The Vegas Golden Knights will see their season end earlier than they have come to expect, and with the disappointment could bring forth some interesting decisions.
Before losing 4-3 in a shootout to the Chicago Blackhawks, the Golden Knights' fate was sealed after the Dallas Stars earned a point in regulation which allowed them to clinch the final berth to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It is the first time since entering the league in 2017 that Vegas failed to reach the post-season.
For a team that was one of the top contenders in the Western Conference, it didn't take long for the disappointment to sink for the players and head coach Pete DeBoer.
"I'm surprised. I'm disappointed. I'm at the front of the line for responsibility," DeBoer told reporters after the game. "There’s a lot of expectations on this team. It's not an easy thing, and it doesn't feel good for anybody right now."
The Golden Knights had a tough hill to climb if they were going to reach the playoffs and the players know that failing to meet expectations could lead to some changes. This is a team that hasn't been afraid of making big shakeups in hopes of keeping themselves in contention.
“A lot of decisions will be at this point kind of out of the players’ control, but you got to expect when a team underperforms the way we have this year, all bets are off,” Max Pacioretty told Ben Gotz of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “We know we have what it takes in this room to win. There’s still no excuse for the position we’re in right now.”
Injuries were a big story for the Golden Knights this season as they lost close to 500 man-games this season, especially to core players like Pacioretty, captain Mark Stone, Alec Martinez, starting goaltender Robin Lehner and blockbuster acquisition Jack Eichel.
Another wrinkle that Vegas will have to deal with is the fact that they project to be roughly $1.3 million over the salary cap and will once again have to find a way to keep owner Bill Foley's championship ambitions going.
-With files from the Associated Press.