We all know what a crazy story Vegas Golden Knights have been this season. The team George McPhee has put together is getting set to play in the Stanley Cup Final a mere eleven months after being constructed. A lineup put together from a list of players deemed not worth protecting by their old teams. Most teams allowed a third pairing defender to go to Vegas, or maybe a bottom-6 winger, but some NHL GMs helped Vegas a lot more than others - hello Dale Tallon. There are, however, a few teams that can not be blamed in any way for the success Vegas has had this season - and the Colorado Avalanche are chief among them.
When the Golden Knights take the ice in game one of the Stanley Cup Final, there isn’t going to be a single player in the lineup that came from the Avalanche last summer. Joe Sakic and the Avs have had no impact on this Vegas lineup whatsoever.
Avalanche Protected List
|Sven Andrighetto||Tyson Barrie||Semyon Varlamov|
|Blake Comeau||Erik Johnson|
|Matt Duchene||Nikita Zadorov|
Looking at the Avs’ protected list from last year’s expansion draft, there are some...interesting names on there. Rocco Grimaldi - the worst defensive forward in the NHL from a statistical standpoint - was protected by the Avalanche. This wasn’t so much a team misjudging talent, it was that they simply didn’t have anyone better worth protecting.
Then you look at the list if players the Avalanche left unprotected during the expansion draft last summer. There are a few players that could have been useful to this Golden Knights team.
Mark Barberio is a good player, but Vegas made out like bandits when it came to creating depth on the blueline. Carl Soderberg is a very strong defensive center and leader that would have fit in well with a Vegas team trying to create an identity - but George McPhee wasn’t going to bail the Avs out of that terrible contract.
|Troy Bourke||Mark Barberio||Joe Cannata|
|Gabriel Bourque||Mat Clark||Calvin Pickard|
|Rene Bourque||Eric Gelinas||Jeremy Smith|
|Turner Elson||Cody Goloubef|
|Felix Girard||Duncan Siemens|
|Mikhail Grigorenko||Fedor Tyutin|
|Samuel Henley||Patrick Wiercoich|
In the end, Vegas selected Calvin Pickard, a decent secondary goalie that spent most of the season as the number two for the AHL’s Toronto Marlies - but that both Vegas and Colorado could have used at times this season.
The 26-year old Pickard seemed like a good backup for Marc-Andre Fleury. Teammates love him, and he has the ability to step in for a long stretch if injuries make it necessary. But then Malcolm Subban was placed on waivers by the Boston Bruins and Vegas simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pick up the former first round pick.
To make room, Vegas put Pickard on waivers and later traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a conditional 6th round draft pick and one-time Memorial Cup winner Tobias Lindberg.
There is not one piece of the Vegas lineup that came from the Avalanche - whether directly or indirectly. That’s got to be a good feeling when you consider how much angst guys like William Karlsson have caused for their old team and fan base.
This Golden Knights team is an anomaly. They’re a team that should have been terrible. They are proving that no matter what we all think we know about hockey, none of it matters. Their run this season has transitioned from absurd to magical. It’s not hyperbole to say this team belongs with the 1980 Olympic Team in Disney movie territory.
The Boston Bruins kept the wrong Miller when protected Kevan instead of Colin. The Wild could have probably found a better way of protecting Matt Dumba than to give up both Erik Haula and Alex Tuch. And the Florida Panthers look flat out silly for trading away Jonathan Marchessault and Riley Smith.
Avalanche fans and management can sit back and watch this year’s Stanley Cup Final with a clear mind. They take solace in the fact that Joe Sakic is not one of the general managers being made to look foolish by this group of misfits.