by Josh Golden
This season, the National Hockey League expanded their league, adding a 31st team: the Vegas Golden Knights. Normally, early on in their franchise, expansion franchises are awful. Since it takes a few years to develop talent and chemistry on a completely new squad, expansion franchises take a few years to develop—but not this team. In the first eight games in franchise history, Vegas has won seven, putting them in second place in their division, behind the Los Angeles Kings. If this team is supposed to be bad, how did they get off to such a hot start?
It all starts with veteran left wing James Neal. Neal, who was taken by the Golden Knights from the Nashville Predators in the expansion draft, has five goals and three assists to start the season for Vegas. The thirty-year-old former all-star has been a huge veteran presence along with being the hero in the team’s debut game, scoring both goals in a comeback victory in Dallas. Neal is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after this season and is open to signing a contract extension with the new team, but could possibly be traded before this year’s deadline in order for Vegas to acquire more young talent.
Another reason the Golden Knights are exceeding expectations is teamwork. According to Knights defenseman Colin Miller, “We don’t have those big studs some other teams have, so we know we have to play to our system and support one another. We’ve become a team real fast. It’s the way we have to play.” The Knights have definitely seen success working as a team, tallying assists on 25 of the 27 goals the team has scored so far.
Now, after a 7-1-0 start to the season, the lovable new team is in perfect position to make the playoffs, but will their impressive start continue throughout the rest of the season? Probably not. Despite the success of former all-star James Neal and the ability for the young squad to work as a team, the team has put up with some issues in the net. Their top two goalies, Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban, have both suffered injuries that will keep them out for a few weeks. Even if they stay healthy for the remainder of the season, they weren’t at the top of their games when they were on the ice and need to step up if the Knights want to make this year’s postseason. Even if they improve, the young franchise should stock up in young talent and prepare for their bright future rather than put pressure on an inexperienced roster.