Golden Knights: Failed Plan(s)

Photo: Bizuayehu Tesfaye/ Las Vegas Review

Plan “A” for Vegas Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon was to keep the 2023 championship roster as close to intact as possible and attempt to run it back. Reilly Smith was traded soon after the parade to free up salary cap space to extend Ivan Barbashev. Adin Hill was extended and no other major moves were made in the offseason.

Plan “A” was looking good until the first week of November. The Golden Knights charged out to an 11-0-1 record and did not suffer a regulation loss until Nov. 5 vs. the Anaheim Ducks.

Then, the injuries started.

McCrimmon had to expect injuries, after all, the Golden Knights had 471 man-games-lost due to injury in the 2022-23 season. The number of man-games-lost due to injury slightly rose to 476 in the 2023-24 season.

The Golden Knights started slowly descending in the Pacific Division and Western Conference after the 11-0-1 start.

Extended injuries to Alex Pietrangelo, William Karlsson, Jack Eichel, Zach Whitecloud, Mark Stone, Alec Martinez, Shea Theodore, and William Carrier left McCrimmon and the Golden Knights with no choice but to deplore plan “B” since plan “A” had failed.

Plan “B” was for McCrimmon to utilize available salary cap space due to Stone missing the final 26 regular-season games with a severed spleen.

McCrimmon got to work and acquired Tomas Hertl, Noah Hanifin, and Anthony Mantha.

Plan “B” had was officially underway after the trade deadline.

The Golden Knights were in an interesting spot in game No. 82 of the regular season against the Anaheim Ducks. A win would have meant facing the Edmonton Oilers in the first round and a loss would have likely meant a first round matchup with the Dallas Stars.

The Golden Knights played a disinterested brand of hockey and dropped game No. 82 of the regular season to the Ducks. One could argue that the Golden Knights were hoping to face the Stars in the first round.

Plans “A” and “B” merged when the playoffs started, and Stone returned to the lineup. The Golden Knights charged out to two road victories and were hoping to make quick work of the Pete DeBoer and the Stars.

DeBoer made the first big move between the coaches by loading up a line with Roope Hintz, Jason Robertson, and Wyatt Johnston. Coach Bruce Cassidy did not have an answer in games three and four as the Stars evened up the series.

Cassidy made the first panic moves of the series by inserting Ben Hutton and Pavel Dorofeyev into the lineup for game five. Adin Hill made his series debut by replacing Logan Thompson. The Stars were the superior team in game five, and Cassidy was searching for answers.

Cassidy removed Hutton and Dorofeyev from the game six lineup, and the Golden Knights played their best game of the series, largely thanks to an Adin Hill shutout.

Game seven could have gone either way. Jonathan Marchessault hit the post on an open net that is sure to haunt him all summer. Eichel had a similar fate after he beat Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger as he went to his backhand, but failed to hit the empty net.

This was an extremely close series that could have gone either way, make no mistake about it.

That said, full credit to DeBoer and the Stars for defeating the Golden Knights. The Stars outplayed the Golden Knights and DeBoer outcoached Cassidy. DeBoer made the moves that won the series and Cassidy did not have an answer.

Back to the failed plan(s). Plan “A” was destined to fail based on the 2022-23 regular season. But McCrimmon was ready for plan “A” to fail. After all, the Golden Knights roster did not get younger beyond swapping Smith and Barbashev.

Plan “B” was not supposed to fail, at least not after the Golden Knights started the series with two road victories. This was basically last season’s Stanley Cup winning roster less Reilly Smith plus Tomas Hertl and Noah Hanifin.

Yes, there were injuries. The Golden Knights dealt with as many as nine surgeries throughout the season per Cassidy as he spoke during his game seven press conference.

We heard plenty about the team trying to gain chemistry throughout the playoffs, especially after the game five loss to the Stars.

The Golden Knights seemed to have pretty good chemistry during games one and two against the Stars. Did DeBoer’s adjustments disrupt the Golden Knights chemistry? That is a fair question to ask.

In any event, the Golden Knights will have a much longer offseason than the previous year.

The bar has been set high in Vegas. This feels like a failed season. Maybe that is a bit harsh, but the reality is that this was a better team than last season’s, on paper at least. It is hard to use any word besides “failure” when describing a first round loss after leading a series 2-0.

The Glass is Half Full

It is not all doom and gloom. McCrimmon’s trade deadline moves ensured a Stanley Cup caliber roster for at least two more seasons. Hertl is under contract through the 2029-30 season, and Hanifin through the 2031-32 season. Hertl and Hanifin compliment a core Eichel, Stone, Karlsson, Barbashev, Pietrangelo, Theodore, and Whitecloud.

Make no mistake, a first-round exit will not sit well with McCrimmon, President George McPhee, and owner Bill Foley. They will be anxious to get working on making sure the 2024-25 Golden Knights are set up for a deep playoff run.

Failure is not an option.

We Got The Jack Inside The Rink

In episode 8 of the Inside The Rink podcast, Matty and Smitty are joined by new co-host Conrad Jack. After the long hiatus, we get back to hockey with a PACKED episode!Matt Rempe & the Devils vs. Rangers Line BrawlCould the Vancouver Canucks squander a playoff opportunity? Have the Winnipeg Jets finally figured out their lines?Flyers Head Coach John Tortorella is a sound byte MACHINEOvechkin is on his way to 895, Who is next?McDavid joins elite company with 100 Assists in a seasonRyan Hartman was suspended 3 Games, was it worth 3 games??Can Auston Matthews hit 70 Goals this season?The Eastern Conference Wild Card race is heating up, who lands the two playoff berths?For all of your hockey news and more from the show, visit us at and watch us on YouTube! How to support us and our sponsors:TicketmasterColumbia Sports ApparelESPN+ SubscriptionFanaticsDraft Kings – CODE ITR
  1. We Got The Jack
  2. Episode 7. Player Safety First!
  3. Episode 6. Early Trade Season
  4. Episode 5. Longing For The Chiarelli Years
  5. Episode 4. Ottawa’s On Fire

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