We’ve seen the Lightning play them twice, a 4-3 last-second loss in Nevada in December and a 4-1 loss last night, but we’ve never seen an expansion team like the Vegas Golden Knights before.
When the major sports leagues started aggressive expansion in the 1960’s, it was expected that the start-up franchises would be pretty terrible for at least a decade or more. There were aberrations; the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings won their very first game 37-13 over the Chicago Bears in 1961 and the Florida Panthers finished just a game below .500 (with 83 points) in their inaugural season of 1993-94. But for the most part, immediate success was not something experienced by most expansion teams. The 1974-75 Washington Capitals went 8-67-5. And of course, there’s the legendarily inept 0-26 start posted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over their first two seasons.
Lots of things have changed, such as changes in expansion draft eligibility rules but primarily free agency. Expansion teams used to be comprised entirely of cast-offs from established franchises. Those teams then had to wait (and hope) for years of accrued high draft choices to mature and produce before they could move up in the standings. The availability of talented players who could sign with the highest bidder helped level and even tilt the tables, allowing the Florida Marlins to win a World Series in 1997, just their fifth season in existence.
The Golden Knights did not cut corners by merely assembling a roster of high-priced mercenaries. Crafty deals and an expansion draft they didn’t have to share with another new team allowed them to acquire talent like James Neal, who scored 23 goals for the Western Conference champion Nashville Predators and Marc-Andre Fleury, the starting goalie for the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. They also got Jonathan Marchessault, who was productive and a fan favorite with the Lightning.
Still, how you feel about the success of the Golden Knights, who have the best record in the Western Conference at 30-11-3 (63 points), probably comes down to how rooted in tradition you are. So that’s this week’s poll question. Go ahead and vote and feel free to flesh out your opinion in the comments.
I think the fact that the Vegas Golden Knights are doing so well in their inaugural season is...
This poll is closed
Great! Welcome to the NHL!
Terrible! It’s an affront to the teams in this league that have paid their dues.
No big deal. It’s not like they’re cheating or anything and there’s no reason a team should be lousy just because they’re new.