During their first season, the Las Vegas Golden Knights have made history
May 24, 2018
Of the four major American sports leagues, only one expansion team has made the championship round in their inaugural season, the Las Vegas Golden Knights.
With the exception of the St. Louis Blues—who in 1950 made the finals in their inaugural season (there were five other new expansion teams so one had to make the finals)—the Golden Knights are the best expansion team in the history of a major American sports league.
Las Vegas created a new hockey franchise less than a year ago and will take on the Washington Capitals next week in the Stanley Cup Finals. Not only have the Knights achieved the impossible, but they have dominated their division all year, finishing fifth overall in points throughout the regular season.
The team’s “nobody wanted us” attitude has driven their grinder culture and propelled the new squad to a year of “firsts” for expansion teams.
The Knights are the first team to make the playoffs in their first season since 1980. They are the first true expansion team to win their division in their inaugural season and the first expansion team to sweep their opponents in the first playoff series they ever played in.
These incredible feats seem beyond possible, especially for players who were not listed within the top nine of their previous rosters. How did this instant success occur?
The major rule change leading to Vegas’ success was made by the NHL prior to the 2017 expansion draft. When the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets were injected into the NHL in 2000, 26 of the 28 NHL teams (Atlanta and Nashville had their entire rosters protected because they had only been franchises for no more than two years) could protect either one goaltender, five defensemen and nine forwards (15 players) or two goaltenders, three defensemen and seven forwards (12 players).
Each of the 26 teams lost two players, and both expansion teams drafted snake style (1-2-2) until they each held 26 players.
The 2017 expansion draft has an immensely more enjoyable list of available draft picks for half as many teams to choose from.
The NHL changed its rules so that all 30 NHL teams could protect either one goaltender, three defensemen, and seven forwards (11 players) or one goaltender and eight skaters. Las Vegas selected 30 players from a much broader list and the draft result lists show clear correlation.
While the 2000 draft consisted of last line skaters and mediocre players teams were willing to lose, the Golden Knights drafted multiple All-Stars, 30 goal scorers, and valuable assets other teams were forced to risk for selection. The rule change is remarkably unfair in Las Vegas’ advantage, so why did it happen?
The NHL claims the reasoning behind the rule change was to allow the Las Vegas market a fair chance to succeed with a quality team. Although one could argue that previous expansion teams consistently lacked success for the first decade of existence (Wild and Blue Jackets combined for two playoff series victories in their first 13 years), the NHL accepted a questionably high sum of money from Las Vegas for their expansion fee. While the Blue Jackets are currently valued at $315 million and the Wild at $440 million, the Golden Knights’ expansion fee was $500 million, according to Forbes.
This steep price increase makes some question the intent behind the NHL’s rule change.
The Las Vegas Golden Knights move on to fight for the Stanley Cup using players who would be greatly contributing to their previous teams’ playoffs runs, and the existing 30 teams’ fans remained worried about who else they have to lose once the next expansion draft occurs (possibly in Seattle for 2020-2021 season).
Contact Wylie Lowe at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.