What the NHL s Seattle Kraken can expect in their inaugural year, from a Vegas Golden Knights team that knows - ESPN
|ESPN 22 Jul 2021 at 11:10|
Obviously you need time to process this life change. You could probably use a little help, too.
Luckily, we have a handbook prepared to assist you in all matters of expansion-team acclimation, prepared by some experts on the subject who recently experienced something quite similar.
Presenting the Vegas Golden Knights guide to life on an NHL expansion franchise!
Featuring Jonathan Marchessault , an original Knight from 2017-18 who remains an integral part of their team: "When I knew I was going to Vegas, I was kind of shocked to hear the news. But I figured I would probably get more ice time and probably get a bigger role there."
And featuring Deryk Engelland , a member of the inaugural Knights who is now retired from the NHL: "From Day 1, everyone was on the same page. We knew we had to bond as a team."
Here s their life advice for the expansion newbies in Seattle -- and perhaps anyone who finds themselves on a newly formed team.
Most of the players Seattle selected have multiple years of NHL experience, some of them with multiple teams. But their stat lines are essentially set to zero when they walk into the Kraken room, just as they were when the Golden Knights hit the ice for the first time.
"It s a different vibe. There are obviously older guys and there are younger guys, but everyone comes in with a clean slate," Marchessault said.
It s not as if reputations don t travel with the players. Mark Giordano still has a Norris Trophy. Jordan Eberle is still a 30-goal scorer. Yanni Gourde is still the anchor of the most successful checking line in the playoffs for the past two postseasons, winning the Stanley Cup twice with the Lightning.
"Obviously, you had your faces of the franchise. You had Flower and people like that," Engelland said of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury . "But we were all coming into a new team. You don t have to take Mark Stone s ice time, to use an example. You gotta create your own. Everyone is on equal ground, and you slotted in based on how you played."
He gives the example of William Karlsson . He started out the Golden Knights inaugural season as a third-line center. His ice time quickly grew as he worked hard and found chemistry with Reilly Smith and Marchessault. By the end of the season, he was "Wild Bill" Karlsson and had netted 43 goals.
"You have a fresh start to show them what you can do," Engelland said. "Maybe you couldn t crack that other time. Now, you have fresh eyes on you."
Engelland was in a unique position with the Knights. He was 35 years old and entering his ninth NHL season. But he also lived in Las Vegas, which made him and his wife unofficial ambassadors for the newbies.
"I talked to some guys about where to live. But it was more the girls reaching out to my wife. As you know, guys are not big planners. Guys were ready to show up and just figure it out from there. But their families wanted to know about schools and restaurants and stuff."
At the moment, there are only two players over 30 on the Kraken s roster. Given their salary-cap space and positional needs, one expects that will change in the coming weeks. However many veterans they sign, they ll need to work on bringing the team together, as Engelland and the veteran players felt with the Golden Knights.
This type of leadership also falls on the coach. Marchessault recalls Gerard Gallant helping to foster the leadership group of the nascent team.
"I remember Gerard took the six players with the most games played and gave them alternate [captaincies] for home and away," he said.
Of course, it helps if one of your veteran leaders is a charismatic star.
"When you have a guy around like Fleury, I mean, he s been around," Marchessault said. "He s a future Hall of Famer. It s like every time we did something, we d say, Hey Flower, is this OK for you? and if he says no then we re going to change it. So we were lucky enough to have that much experience and that many Cup rings. It s hard to argue with a guy like that."
(Could have been you, Carey Price ...)
Over the years, the Golden Knights became famous for their team bonding, whether it was playing Mario Kart in the hotel during the Stanley Cup playoffs or having a "fun committee" in the Edmonton playoff bubble last summer.
That started in their inaugural season, from the moment everyone met. Marchessault said that after everyone says their hellos, it s important to move on to the next important phase of teammate bonding.
"The first thing you gotta do, in the first few days, is grab some party buses, do a tour of the city, grab a few beers with the boys, and that s the best team bonding that you can do as a team," he said.
For the Knights, that took the form of an all-day scavenger hunt around their new city.
The scavenger hunt was booked through a company in Las Vegas that organizes the races. The players met at the rink and then traveled to the scenic overlook at Red Rock Canyon, where the race started.
There were four teams. Each one received an envelope with a clue inside; when deciphered, it led them to the "Welcome to Vegas" sign. That s where the teams eventually arrived to collect the next clue, after they all made pit stops at the nearest gas stations to load up with beer on the buses. (Each bus had a driver, so the players could ... bond.)
The race took around six hours. Obviously, that was very physically taxing on the new Knights, so they did what anyone would have done in this situation: rented out the entire Bellagio spa, hopped inside their hot tubs and continued drinking.