Golden Knights didn’t win Stanley Cup, but they aren’t failures


After falling to the Canadiens in overtime of an entertaining Game 6, the Golden Knights likely feel exhausted, and deflated.

Drill down into different aspects of that Canadiens – Golden Knights series, and you can identify plenty of regrets. Mark Stone himself admitted he got “skunked.” As tremendous — unsustainably tremendous — as Carey Price was on the penalty kill, the Golden Knights’ power play was a total dud.

” … They owned the key moments of the series,” Peter DeBoer said after Game 6, via TSN.

“When they got a chance, they stuck it in the net. When they needed a big save, they got a big save. They won the overtime battle. They won the special-teams battle. If you’re losing those areas of the game, you’re putting yourself in a tough spot.”

Once again, the Golden Knights fell just short of their ultimate goal: advancing to the Stanley Cup Final, and winning it all. This franchise spent a lot of money and assets to try to win a Stanley Cup. Instead, Golden Knights fans are starting to pile up some playoff heartache.

[MORE: How the Canadiens shocked the Golden Knights, and the NHL]

But few other NHL fans will feel much sympathy for the still-new Golden Knights. And you know what? Those fans are right. Because, in the grand scheme of things, the Golden Knights remain a stunning success.

Really, they’ve been so successful, so often, that people might take those successes for granted. Let’s count some of the ways the Golden Knights have succeeded.

Shrewd expansion draft moves still paying dividends

The 2020-21 Golden Knights look dramatically different from the debut squad that stunned their way to a 2018 Stanley Cup Final appearance.

Even so, the Golden Knights expansion draft remains the gift that keeps giving.

Did they really want to keep Marc-Andre Fleury in 2020-21? Deep down, maybe not. But he put together a blazingly brilliant season, finishing as a Vezina finalists. While he ran out of steam, Fleury also provided some playoff brilliance.

If we’re being honest, Reilly SmithWilliam KarlssonJonathan Marchessault looked like the “real” Golden Knights top line in Game 6, rather than “the other top line.”

And, while you can quibble with Shea Theodore‘s argument as a Norris-range defenseman, you’d be straining the limits of logic to claim that he hasn’t been an enormous success for the Golden Knights. (Also: he might be the first bullet point in an argument for why Bob Murray’s seemingly lost his touch in Anaheim.)


Once the Golden Knights enjoyed shocking early success, they diverted from their main focus of the expansion draft: piling up a bunch of draft picks. As much as it stung to see Nick Suzuki power Montreal to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, even that process helped Vegas. They used excess picks to land some of the big fish on the trade market, and that mostly worked out.

(Also: while people aren’t as ecstatic about the Golden Knights’ prospect pool as they once were, it’s still a respected group.)

No Stanley Cup, but Golden Knights have generated great results overall

For some, an NHL team is a failure if they don’t win the Stanley Cup.

Frankly, that seems silly, and maybe a downright unhealthy way to view sports. Stack up what the Golden Knights have accomplished since their inaugural 2017-18 season, and you won’t find many teams who have been more successful:

  • They’ve won their division twice. This year, they fell short … because the tiebreaker went to the Avalanche, who oh yeah, also won the Presidents’ Trophy.
  • In three of four playoff runs, they’ve won at least two series. That wild and wildly unlucky Game 7 loss to Peter DeBoer and the Sharks marks the only time the Golden Knights fell in the First Round.
  • Generally speaking, they’ve been fun to watch. For rival fans, that might translate to a “love to hate” vibe. But they’ve rarely been boring.

That’s … pretty amazing, right? Here’s another sign that the Golden Knights are a smash success: the bar seems way, way too high for the Seattle Kraken.

Vegas Golden Knights v Colorado Avalanche - Game Five
(Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Quite a track record with big gambles

Let’s be honest: the Golden Knights rode a ton of luck during that first season. Credit a sharp management team for a) identifying the few stars who’ve become available and b) doing what it took to land the ones who are positive difference-makers.

Look around the NHL, and you’ll see plenty of gambles that look like failures. Some of those went bust shortly after the ink dried on ill-fated contracts.

Culminating with Matt Duchene, the Predators’ run of bold moves plummeted from savvy to scary. Those Sharks have beached with Erik Karlsson merely the biggest of several albatross deals. Avert your eyes from that Sergei Bobrovsky contract.

