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Lawless: Winning Doesn’t Happen By Accident | Vegas Golden Knights
Lawless: Winning Doesn't Happen By Accident | Vegas Golden Knights

The numbers stand for themselves. 22-4-5 to finish the 2022-23 regular season. 16-6 in last spring’s Stanley Cup playoffs. And now 8-0-1 to begin the 2023-24 regular season. All told, that’s 46-10-6 since last season’s All-Star break.

Certainly it’s early in this campaign but it’s undeniable the Vegas Golden Knights are the best team in hockey. They’ve got the Stanley Cup and first place overall in the current NHL standings to prove it.

All this winning doesn’t happen by accident. There’s a lot which goes into it beginning in the hockey operations suites at City National Arena and ending with the players on the ice.

What Vegas has right now is alignment. From the owner to management to the coaching staff to the players. They all agree on what it should look like and how to get to it.

Vegas has been a consistent contender since joining the league in 2017-18. The win columns read like something from a pre-salary cap era.

Regular Season record:
275-147-42 (.638, 5th)

Post-season record: (54-34, 2nd)
• 2nd most playoff wins in NHL
• 2nd most playoff series won (11)
• tied-1st with four final-4 appearances

VGK head coach Bruce Cassidy spoke about that alignment this summer in an interview for the book ‘It Hurts to Win: The Official Inside Story of the 2022-23 Stanley Cup Champion Vegas Golden Knights’. The book is available now at The Arsenal. 

“At the end of the day, Kelly is a very smart hockey guy. When I talk to him about how I see the roster, we align in terms of how we want to play, our strengths, down the middle, D-core, the things that I also believe in. Yes, he did a terrific job and has done a terrific job,” stated Cassidy. “From the outside again, sometimes it just looks like he got rid of all the popular guys to do it. That’s business sometimes. If you want to win, those are the decisions that you have to make, especially with a hard cap. I didn’t look at it that way, I just looked at it as a guy that’s willing to make hard decisions for the good of the team. If you’re OK with that, as a player, a coach, and someone that’s working for the team, then it’s a great place for you. If you’re a little more sentimental, then maybe it won’t be.”

Hughes vs McDavid

Two NHL coaches, Buffalo’s Don Granato and Washington’s Spencer Carbery, made statements last week questioning whether Devils center Jack Hughes ought to be considered the equal to Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid in the area of offensive genius.

Granato on Hughes: “There’s a case you could say he’s the best player in the world right now.”

Carbery on Hughes: “Looks like he’s coming into his own as a world talent: as good as anybody in the National Hockey League from what I saw the other night.”

Hughes leads the NHL in scoring with five goals and eighteen points while the injured McDavid is stalled at two goals and eight points.

McDavid, 26, had a career high 153 points last season while Hughes, 22, also had a career best of 99.

McDavid has topped 100 points on six occasions in his career. Hughes has yet to cross the century line in a season.

Calling around the NHL to ask about this topic, one could almost definitively separate the responses in two piles: West respondents favored McDavid while those in the East were lining up behind Hughes.

It’s a small sample size to begin the season. If Hughes keeps up this pace, this conversation will only pick up heat. Should be fun to watch.

Butch’s bling ring: Cassidy coached his 600th NHL game on Saturday night. He was asked prior to the game the difference between Game 1 and Game 600: “Comfortable in your own skin. Actually that was the difference between 1 and 300. The difference between 300 and 600? We’ve got bling now,” said the coach before walking away from the group of questioning broadcasters and looking over his shoulder with a gleeful smile.

Wild Bill Redux: William Karlsson scored 43 goals and 78 points in his first season in Vegas and both were career highs. He’s since followed up with solid but less prolific offensive seasons.

Dating back to last year’s playoffs, Karlsson has been scoring at a near point-per-game pace. The 30-year-old center had 11 goals and 17 points in 22 playoff games and has started the regular season with three goals and 10 points in nine games. Karlsson is tied with Shea Theodore for the team lead in points.

All while being one of the best defensive centers in the NHL.

“Nothing different,” shrugged Karlsson on Saturday morning. “It’s just going in.”

Karlsson picked up an assist on Saturday night in a win over the LA Kings to extend his point streak to six games.

The line of Karlsson, Michael Amadio and Pavel Dorofeyev has been excellent the last two games chipping in three goals.

This content was originally published here.