Las Vegas–Tonight we at Vegas Knights of The Roundtable conclude our 8 part series in how the Vegas Golden Knights will match up against the competition in their inaugural season in the Nation Hockey League.
We’ve already completed the Pacific, Central, and Atlantic Divisions with already analyzed the 1st half of the Metropolitan.
The remaining team that will be highlighted in part 8 are the New York Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes, and the New Jersey Devils.
New York Islanders
This past season, the New York Islanders fell short of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs cut off by a 9 point margin behind their region rivals New York Rangers.
In the prior season in 2015-16, they posted 100 points and made it to the 2nd round only to be eliminated by Tampa in a 6-game series.
This year finished with 94 points and a record of 41-29-12, 17-17-8 under Jack Capuano 17-17-8 and 24-12-4 with Doug Weight running the bench.
For the Islanders, they were another hockey club around the league who went thru a change behind the bench. When they let go, Capuano, the Islanders made former NHLer Weight their interim bench boss.
After the season, the Islanders removed the interim tag from Weight and made him the new Head Coach for New York ahead the new upcoming season. With Weight running things, the Islanders should be in good hands.
Andres Lee was the Islanders top goal scorer last season as he scored 34 which is a career high for his short NHL career.
Winger Josh Bailey finished the season as the Islanders top assist guy with 43, beating out Isles Captain John Tavares by 5.
Veteran blueliner Nick Leddy led the Isles on defense as their big minute’s guy with an ATOI of 22:43.
The Islanders on special teams, in particular with the power play, finished near the basement at 28th overall with a success rate of 14.96% and converted 35 times. On the penalty kill, they did much better and finished the campaign in 11th place at 82.38%.
For the Golden Knights, they need to understand that when the Islanders bring their A-game to the office they are very tough to play against and can make it for their opponents as well as causing them to get frustrated at times.
The Flyers like the Islanders also failed to qualify to make it the Stanley Cup Playoffs since getting into the dance in the prior season only to get knocked out in the opening round.
This season they finished with 88 points and a 39-33-10 record under Head Coach Dave Hakstol who completed his 3rd year behind the bench.
For Philadelphia, they are still trying to find consistency with the way use to play when Peter Laviolette was their bench boss. That Flyers team played with an edge vs the team that is currently playing now.
Their goal scoring leader last season was Alternate Captain Wayne Simmonds who scored 31 goals. This was the second time in Simmonds career where he scored 30 or more in a season. In the 2015-16 campaign, he had 32 which is his career best.
Forwards Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek were the Flyers top 2 guys in the offense department to register the most assists for Philadelphia last season. Flyers Captain Giroux bested Voracek 44 to 41 in that department.
Philadelphia big minutes guy was the Russian Ivan Provorov where he clocked an ATOI of 21:59 as a rookie blueliner for the Flyers.
On special teams, they were middle of the pack, especially on the power play where they were ranked 14th overall at 19.49% and scored 54 times which was not bad at all. Their penalty kill game was told a different story where they finished in 21st place below Pittsburgh at 79.76%.
For Vegas, they have some in Pierre-Edouard Bellemare who spent three seasons with the Flyers before getting snatched up at the Vegas Draft earlier this summer.
He knows the habits of his former teammates which can be useful in how the Golden Knights play against Philadelphia this season coming up.
Carolina struggles continued last season having not qualifying to make it to the Stanley Cup Playoffs since the 2008-09 campaign where they made that year to the Eastern Conference Finals and were bested by Pittsburgh who that season became the league champions.
Since the 2009 thru 2017 campaigns, they place 3rd 3 times, 5th, 6th, and 8th once, and 7th twice.
These struggles can be contributed to the declining performance of former Conn Smythe Winner and goaltender Cam Ward.
Ward’s record at the completion of this past season was 26-22-12 with a GAA of 2.69 and .909 save percentage which is near career lows for him.
Their best offensive player was 24-year-old Jeff Skinner who produced 37 goals for the Hurricanes last season. For Skinner, this was a new career high for him and bested out his previous record by 4 goals of 33 back in the 2013-14 campaign.
Fellow forward Elias Lindholm led the Hurricanes in assists at 34 last year. Victor Rask, Jordan Staal, and Jaccob Slavin, all finished in 2nd behind Lindholm tied with 29 each.
Their big minute’s guy came with the services of defenseman Slavin who finished the campaign with an ATOI of 23:06.
On special teams, their power play success rate finished at 21st overall at 17.75% and they converted at that rate 41 times. In terms of killing penalties, they were much better and finished in the leagues top 10 at 6th with 84.16%.
The assets that are in Vegas’s favor is that Golden Knights Head Coach Gerard Gallant coached against Carolina for that few seasons with Florida so he understands how they play.
With VGK General Manager George McPhee when he was GM with Washington, he too has intimate first-hand experience in how the Canes operate on the ice.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils organization under Ray Shero as their GM have not qualified to make the NHL’s second season since their run at the cup in the 2011-12 season where they lost to Los Angeles in a 6-game series.
Since the 2012-13 season, their highest finish within their division was 5th and after that, they looked like they have hit rock bottom.
This past season, they finished 2nd to last place in the entire league in wins next to Colorado with a 28-40-14 record at 70 points to their credit.
Winger Kyle Palmieri finished in 1st place with the Devils in scoring with 26 goals last season. Palmieri fell short by 4 goals of his career high he set back in the 2015-16 campaign.
Former Edmonton Oilers 1st round pick Taylor Hall completed his first year in a Devils uniform with 20 goals, 33 assists for 53 points. This past year marked the 5th time in Hall’s young NHL career where he scored 20 or more in a single season.
Veteran blueliner, 34-year-old Andy Greene led the entire team with an ATOI last year of 21:57.
On special teams, the Devils finished at 22nd overall on the power play last season at 17.53% and converted 44 times. On the penalty kill side they slightly worse at 23rd overall at 79.69%.
The good news for Devils fans was in the past NHL Draft Lottery sweepstakes where they snagged the 1st overall pick. Shero used his 1st overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft and grabbed Nico Hischier.
Going forward it’s projected that Hischier will make the opening night roster for New Jersey and if that’s the case then the Vegas Golden Knights will get to see first hand of what the 2017 1st overall pick has to offer against the competition.
It’s going to be a very rough 1st year for the new member of the NHL so we are going to have to wait and see how it all pans out over the course the 2017-18 campaign where the league celebrates’s it’s next 100 years of existence in professional sports.