Focusing on the departures first; losing Schmidt hurts.  If there is a positive to be hand, it is that VGK will not have to see Schmidt until the Conference Finals, assuming VGK and Vancouver make it that far. Schmidt will be hard to replace on the ice and even harder to replace off the ice.

Stastny’s departure was a welcome one has he carried a salary of $6.5M and will be thirty-four years old.  Cousins was a lot of fun and was just another reason for opponents hating playing against VGK. Cousins has a way of getting under people’s skin. Losing Merrill just means opportunity for some of VGK’s younger talent to have a shot. Merrill’s mullet and smile will be missed, though. The writing was on the wall for Engelland to retire. Awesome career and even better storyline.

Now to the new additions; Pietrangelo was the prize of the offseason. He also came with quite the price tag: seven years at an average of $8.8M per. Will his output match his compensation? In the early part of the contract, I believe he will yield a proper return. Expect Jurco and O’Reganto start the season with the Henderson Silver Knights and they will have to earn their shot to make the drive from Henderson to Summerlin. Dahlstrom is an interesting addition. In 2017-18 when he played for the Rockford Icehogs (Chicago Blackhawks AHL affiliate) he had three goals, 25 assists, and was a plus fourteen. Dahlstrom has only played fifty-four games at the NHL level. At twenty-five years old and a cap hit of $850K, he is a great lottery ticket.

 

Goalie Situation

 

VGK has two starting goalies. It does not matter who starts opening night, Marc Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner will be close to an even split when the regular season ends. If one of the goalies gets hot, maybe the split gets closer to sixty – forty. For some reason VGK fans do not seem content with having two elite goalies. You are either on team “Flower” or team “Lehner.” It is like being a Chicago Baseball fan, you are either a Cubs fan or White Sox fan. You can not possibly support both teams; it is against some weird Windy City religion. Two elite level goalies will be a huge advantage for Vegas, fans do not have to choose their favorite netminder.

 

Cody Glass

 

Cody Glass had an injury filled rookie campaign and was limited to just thirty – nine games. Adding twenty plus pounds from last season to now, Glass looks like a different person at camp. He has spent the offseason bulking up. Look for Glass to take a major step forward if he can stay healthy.

 

Outlook

 

VGK weekly update
Photo Credit: vegashockeyknight.com

I am guessing many that are reading this have experienced something similar. You walk into the casino and run your $100 up to $600 in a short amount of time. It does not matter what game you play, how bad of strategy you invoke, or how poor the pay tables are. You are splitting tens at the blackjack table like a tourist, ramming and jamming video poker with a horrible 6:5 pay table, and betting the big six at the Craps table. It is all going your way. You walk by a slot machine that has a glorious major jackpot. Feeling lucky and like everything is going your way, you start jamming $20 after $20 thinking it is about to hit. You are stuck a quick $200. Thinking you have warmed up the machine you quickly lose another $200.  Go big or go home, you fire your last $200 and are now down $100 instead of being up $500.

What a letdown! Well folks, that is my outlook for the 2021 campaign, VGK is due for a correction. I view VGK as a fringe playoff team. VGK is right up against the salary cap, I suppose if EVERYONE stays healthy and the goaltending situation does not become a distraction; maybe VGK can compete for the division. Maybe, VGK has had plenty of early success (up $500 in the casino). But they will have to pay for that success. VGK has some big salaries and made some poor trades throughout the years. That must catch up at some point.

 

If VGK is poor out of the gate, the trade rumors will be rampant.  Coach Pete DeBoer will be on the hot seat.  Kelly McCrimmon’s moves will be criticized.  Can VGK hit the major jackpot, or will they leave the casino empty handed.

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-Chris Gawlik – Franchise Sports Media

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