The Vegas Golden Knights. Do they get in? If not, how do you envision their offseason going?
Adam Gretz, NHL writer: At this point I do not see a path for them unless they beat Dallas tonight, win out, and get some help. That is probably asking a lot.
Sean Leahy, NHL writer: They pretty much have to win out and that begins tonight against the Stars and would end against a very good Blues team. They no longer control their destiny and with the way this season has gone, it doesn’t appear as if they have a miracle in them this week.
What should happen if they miss? While the first thought might be some cutthroat chaos, I have a suspicion this organization will chalk this up to some bad injury luck and not make many drastic changes in the summer. There will be some change, of course, given their salary cap situation, but I don’t expect GM Kelly McCrimmon to take a scalpel to this roster and make major moves heading into next season.
Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: I think they miss. At this point, the most realistic way into the playoffs is to pass Dallas, and the Stars have an easier remaining schedule. Even if Vegas were to beat Dallas, I still like the Stars’ odds given they close at home against Arizona and Anaheim, whereas the Golden Knights finish on the road against Chicago and St. Louis (who could still be playing for home ice in the First Round).
Looking ahead to the offseason, if history is any indication, it should be another turbulent offseason for the Golden Knights. They will finally have to come to grips with the many salary cap challenges they’ve created for themselves, so more significant player movement is likely on the horizon.
James O’Brien, NHL writer: Now that the Kings look back on track, there’s not much of a lane for the Golden Knights. I don’t think they can make it.
We’re at the point where it’s fair to ask: if the Golden Knights are going to be so ruthless in trading away players, shouldn’t Kelly McCrimmon and/or George McPhee face the same level of accountability?
Yes, injuries are a valid explanation for this season. A more patient team would take a step back and say, “We probably shouldn’t overreact.”
The Golden Knights, meanwhile, keep hitting the red button so often that it’s fallen off. Also, there’s making your own luck, and maybe making your own bad luck.
With the exception of 25-year-old Jack Eichel, this Golden Knights core is quite old. The downside to acquiring battle-tested veterans like Max Pacioretty (33) and Mark Stone (29) is that they bring their battlescars with them. (Obviously, Eichel’s also coming off major neck surgery.)
For all of the Golden Knights’ smashing successes, they haven’t developed a ton of younger difference-makers. As such, they’re a top-heavy team that was less capable of dealing with injuries. Also, some of those splashy moves didn’t work out as well as expected.
The Golden Knights would be better off just taking a breather and letting things settle — for once. I can just as easily see any (or all) of Peter DeBoer, Kelly McCrimmon, and/or George McPhee being shown the door.
And, in a sense, that might only be fair.
Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: The Vegas Golden Knights are in big trouble as they really have to win out to get into the playoffs. The big game is Dallas (they finish the season with three straight road games) and if they don’t win in regulation, I really cannot see them getting a wild card spot.
Looking at the NHL draft lottery picture, who needs to get the No. 1 pick and Shane Wright the most?
Adam Gretz, NHL writer: The answer to who needs the No. 1 pick the most is absolutely the Arizona Coyotes. This rebuild is going to be major, the arena situation is again a mess, and they badly need somebody to build this thing around and something to give the fan base something to latch on to. Is it the perfect spot for the NHL? Probably not. But Arizona badly needs that pick.
James O’Brien, NHL writer: For all that’s gone wrong with the Coyotes, they’ve mostly done a great job steering into a rebuild, rather than ignoring reality. That reality is what it is, though: this team is largely bereft of talent.
Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Buffalo. You might be thinking “why do the Sabres deserve the No. 1 pick again?” The answer is hockey karma. After surviving the Jack Eichel saga, and actually playing some decent hockey towards the end of the season as Vegas sputtered with Eichel, this would be the perfect ending to what was (is still?) one of the strangest rebuilds in hockey history. It would only be fitting if Shane Wright led Buffalo to the playoffs next season to end this epic drought.
Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: The Montreal Canadiens need to get Shane Wright as they desperately need another center to go with Nick Suzuki. The Habs are lacking in talent up front and while the rest of the bottom-dwellers in the NHL will wait for the 2023 Draft which will feature Connor Bedard, the Canadiens cannot afford to wait another year. Wright may not have the cache he did two seasons ago but he will still be a welcomed addition in the Montreal lineup.
Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Only one of the bottom 11 teams will have a shot at the No. 1 overall pick thanks to the new lottery rules. It would be another boost of positive momentum for the Sabres if they should take their smallish percentage chance and get the lucky ball. Adding Shane Wright to a young roster that showed plenty of promise in the second half of this season would be just what they need. That market is screaming for a good hockey team again and to end their decade-plus-long playoff drought.