The Vegas Golden Knights don't make any sense. They are the best evidence we are living in a computer simulation that requires tech support. Any attempt to explain how this is happening is futile. Even the use of hindsight to show how this first-year team breezed to the second round of the playoffs has more holes than the plot of The Dark Knight Rises.
Everyone gets something wrong in the preseason. Hockey is a sport predicated on more luck than any Hockey Man is willing to admit and every team is one catastrophic injury from having its season derailed, which leaves open the possibility for flukes and surprises. The most optimistic prognosticator felt the Knights could maybe be a playoff team if things broke right but nobody expected a 109-point season and for the team to be installed as Cup favorites in mid-April.
This is all bat shit. There's no other way to look at this. Don't be that person who pulls up a chair at the bar in April and explains to the guy next to you how this team has chemistry and a group of guys out to prove everyone wrong. Bullshit. You didn't know in October. Don't pretend you know now. Ryan Carpenter could have been dealing you blackjack every day for two years and you wouldn't have realized he was the same guy with nine goals in 36 games. "Ryan Carpenter looks a lot like Ryan over at Aria."
These are mostly players nobody wanted or who were offered as a bribe to not take better players. Sometimes sports are bat shit… and the Golden Knights are bat shit. It's better to bask in the bat shit instead of thrashing around in an effort to understand how we became surrounded in bat shit.
Let's go back in time. Before this team even played a game, it fucked up both naming the team and unveiling the name, logo, and colors. This was an organization that didn't know how to operate a PowerPoint presentation and now it's 12 wins from a championship? Fuck right off. Pay your dues like everyone else! Damn millennial sports teams! A story about the team being unable to play a regular season game at T-Mobile Arena because the building manager lost the keys seemed more likely than the Knights winning 30 games.
You know when this should have ended? When Marc-Andre Fleury suffered a concussion in October and missed two months. You can make a case that Fleury wasn't necessarily the team's best player but he was certainly its most important. Yet with him sidelined nearly one-third of the season, and the Knights being left with three guys they found passed out at a Caesars pai gow table to play goalie in his absence, they basically had a playoff spot clinched when Fleury returned.
And even with a healthy Fleury, who saw this season coming? This was a guy who played himself out of a starting job in Pittsburgh and hadn't been a consistently effective No. 1 goaltender in a long time. He has three Cup rings, but who gives a shit? The one he actually won was a decade ago and the other two came as a backup. If he hadn't missed those two months, he'd have been a lock for the Vezina Trophy. But maybe we should have expected his career-best season while playing behind… let me just glance over the roster and get back to you…
Deryk Engelland? Brayden McNabb? Colin Miller? Am I reading this right? Luca Sbisa? Brad Hunt? Is that a real person? NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE! DON'T PRETEND A TEAM ANCHORED BY DERYK ENGELLAND MARCHING TO A STANLEY CUP CAN BE EXPLAINED!!!
Even the theory I love the most—all NHL general managers are idiots to varying degrees and the Knights took advantage of that stupidity—has a gaping hole in it. Do you know who did the drafting for the Knights? An idiot GM! The guy who traded Filip Forsberg for a sack of used diapers! The guy who built a Cup contender in Washington, then panicked when the team was the victim of a fluky playoff upset and felt [checks notes] Dale Hunter was the answer! That guy!
If the Knights' general manager wasn't George McPhee and was instead some outsider that never ran a hockey team, you'd have something with this theory. But I'd bet anything there's an email somewhere with McPhee saying it "sucks" he had to take Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault from Florida. "I really wanted Jussi Jokinen but I couldn't say no."
There's another part of this "taking advantage of idiots" theory people forget—McPhee gave Vadim Shipachyov two years and $9 million before terminating the contract after three games. Three games! Less than a week on the NHL roster! I've had longer trips to Vegas than that! Of course, this is where you get to hear the word "chemistry" again, like McPhee and Gerard Gallant built this team around a 2001 song by Semisonic.
Yes, the "chemistry" wasn't there with Shipachyov. That's what it was. You can't upset the fragile chemical balance of a team that probably didn't know everyone's names yet. It wasn't a bad signing; it was a wise general manager putting chemistry over talent. Eat me!
This is also the general manager who acquired Ryan Reeves and gave up a first-, second- and third-round pick for Tomas Tatar at the trade deadline. Reeves was added for (fill in reason when you figure it out later) and Tatar for his scoring ability. Tatar had four goals and six points in 20 regular-season games with the Knights and, I shit you not, was a healthy scratch in two of the four games against the Kings. THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS' BIG DEADLINE ACQUISITION ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH TO CRACK THE LINEUP OF AN EXPANSION TEAM!!!
Don't tell me McPhee is playing chess when everyone else is playing checkers; McPhee was playing checkers as recently as late-February.
There's no explanation for the Golden Knights. Could it be dumb GMs? Could it be dumb coaches not giving guys like William Karlsson the ice time they deserved with their old teams? Could it be every visiting team showing up to the rink hungover like those people in that movie about being hungover? Could it be luck?
Even if the answer is yes to all of those, how does that add up to Stanley Cup favorites with three rounds remaining in the playoffs? It doesn't! Saying yes to all those questions gets the Knights in playoff contention if our computer-simulated world wasn't on the fritz. Even if you wanted to blame this all on luck, the Knights' PDO in the regular season was 1.005, according to Natural Stat Trick. That's not enough to place this all at the feet of good fortune.
So we are left with one simple answer—this is all bat shit. And we should embrace that. It's sort of relieving in a way that in an era when every piece of sports minutiae can be interpreted with formulas and numbers, nobody has the answer for the 2017-18 Golden Knights. If their legacy isn't an expansion championship, maybe their legacy is forcing the other 30 teams to examine how they evaluate talent. Maybe it forces owners to evaluate GMs in a new way. Maybe it transforms hockey forever.
Or maybe the week off before the second round results in the Vegas Flu hitting the Knights, who lose in four games to the Sharks and then have all the idiots from the hockey establishment point and condescendingly say, "See?"
Anything is possible with the Vegas Golden Knights.