On Monday night the Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Washington Capitals 6-4 in a wild Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals.
I can’t explain just how remarkable this is. Vegas is an expansion team, and now the Knights are in position to win the NHL championship in their first season of existence.
So is this what’s in store for Seattle?
Seattle is the presumptive next location of an NHL expansion team. No, nothing has been promised to Seattle yet. However, the NHL currently has 31 teams, a number that begs for one more addition. Commissioner Gary Bettman has said the league will consider an expansion bid from Seattle’s Oak View Group. OVG received more than enough commitments for season tickets in a matter of hours. The group brought heavyweight Tod Leiweke on board as team president. And ground is scheduled to be broken on the KeyArena renovation by the end of the year. While nothing is set in stone yet, everything is aligned for the NHL to come to Seattle beginning in 2020.
Does all of that mean a run to the Stanley Cup finals for the yet-to-be-named Seattle franchise in 2021?
Vegas certainly set the blueprint. The Golden Knights have shattered the stereotype of a major professional expansion team. Vegas isn’t just a Cinderella story, this is a legitimately good team. The Golden Knights won the Pacific Division with the fifth-best record in the NHL. Vegas did it while being one of the highest-scoring teams in the league, with their 272 goals tying for fourth in the NHL. The Golden Knights were the superior team in each of its first three playoff series, needing no more than six games to see off their opponents.
Vegas built this team largely through an expansion-draft process that was probably the most liberal in major professional sports history, while also executing a series of shrewd trades during the expansion draft. Players like Marc Andre-Fleury, James Neal, William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith and Nate Schmidt were acquired during the expansion draft. These aren’t your typical fringe veteran type of expansion players. This is a combination of former All-Stars who aren’t over the hill yet (Fleury, Neal) and established NHLers just entering their mid-20s primes (Karlsson, Marchessault, Smith, Schmidt). Looking at the roster it’s hard to imagine this group being a one-hit wonder, the Golden Knights are going to be good for a while.
Bettman has stated in the past that if Seattle is granted an expansion franchise, the expansion-draft rules would be the same from the Vegas expansion draft. Does that mean Seattle will have similar success to the Golden Knights?
Let’s assume an expansion franchise is coming to Seattle. When it does, what kind of expectations do you have for the team in its first season? Have your say here: