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Are The Vegas Golden Knights Cup Contenders in Their Sophmore Season? Oddsmakers Suggest Not

brayden mcnabb vegas golden knights
Brayden McNabb has big shoes to fill in the absence of the Vegas Golden Knights' de facto #1 defenseman, Nate Schmidt. Photo by Lisa Gansky (Wikimedia Commons) [CC License]
  • Online sportsbooks have opened their futures markets on Stanley Cup favorites in every division
  • After a historically successful season that culminated in a Stanley Cup berth, Vegas’ odds are getting longer and longer
  • Can the majority of Vegas’ skaters improve on their success from the previous year, or will they come back to previous averages?

After their inaugural season surpassed all expectations, things haven’t been quite as rosy for Vegas Golden Knights in early days their sophomore season. Vegas sports a .500 record and their average odds at online sportsbooks have elongated from +1000 in the offseason all the way to +1600.

Do the Vegas Golden Knights really deserve to be booted out of the ranks of the NHL’s top contenders? Is there so-so start sign of their rosters’ reversion to the mean? For all more on Vegas’ odds and season outlook, read on!

Vegas Golden Knights Odds (October 22nd, 2018)

Team Bovada Odds (10/23/2018)
Toronto Maple Leafs +700
Tampa Bay Lightning +800
Nashville Predators +900
Boston Bruins +1000
Winnipeg Jets +1000
San Jose Sharks +1200
Vegas Golden Knights +1800

As you can see, the Vegas Knights’ stock has been dropping in the eyes of bookmakers since the offseason began, and their bearish outlook has been validated by Vegas’ 4-4 record, good for 8 points and the 21st overall spot in the NHL.

Its been a brutal start for the Knights, in nearly every quantifiable aspect of the game. They’re 28th in the league in GF/G, and 24th in GA/G.  Their power play is clicking at an abysmal 8.6%. Their team save percentage (between Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban)  is .892.

Put all of these things together, and its little surprise why the Knights’ average odds have gotten much longer.

2018-19 Vegas Golden Knights Roster

Left Wing Center Right Wing
Jonathan Marchessault William Karlsson Reilly Smith
Max Pacioretty Erik Haula Tomas Hyka
Tomas Nosek Cody Eakin Ryan Carpenter
William Carrier Pierre-Edouard Bellemare Ryan Reaves
Left Defense Right Defense
Brayden McNabb Colin Miller
Shea Theodore Nick Holden
Jon Merrill Brad Hunt

*Injured: Alex Tuch, Paul Stastny

*Suspended: Nate Schmidt

While much of Vegas’ roster is status quo, Vegas had several key players of the 2017-2018 season depart. George McPhee had a specific vision in mind in the offseason, hoping to replace James Neal (25 goals in 2017-2018) and David Perron (50 assists in 2017-2018) with Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty. The logic behind letting Neal and Perron go, who were both such an integral part of not only Vegas’ offensive depth, but their leadership core, was that Statsny and Pacioretty could be retained on more palatable, cap-friendly deals. McPhee signed Statsny on July 1st and resigned Pacioretty to an extension immediately after acquiring him from the Montreal Canadiens.

McPhee knew that he might upset team chemistry and cohesion, but he figured that Statsny and Pacioretty would eventually integrate themselves to the rest of the roster effectively. In the early going, it has been a rough start for both Statsny and Pacioretty, and the Knights look like they dearly miss Neal’s shot and Perron’s playmaking acuity. Statsny is out long-term with a foot injury suffered in his first 4 games, and Pacioretty has 1 point in first 8 games.

One thing is certain, and that is the swap of top-6 forwards makes the Vegas Knights significantly slower.

One thing is certain, and that is the swap of top-6 forwards makes the Vegas Knights significantly slower. Team speed, and how it allowed the Knights to play as a cohesive 5-man unit, was the defining characteristic of the Golden Knights last season.  Adjusting to a slower roster is something the Knights will have to get accustomed too.

