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So Good So Fast

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Photo credit:Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Robin Brownlee
8 months ago
If the Vegas Golden Knights put together three more wins against the Florida Panthers to win the Stanley Cup, it’ll mark the second year in a row the Edmonton Oilers have been eliminated from post-season by the eventual Cup winner. Colorado beat the Oilers in the Western Conference final a year ago and Vegas did the deed in the second round this year.
More significant, if the Golden Knights sip the suds from the Cup in this, their sixth season, it’ll mark the second-fastest ascent to the top by a new NHL team since the 1984 Oilers managed it in their fifth season, beating the defending champion New York Islanders in five games. That, history shows, came a year after being swept 4-0 by the Isles in the Cup final.
I never thought we’d see a team as good as fast as those early Oiler teams were under Glen Sather, but the Golden Knights are making a pretty good case for themselves. They made the Cup final in their very first season, 2017-18, losing in five games to the Washington Capitals, and here they are knocking at the door again.
The names on the Oilers team that came over from the WHA and didn’t waste time becoming contenders we know – Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Mark Messier and Paul Coffey, to name just four. With Vegas, the beneficiaries of revamped expansion draft rules in 2017, the names creating the buzz are Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, Jonathan Marchessault and Adin Hill. Sin City has become a hockey wagon.

PRESENTED BY BETWAY

IN CONTENTION RIGHT AWAY

May 12, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Nicolas Hague (14) celebrates with Vegas Golden Knights center Jack Eichel (9) after scoring a goal against the Edmonton Oilers during the second period of game five of the second round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
The benefit of hindsight tells us the NHL got it right when it revamped expansion draft rules in 2017. Before then, teams too often got little more than rejects and retreads for their expansion fees. A look at the rosters of teams like Tampa Bay, Nashville and Atlanta, to name just three, were pretty thin. In most cases, it took many years for new teams to become competitive. The way I see it, having teams like the Golden Knights and Seattle Kraken ready to rumble right away helps grow the game.
“Hindsight is always 20-20, but I really think the NHL erred in and how they treated the expansion teams all the way up until Vegas,” Nashville GM David Poile said in an interview with the Associated Press in July of 2021. “Often times, in my opinion, we did not do right by the expansion teams, and we made their trek much more difficult than it needed to be.”
The Panthers beat the odds and made it to their first Cup final in a big hurry, entering the league in 1993-94 before getting swept 4-0 in the 1996 Cup final by Colorado, but that was pretty much a one-off. The Panthers made the playoffs just twice over the next 14 years and are still looking to make a date with the engraver. Both the Golden Knights and the Panthers have been big draws in these playoffs. 
With Game 2 tonight, the Golden Knights haven’t won anything yet, or course, let alone put together the kind of run the early Oilers did with Cup wins in 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988 and 1990, but I never thought Vegas would be this good this fast. While that’s no doubt a big eye-roller for Oilers fans right now, it’s good for the league and good for the game.

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