Twelve months ago, the Vegas Golden Knights didn't even have a roster.
Now, as the curtains close on the most successful expansion campaign we've ever seen, it's crazy to look back and see just how far NHL hockey in Sin City has come in such a short period of time.
The process began nearly three years ago in July 2015, when two cities—Las Vegas and Quebec—submitted official expansion applications to the NHL. The packages were reviewed for several months before each group made an in-person pitch in September of that year, and it took another nine months before the league announced that Vegas had won the bid after a unanimous vote.
Here's how the mayhem shook out from there.
July 2016: The not-yet-named expansion club added a familiar face to lead its front office, making former Capitals executive George McPhee the first general manager in team history.
November 2016: The franchise dropped the "Las" and announced the team would be named the Vegas Golden Knights. It also released a logo and a unique, unmistakable colour scheme. The much-publicized reveal didn't quite go as planned, but the marketing and exposure the fledgling franchise gained from its botched opening did nothing but help its notoriety among the common fan.
March 2017: The Golden Knights signed former sixth-round pick Reid Duke as their first-ever player. Duke didn't play a game in the NHL this season.
April 2017: Former Columbus Blue Jackets and Florida Panthers bench boss Gerard Gallant was hired be the team's first head coach. He's likely to win the Jack Adams Award for coach of the year after the sorcery he worked behind the Vegas pine.
June 2017: The Golden Knights selected 30 players in the NHL Expansion Draft, including some of the key contributors to their Cinderella run, such as Jonathan Marchessault, James Neal, William Karlsson, Nate Schmidt, and, of course, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. McPhee also made several deals in the days immediately following the expansion draft to shape up the Knights roster.
Following the draft, however, there wasn't a single person who thought Vegas would be anything other than total shit. They underwhelmed with their selections while passing up on good players in exchange for seemingly mediocre ones and amassing an ass-load of mid-range draft picks that would have little to no use any time soon. This team was going to finish 60th out of 31 teams according to most, and George McPhee looked like he was throwing in the towel on the next five seasons or so.
We're all idiots, though.
October 2017: Vegas won its first regular-season contest over Dallas, and came out victorious four days later during the first home game in franchise history. We were there to witness the birth of hockey in Vegas, which came days after a horrific mass shooting claimed the lives of 58 people, turning the opener into an emotional scene.
The expansion Golden Knights left everyone absolutely dumbfounded when they started the campaign 8-1—the best ever from a team in its inaugural season and better than some of the great clubs in NHL history.
November 2017: The Golden Knights went 7-5-1 and strung together a five-game winning streak from the 16th to the 25th. They pulled through despite injuries in the crease which forced them to use their fourth-string goalie, a fucking 19-year-old call up. It just kept getting crazier.
To many, this team was still an absolutely fraudulent bunch despite the nice, lucky start it had. They'd come back to earth, lose about 37 in a row and would take their rightful place in the damp NHL basement. It had to happen. All the Computer Boys and Hockey Men said so.
Then December happened.
December 2017: The team's best month on record and one of the best months by any team in the past two decades. Vegas went 11-1-1 in December while putting together an eight-game winning streak to cap off a brilliant 2017.
As the Golden Knights cruised into the second half of the season atop the NHL standings, a large chunk of the hockey community still dismissed the band of misfits as a fluke and patiently awaited for that fateful moment when they would crash and burn. Well, that didn't happen. Quite the contrary, actually.
January and February 2018: Yep, still going. No regression in sight. What the hell? The Golden Knights started to pull away with the Pacific Division title and even had their time as the No. 1 seed in the entire NHL. Some theories started to emerge and most pundits slowly started to accept that nobody knows anything about sports and everyone was wrong about Vegas.
March 2018: The Golden Knights clinched a playoff berth and would enter the postseason as the Pacific Division champions and the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. Moving into April, we FINALLY started to let go of everything we've ever known and just enjoyed the crazy-ass ride this group of castoffs was delivering. It made no goddamn sense, but what the hell does anymore?
April and May 2018: Vegas shredded its way through the first THREE rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs, going 12-3 en route to a Western Conference crown after taking down the LA Kings, San Jose Sharks, and Winnipeg Jets, setting up a date with Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals for Lord Stanley's Mug. And more amazing pregame festivities.
June 2018: After winning Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, the Golden Knights dropped the next four to end their first season as the second best hockey team in the world. It capped off the greatest expansion season in the history of major North American professional sports. Bravo, Vegas.
So, that was the crazy, brain-thumper of a ride the Vegas Golden Knights blessed the sports world with this season. It was totally unfathomable what the Golden Knights did, even when seeing it unfold with your own two eyes. There are simply no answers. We were played for fools. Everyone looks like a bumbling idiot.
But holy shit was it ever fun.