Meanwhile, the Golden Knights didn’t sink when they made their big splashes.

Big returns for their new top line

Again, yes, Mark Stone got “skunked.” He’s absorbing a rare bit of the sort of blame stars experience in markets like Montreal.

But those criticisms are rooted, in part, because of how high expectations were. After joining the Golden Knights, Mark Stone’s risen from two-way rising star to a no-doubt-about-it superstar.

Maybe Stone’s rise might explain why Max Pacioretty slips under the radar a bit. How many people realize that, with 24 goals, Max Pacioretty tied for 13th in the NHL with the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby,  and Sebastian Aho?

Where the Golden Knights made expensive bets on Pacioretty and Stone, they bought low on the severely underrated Chandler Stephenson.

Sure, it was disappointing to see that trio come up short against the Canadiens (even if the Habs deserve a ton of credit, especially pizza-loving, Selke-grade forward Phillip Danault). Yet it’s fair to point out that a healthy version of that line might have been more productive.

Pacioretty missed most of the First Round. Stephenson sat out a chunk of the Canadiens – Golden Knights series. And it’s possible Stone was nursing something too (it was the playoffs, after all).

Even if you show no mercy to them … they still mostly delivered as a genuine top line. That doesn’t always happen when a team invests in big stars.

(It’s easy to forget how important Stone was in the Golden Knights slowing down Nathan MacKinnon and the Avalanche, for example.)

Pietrangelo and other investments shine

Remember when Alex Pietrangelo seemed like a letdown for the Golden Knights?

Whether you prefer your stats fancy or traditional, Pietrangelo struggled a bit (by his standards) during the regular season. That changed during the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, though.

Pietrangelo finished second on the Golden Knights in playoff scoring with 12 points, including four goals. Pietrangelo scored three of those goals against Montreal, crucial stuff when Vegas couldn’t buy a bucket.

Along with bringing that offense, Pietrangelo was sound defensively, and provided a steadying presence in transition. After tough years for Nate Schmidt and Paul Stastny, the Golden Knights look justified in straining to add the former Blues star.

You can extend the kudos to other, smaller moves. Alec Martinez isn’t perfect, but he was mostly a nice find for Vegas. While firing Gerard Gallant was questionable, it seems like Peter DeBoer mostly pushes the right buttons.

Challenges ahead

Now, can the Golden Knights sustain these successes, and maybe even win that Stanley Cup? They have to hope that they didn’t already enjoy their best chances.

The biggest downside to their team-building strategy is that their core looks shockingly old for a team that’s existed for four seasons. Pacioretty is 32, Pietrangelo is 31, Stone is 29, and that other first line has some mileage (Marchessault and Smith are 30; William Karlsson is 28). Marc-Andre Fleury’s carefree attitude belies his age (36). Even Robin Lehner‘s no baby at 29.

Now, those ages don’t scream “drastic decline.” But it’s at least a consideration. That’s especially true because they’ve been through some grueling playoff battles.

Maybe that’s where a prospect like Peyton Krebs comes in. Or perhaps the Golden Knights will once again roll the dice, this time focusing on, say, a more established center?

Eventually, those big bets might not pay off. If you can zoom out from the disappointment of falling to an underdog (but underrated) Canadiens team, it should be clear that the Golden Knights’ successes massively outweigh their failures.


Game 1: Golden Knights 4, Canadiens 1
Game 2: Canadiens 3, Golden Knights 2
Game 3: Canadiens 3, Golden Knights 2 (OT)
Game 4: Golden Knights 2, Canadiens 1 (OT)

Game 5: Canadiens 4, Golden Knights 1
Game 6: Canadiens 3, Golden Knights 2 (OT)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Maple Leafs hire Brad Treliving as team’s new general manager

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

TORONTO — Brad Treliving has a new job.

And the Maple Leafs have a new plan.

Treliving was hired as Toronto’s general manager less than two weeks after firing Kyle Dubas.

The 53-year-old Treliving left the Calgary Flames in April following nine seasons that included five playoff appearances and two 100-point seasons.

“Brad brings a wealth of knowledge from his years of experience as a general manager and hockey executive in Calgary, Arizona and beyond,” Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said in a statement. “He has earned tremendous respect amongst his peers throughout his years in the NHL and has built excellent relationships at all levels within the game.”

