Tonight, the Vegas Golden Knights could become the 18th NHL franchise to blow a 3-1 series lead. It hasn’t happened since 2015, when the New York Rangers stormed back to defeat the Washington Capitals in the second round.
A team has blown a 3-1 series lead 28 times in NHL history, with four of those teams blowing a 3-0 series lead: The 1942 Detroit Red Wings (lost to Toronto in Cup Final), the 1975 Pittsburgh Penguins (lost to NYI in 2nd round), the 2010 Boston Bruins (lost to Philadelphia in 2nd round) and the 2014 San Jose Sharks (lost to LA Kings in first round).
Washington has blown a 3-1 lead five (1987, 1992, 1995, 2010, 2015) different times, while the Penguins (1975, 2011, 2014) and Red Wings (1942, 1991, 2013) did it three times, the Winnipeg Jets 1.0 (1990, 1992), Colorado Avalanche (1998, 2003), Bruins (2004, 2010) and Flyers (1988, 2000) did it twice and the Maple Leafs (1987), Oilers (1989), Minnesota North Stars (1992), Flames (1994), Coyotes (1999), Blues (2003), Canucks (2003) and Rangers (2009) did it once.
Will the Sharks complete the comeback or does Vegas win game seven?
VEGAS LOSS IMPACTS OILERS…
If Vegas completes the choke job, then Bob Nicholson will most likely have the opportunity to interview Kelly McCrimmon for the vacant GM job in Edmonton. It seems odd he wasn’t given permission to interview already. And part of me wonders if an “unofficial” conversation has occurred. Regardless of why he hasn’t been officially interviewed, Nicholson would like to speak with him. I’ve read some stories stating he would be up for the Seattle job as well, and some have suggested he might want that job over Edmonton.
I’ve seen firsthand some of the bad decisions the Oilers organization has made the past decade, mainly the past four years, but is the expansion job really more appealing? NHL teams have learned from their mistakes of the Vegas expansion draft. We won’t see teams giving up two quality players just to protect one, like the Minnesota Wild, Florida Panthers and other teams did for Vegas. I suspect Vegas will be the ultimate outlier when it comes to expansion team success.
I’m sure we will see trades like Tampa Bay made where they gave up a second, a fourth and Nikita Gusev so Vegas would select Jason Garrison, but I can’t see teams getting fleeced in deals like Florida, Columbus and others did.
Will Seattle be that much more appealing than being the GM who can build around Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl? I don’t see why, but maybe that’s just me.
It would be great for Nicholson to interview McCrimmon, but if Vegas wins and they don’t grant permission for McCrimmon to interview then Nicholson should focus on the other candidates and find the one best suited to help lead this franchise ahead. That person will recognize more changes in the current hockey operations department need to be made.
McCrimmon and many of the other candidates — Mark Hunter, Pat Verbeek, Bill Guerin, etc — have never been GMs at the NHL level, but they have either been a GM in junior or an assistant GM in the NHL.
Craig Button was an assistant GM in Dallas and a GM with Calgary. I asked him about the interview process.
“Honestly, I’ve told a number of different people that when you go to a new organization it’s a selective process,” said Button. “They want to put their best foot forward and try to acquire people that they want, so you’re being interviewed. So I would tell people, make sure that you’re interviewing them as well. You’re eager, you’re excited about the opportunity, and that’s why I call it selective. Listen, they want you, ‘Hey, we’re interested in you and we like that idea’. There’s things as you go through the exercise and you look back and think, ‘These are things I should have asked about, and these are things that you didn’t know,’ and it’s not that they were withholding it from you, but it’s incumbent upon the person going in there to try and understand to a greater degree, and those were the things that I didn’t have a wealth of experience in. You learn on the job, you try to apply them, but you certainly understand a lot better having gone through it.”
As much as it is Nicholson interviewing potential GMs, I’m sure the interviewees will be asking him about the organization — what has gone wrong, and how it will change — because the new GM can’t change it on his own.
Another aspect is learning to make trades. How involved are assistant GMs in trade talks, I asked Button.
“You’re part of the process, but Bob Gainey (in Dallas) was the one that handled all of that. We (rest of management team) were there with respect to what we’re looking for, and how we’re doing it, but trying to get a feel back and forth for each manager and what they’re looking for, and what they’re trying to do to help their team was up to Bob. And that takes time to get that comfort level. Not just with who you’re dealing with, but trying to understand how can we work this. How can this work for you, how can it work for us. That’s not an easy thing to do. You need to develop those relationships, and they do take some time,” said Button.
I believe that factor is a main reason why the new GM will need to bring in some people he has worked with in the past and who he trusts. He will want their input on various things, and it has to be someone they trust, especially if the Oilers GM is a first-time NHL general manager.
I also asked Button about previous experience. How much will, or should that matter for Nicholson?
“Number one, you’ve got a couple of guys who have track records at the junior level in Mark (Hunter) and Kelly (McCrimmon), both very, very good track records. Then you have Bill Guerin, an assistant in Pittsburgh who has been a part of success. Pat Verbeek has been a part of success. Both of them as players and in management. And Bill Zito who comes over from the agent side. There’s different skill sets that factor into the job and different qualities that are necessary for the job.
“I don’t think you can just look at someone’s past and say this is the best fit. I think you have to sit down and understand how they see the game, what they see the problem as. Also, what are their solutions? How are they going to proceed? This isn’t like a Rubik’s Cube, where you just say “we have all the colours on one side, well what about the others. We don’t have them.” There is a lot of different moving parts that you have to be able to consider, from the salary cap, to the development, the scouting, and everything in between. I think one of the key things that you have to understand in being a general manager is what is realistic. In terms of your time frame to put us on a path towards being a better team and a more successful team,” Button said.
I think the time frame is very important. I’ve long believed one of the failures of the Oilers over the past decade was they looked too far ahead, without planning for the next step. Whether it’s rushing players to the NHL, or not realizing that young defenders might struggle, especially if they are overplayed early on.
The plan of the new GM is paramount. What is a realistic timeline? Making the playoffs is step one. Once you are in, anything can happen, but the goal should be to remain a consistent playoff contender every year, not make it next season and then fall out again in 2021. The plan should outline how the team remains competitive like San Jose, Pittsburgh, Washington and others have done year after year.
You have McDavid and Draisaitl as starting points. Having elite skill is the most difficult asset to acquire, so now the new GM just needs to fill out the remaining spots. It is a much better position to be in than if they had good depth, but no top-end skill.
There is no guaranteed path to success. As we have seen this year many good regular season teams couldn’t get out of the first round.
The last time the Maple Leafs won three games on the road in a series was in 1951 against the Bruins. They have had 38 series since then and haven’t won three games on the road in any series. This isn’t a shot at the Maple Leafs, I’m just outlining how difficult it is to win three games on the road in a series. The Leafs won game one and game five in Boston so far this round.
The Leafs could end that streak along with their streak of not winning a playoff series since defeating the Ottawa Senators in game seven on April 20th, 2004.
Only the Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers have not won a playoff series in the salary cap era.