The Vegas Golden Knights have been the feel-good story of the first half of the NHL season. The expansion franchise is atop the Pacific Division with a 23-9-2 record and tied for first place in the Western Conference. In fact, only the Tampa Bay Lightning boast a higher points percentage.
All this has Golden Knights owner Bill Foley chuffed and thinking about the playoffs—even though qualifying for the post-season wasn’t in the initial game plan heading into the year.
“Every game that we win makes me a little more impatient, I have to say,” Foley said in a Q&A with VegasGoldenKnights.com lead writer Gary Lawless. “I had a timeline of playoffs in three and Stanley Cup in six. I felt like that was very achievable. I felt like we put ourselves in a position to do that with the draft and the draft for the coming years. I have to say I think I moved up our timeline a little bit because we are doing so well. The guys on the ice are gelling so well together.
“Now we have a situation where we need to get some unrestricted free agents signed up to make sure we keep the core of this team in place.”
Although Foley didn’t mention any players by name, three of those UFAs referenced could be forwards Jonathan Marchessault (32 points in 31 games), David Perron (27 points in 28 games) and James Neal (27 points in 34 games).
Many felt heading into the season that trading away pending UFAs—especially veterans with some star power like Neal and Perron—would be a quick way to accumulate assets and bolster the long-term health of the franchise. However, the team’s early success might have thrown a wrench into things.
“Everyone thought I was crazy when I said playoffs in three and Stanley Cup in six,” Foley said. “I don’t think they think I’m crazy anymore.”
General manager George McPhee was the man to lead the charge when crafting the roster and Foley had nothing but praise to send McPhee’s way.
“He’s met every expectation that I’ve had of him. He’s actually exceeded every expectation,” Foley said. “That’s one of the reasons why our team is so successful today. The extensive drafting process we went through and the mock drafting that we went through. We did five two-and-a-half-day sessions before we ever even got the unprotected list.”
The second half of the season will determine whether or not Vegas’s hot start can continue but, for now at least, Foley is loving every second of the journey.
“It’s the most exhilarating experience I can remember ever having,” he explained. “Getting ready before each game, going to the arena — fortunately, I get to sit with George and [assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon]. I’m learning a lot, but the adrenaline flow and the rush of watching our team score and watching our team perform and play great defence has been just an unbelievable experience. I’ve never had more fun.”
The Golden Knights return to action looking to extend their current winning streak to five when they visit the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday night.