Treliving joins the Leafs at a crucial juncture in the wake of Shanahan’s stunning dismissal of Dubas on May 19.

The Original Six franchise, whose Stanley Cup drought stands at 56 years, won a playoff series for the first time in nearly two decades with a victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning this spring, but then lost to the Eastern Conference champion Florida Panthers in five games.

Dubas, who had been Toronto’s GM since 2018 and didn’t have a contract beyond June 30, suggested at an end of season news conference May 15 he wasn’t sure he wanted to remain in the role – at least in part because of the stress on his young family.

A roller coaster five days followed, with Shanahan ultimately firing the 37-year-old Dubas despite previously wanting to keep his GM, and the now-unemployed executive eventually indicating to his boss he wished to stay.

Treliving is the third GM – joining Dubas and Hall of Famer Lou Lamoriello – hired in Toronto by Shanahan, whose so-called “Shanaplan” aimed at getting the storied franchise back on its feet when he came on board in 2014 has seen unparalleled regular-season success, but just that one series victory in eight attempts.

“I’m thrilled to join an Original Six team and recognize how much the Maple Leafs mean to this community,” Treliving said. “This is a very exciting day for my family and I.”

Treliving has a lot to deal with as he settles into his new office at Scotiabank Arena.

Treliving, who served in the Phoenix Coyotes’ front office for seven seasons before arriving in Calgary, will have to decide the future of head coach Sheldon Keefe, while stars Auston Matthews and William Nylander can sign contract extensions as of July 1.

Matthews and Mitch Marner have full no-movement clauses ready to kick in the same day. Nylander will have a 10-team list.

The NHL draft is also set for the end of June in Nashville, Tennessee, while the Leafs have 12 roster players primed to hit free agency at noon EDT on July 1.

The Flames, who missed the playoffs this season, won the Pacific Division in 2021-22 under Treliving before falling to the Edmonton Oilers in the second round.

Johnny Gaudreau then stunned the organization by leaving Calgary for the Columbus Blue Jackets in free agency last summer. Fellow star forward Matthew Tkachuk added another wrinkle by informing the team he didn’t plan to re-sign.

Treliving subsequently dealt the winger to Florida as part of a package that included forward Jonathan Huberdeau and defenseman MacKenzie Weegar heading to southern Alberta.

Huberdeau then signed an eight-year, $84 million contract extension with the Flames that kicks in next season.

Tkachuk, a Conn Smythe Trophy candidate as playoff MVP, and the Panthers open the Cup Final against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Despite the departures of Gaudreau and Tkachuk, the Flames looked like contenders ahead of the 2022-23 season.

The acquisition of Huberdeau and the signing of center Nazem Kadri was expected to fill the void left by Gaudreau and Tkachuk, but the mix wasn’t right for a group led by hard-nosed coach Darryl Sutter.

Huberdeau and Kadri finished well off their career-high points totals of the previous season – the former went from 115 with Florida to 55 in Calgary – while subpar goaltending was an issue much of the season.

Treliving now turns his attention to Toronto.

Just like last summer, he has lots of work to do.

Nashville Predators hire Andrew Brunette after firing John Hynes

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

NASHVILLE, Tenn.– The coaching shuffle in Nashville is complete, with Andrew Brunette officially hired as the Predators coach a little over 12 hours after the team announced that John Hynes was fired.

The moves are the first being made by incoming general manager Barry Trotz and come about six weeks after the Predators missed the playoffs.

The 49-year-old Brunette spent the past season as a New Jersey Devils associate coach under Lindy Ruff and has previous head-coaching experience.

He was promoted to interim coach of the Florida Panthers during the 2021-22 season and oversaw a team that set franchise records for wins (58) and points (122) in claiming the Presidents’ Trophy before being eliminated in the second round of the playoffs. Brunette finished second in the Jack Adams Award voting for the NHL’s coach of the year.

He becomes just the fourth coach in the history of a Predators franchise and returns to Nashville, where Brunette played for the Trotz-coached team during its inaugural season in 1998-99. Their relationship goes back to 1993-94, when Brunette played under Trotz, who was head coach of the Washington Capitals’ American Hockey League affiliate in Portland, Maine.

“I feel like this is coming full circle for my career – from pulling on the jersey for the first time 25 years ago to returning now to take care of some unfinished business,” Brunette said in a statement. “It has been awesome to see how this city and its fanbase have grown since I played here and I look forward to continuing the legacy and the culture behind the bench that Barry cultivated that inaugural season.”