Things will likely get back on track for both Pacioretty and Statnsy once they’ve acclimatized to Gerard Gallant’s system. But, there’s no denying that early season returns don’t look great, especially for Pacioretty. It looks like his dismal 2017-2018 campaign with the Canadiens may be the new normal for him, instead of an outlier. Thus far, it’s not a stretch to say that he looks almost invisible, slow, and unsure of himself. Additionally, does not provide the same defensive responsibility and shut-down acuity that Paul Stastny does when he’s not scoring.

Marc Andre Fleury and his .901 haven’t nearly been up to scratch thus far, either. If Vegas wants to regain its status as a contender once again, he simply must recapture his Vezina form from last season. It really is as simple as that, as Marc Andre Fleury covered up for a lot of defensive deficiencies and growing pains last season.

The other factor major factor underlying Vegas’ sluggish start is how they’re missing. Top-6 fixture Alex Tuch hasn’t played this season, and #1 defenseman in Nate Schmidt is sitting out the first 20 games of the Golden Knights’ season after he violated the NHL’s PED policies.

Will Things Get Better for the Knights?

There are a few things that are definitively different for the Vegas Golden Knights this year. First, teams are just ready for them now. The Vegas Knights are no longer a rag-tag bunch of expansion draft rejects, capitalizing on unsuspecting teams who haven’t had adequate time to game plan for the particularities of their roster or their play style. Teams are acutely aware of Vegas’ relentless forecheck, how they generate offense in the neutral zone, and of their key players’ tendency. It was undoubtedly to the Knights’ benefit last season that nearly their entire roster was unknown (at least in the roles they were thrust into) because teams didn’t know what to expect. They don’t have the same advantage this season.

It was undoubtedly to the Knights’ benefit last season that nearly their entire roster was unknown (at least in the roles they were thrust into) because teams didn’t know what to expect.

Secondly, the Knights aren’t being regarded as true underdogs any longer. Much of the identity revolved around their us-against-the-world mentality (they even made t-shirts to that effect). After a successful first season, the Knights can’t collectively rally around the fact that they’ve been routinely discounted in the media any longer. They made the Stanley Cup finals last season, for heaven’s sake. Everyone’s on to them!

However, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for optimism when it comes to accessing the Knights. Their most extended road trip of the season (6 games) is in the rear view mirror, and they’re still dynamite on home ice. Many players and media pundits have gone on the record and testified to how electric the T-Mobile Arena is, and how hard it is for visiting teams to get into any sort of rhythm when there.

Additionally, there’s no doubt that getting Schmidt and Tuch back will improve the Knights’ lot.

Lastly, there’s a lot of metrics that suggest the Knights are bound for a bit of uptick at some point. The Vegas Knights are 10th in SF/G  in the league, while also allowing the least shots per game in the NHL at 24.3. A mere 8 games in, they’re +73 shots and shooting at 6.3% (the league average is 8.9%). Things will doubtless get better for the Knights, as these stats suggest that at least some of the Knight’s sluggish starts can be pinned on plain bad luck.

Are the Knights Being Undervalued?

As we mentioned above, the Knights odds at online sportsbooks are +1600, meaning that sportsbooks en masse are giving them a 5.88% implied probability to win the cup this season. Frankly, we think this is representative of their actual chances to win the cup this season.

The Knights are better than their record is showing, and they’ll likely make the playoffs in the wide-open Pacific Division. However, its extremely doubtful we’re going to see their odds shorten much lower than +1600 again this season. Vegas, despite still having a quality roster and brilliant coach, simply isn’t in the same tier as teams like the Jets, Predators, San Jose Sharks, Toronto Maple Leafs, or the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Playoff team? Yes. Bonafide top-shelf cup contender? Not as much.

For more on each NHL team’s futures odds, visit our Stanley Cup odds tracker.

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