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Last season, the Vegas Golden Knights were one of the NHL’s most surprising teams. They not only set the bar high for their playoff run which ended in a trip to the Stanley Cup finals, and became the surprise team of the season but they became the most successful first year expansion team in the professional sports history.
An offseason later, they’ve seemingly come down to earth. Even though it’s only a little less than two months into the season, what happened?
One idea could be that their offseason didn’t yield much improvement. Various hockey experts noted that Vegas didn’t have a “top of the class” offseason. Even one source said that they didn’t improve but they didn’t get worse either.
While retaining goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was a huge signing, when your goalie is the face of the franchise, that’s not always a good sign, unless the goalie is Martin Brodeur or Patrick Roy.
When a team makes it to the Stanley Cup Finals and loses, regardless of how old or how young, to settle on “just as good” is not good enough.
Another issue could be the pressure to repeat or the “championship hangover.” While they didn’t win the championship, teams that make it to the big match sometimes struggle the next year.
One example is the 2016 Carolina Panthers. The year after they won all but one game, they finished 6-10 and finished in last place in the division. Sometimes the first real taste of success can lead to a nasty drop in production. It doesn’t always mean the team underachieved, in this instance, it means that they set the bar too high.
Probably the biggest reason is they don’t have the inspiration that they had last year.
Just days before their home opener, the 2017 Las Vegas shooting occurred that saw many lives lost. Tragedy has always provided extra fuel for a team to succeed. It has to do with the team trying to provide a distraction from the horrifying moments in the real world.
Whether you talk about the 2001 New York Yankees who made it to the World Series in memory of those who lost their lives in the September 11th attacks, the 2013 Boston Red Sox who won the World Series in memory of those who died in the Boston Marathon bombing or the 2006 New Orleans Saints after Hurricane Katrina, it motivated that team and the city. Without that spark, Vegas is now experiencing the struggles an expansion team normally does in their first season.
Whatever the case may be, Vegas is going to need to step up if they’re going to have any chance of making the playoffs. There’s still time to turn the season around.
In fact, some experts are saying that they are the team most likely to turn it around. However, they can’t wait too long or they could lose this season very quickly.