Trotz, meantime, has an eye on building on the Predators’ youth and offensively skilled players as he takes over as GM for David Poile, who is retiring at the end of June after 26 years overseeing the franchise.

“We want to become more of an offensive team and Andrew specializes on that side of the ice – he lived it as a player, and he coaches it as a coach, Trotz said. “He is as good of an offensive teacher and power-play coach as there is in the game today. He will be great with our young players, and I know, because of his background as a player, he will connect well with our top, skilled players.”

In Florida, Brunette coached a Panthers team that led the NHL with 337 goals and had the league’s fourth-best power-play unit.

The Predators missed the playoffs for the first time in nine years, and the first under Hynes, who took over as coach during the 2019-20 season after Peter Laviolette was fired.

Brunette, who is from Sudbury, Ontario, spent 16 seasons playing in the NHL, ending with a one-year stint with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2011-12. He finished with 268 goals and 733 points in 1,110 career games split among six teams, including two separate stints in Minnesota. Brunette is one of 25 players selected in the seventh round or later to appear in more than 1,000 NHL games.

Upon his retirement, Brunette spent seven seasons with the Wild in various off-ice roles, including assistant coach and assistant GM, before being hired by the Panthers as an assistant coach in 2019-2020.

Spencer Carbery hired as Capitals coach after 2 seasons as Maple Leafs assistant

Getty Images
1 Comment

Spencer Carbery got his start in coaching in the minors with the Washington Capitals watching closely.

They liked what they saw, and they brought him back to fill the job they envisioned he would get.

The Capitals hired Carbery as their next coach, ending their search for Peter Laviolette‘s successor by landing on a favorite of the organization who in recent years had become one of the NHL’s most intriguing candidates. He now is tasked with getting Washington back in the playoffs with an aging roster and extending the organization’s run of success a few more years while Alex Ovechkin chases Wayne Gretzky’s goals record.

“Spencer is one of the best young coaches in the game who’s had success at every level at which he has coached,” general manager Brian MacLellan said in a statement. “We feel his leadership, communication skills, ability to develop players and familiarity with our organization will be a tremendous asset as he makes this next step in his coaching career.”

Carbery spent the past two seasons as an assistant with the Toronto Maple Leafs, running the power play that ranked second in the league over that time. Before the Leafs hired him, he was considered the heir apparent to Laviolette because of his time with the Capitals’ top minor league affiliate, the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears.

When Hershey VP of hockey operations Bryan Helmer was interviewing candidates for his head-coaching gig in 2018, he asked Carbery how long until he saw himself in that kind of role in the NHL. Carbery gave himself five years and nailed that projection.

“He did an incredible job for us when he was here, and I knew that he would be an NHL coach at one point down the road,” Helmer told The Associated Press by phone. “He wanted to make sure that he was ready to make that step. He went through the steps, and I think he’s ready for the NHL.”

Carbery coached Hershey for three years before getting the NHL promotion to Sheldon Keefe’s staff in Toronto. At the time, there wasn’t an opening for an assistant in Washington.

There is now, and Carbery at 41 usurps Keefe as the youngest coach in the league after going from a Capitals’ homegrown prospect who began with their ECHL team in South Carolina to one of the hottest names on the market. He interviewed with the San Jose Sharks for their vacancy last year and multiple others this spring.

The Capitals got him back before a rival team could scoop him up. They chose Carbery from a pool of candidates that also included former captain-turned-Tampa Bay assistant Jeff Halpern, Philadelphia associate coach Brad Shaw and others with more experience.

“I would like to thank the Capitals organization for affording me the opportunity to lead this team,” Carbery said. “I look forward to working with this group of talented players and building upon the winning culture in place. I would also like to thank the Toronto Maple Leafs organization for all their support over the past two years.”

Carbery’s job won’t be an easy one. Five years removed from Washington winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history, the team is coming off missing the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade and could be on the verge of changes beyond coaching.

MacLellan must decide how much to shuffle the roster, but in no way is he beginning the process of rebuilding. With Ovechkin, the 2018 playoff MVP and longtime face of the franchise, about to turn 38 and sitting 73 goals away from breaking Gretzky’s career record, the organization from owner Ted Leonsis down has set a goal of continuing to contend while the Russian star is under contract for three more seasons.

Helmer, who played with Ovechkin briefly in 2008-09, said Carbery’s relationships with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and other Leafs stars will only help him moving forward.

“It’s going to be a great mix,” Helmer said. “Spencer really stays on top of it. He expects a lot out of his players and he holds them accountable, which is a great thing. I see big things coming from Spencer and what he can do with the Caps.”

Golden Knights reach second Stanley Cup Final after Game 6 win over Stars

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

DALLAS — William Karlsson scored two goals and had an assist as the Vegas Golden Knights advanced to their second Stanley Cup Final with a 6-0 rout over the Dallas Stars, who had extended the Western Conference Final to six games after losing the first three.

William Carrier, Keegan Kolesar and Michael Amadio each had a goal and an assist for the Knights, and Jonathan Marchessault had a goal. Carrier, Marschessault and Karlsson were all part of the inaugural 2017-18 Knights season that ended in their Cup Final.

Adin Hill stopped 23 shots for his second career playoff shutout – both against the Stars. The other was 4-0 in Game 3 last Tuesday, when the Knights were already within one win of clinching the series before Dallas overcame 1-0 and 2-1 deficits in both Games 4 and 5.

Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against Florida will be Saturday night in Las Vegas.

Vegas led the Western Conference in the regular season with 51 wins and 111 points. The Panthers completed a four-game sweep of Carolina in the East final last Wednesday, but their 40 wins and 92 points in the regular season were the fewest among the 16 teams that began these NHL playoffs.

Instead of having to face a do-or-die Game 7 at home against the Stars, coach Bruce Cassidy and the Knights got off to another fast start and never left any doubt about the outcome of this series that included three overtime games.

It was the most lopsided playoff loss for the Stars since the franchise moved south from Minnesota before the 1993-94 season.

“You just expect more from yourself in a game like this,” said Stars forward Joe Pavelski, the 38-year-old veteran still without a Stanley Cup after 17 seasons.

The Stars got captain Jamie Benn back after his two-game suspension for a cross-check to the neck area of Vegas captain Mark Stone early in Game 3. But Benn already had a minus-2 rating without a shot after playing only 3:46 in the first period, and finished minus-2 with only one shot his 12 1/2 minutes on the ice.

Vegas led for good when Carrier scored 3:41 into the game after a puck poked from behind the net in the vicinity of three Dallas players. Carrier skated across the front of the crease and put a backhander in the net, the ninth time this postseason the Knights scored in the first five minutes of a game.

Karlsson’s power-play goal came midway through the first period made it 2-0, and after a penalty that likely had prevented him from scoring.

Nicolas Roy took a shot that deflected off Jake Oettinger’s glove and popped up in the air behind the goalie. Karlsson was charging into the crease when Stars defenseman Esa Lindell raised his stick and swatted the puck out of play, drawing a delay of game penalty.

With the man advantage, Reilly Smith took a shot from the circle to the left, which was deflected in front by Roy and then off Oettinger’s extended skate before Karlsson knocked in the rebound.

After Kolesar made it 3-0 in the first, and Marchessault scored his ninth goal in the second, Karlsson’s franchise record 10th goal for a playoff series extended the lead to 5-0 only two minutes into the third period.

Oettinger had been 3-0 when the Stars were facing elimination this postseason, including Game 7 in the second round against Seattle before stopping 64 of 68 shots the past two games against the Knights.

That was after Vegas had scored three goals on five shots in the first 7:10 to chase him from Game 3, which was the only lopsided game in the series until the finale. Two of their three regular season game went to shootouts.

Dallas was only the fifth team to force a Game 6 in an conference final or NHL semifinal after being down 0-3, and the first since the Stars lost to Detroit in a sixth game in 2008. Only two teams got to a Game 7, which both lost – the New York Islanders to Philadelphia in 1975; and the New York Rangers to Boston in 1939.

Vegas avoided a Game 7 at home against the Stars and coach Peter DeBoer, who is 7-0 in such do-or-die games, including the Seattle series finale two weeks ago. DeBoer was the Vegas coach for its only Game 7 wins – in the second round in 2020 against Vancouver and 2021 in the first round against Minnesota. But he was fired by the Golden Knights after they missed the playoffs last season for the only time in their short existence.