NHL’s Knights Looking Golden



Marc-Andre Fleury stops the puck for his old club

David Koier, Courier Staff

If you were going to ask any sports fan, hockey or not, at the beginning of the hockey season if the Las Vegas Golden Knights were going to make the Stanley Cup playoffs they would say “not a chance.” If you asked them if they thought the Knights would sweep the Los Angeles Kings in four games in the first round of the Playoffs, they would walk away laughing in your face without even answering. Why, you may ask? This is the first season that the Golden Knights are in the NHL after the league agreed to create an expansion team for this season.

Expansion teams do not have a strong track record of being successful in their first few seasons, let alone their inaugural season. In terms of winning percentage, Las Vegas has the best in their inaugural season among the other three major sports in the United States. Winning percentage is calculated by taking the number of wins in a season divided by the total number of games played in that season. Winning 51 out of their 82 games this season, the Knights ended the regular season with a .621 winning percentage. The highest winning percentage by a team new to the MLB was the 1961 Los Angeles Angels who only won 43.5 percent of their games. In the NBA the 1967 Chicago Bulls were new and couldn’t make a splash, only winning 40.7 percent of their games. And finally, when the Carolina Panthers first showed up in the NFL in 1995, they were only able to win 43.8 percent of their games. So, in terms of percent of games won in an inaugural season, it’s easy to say that Las Vegas has blown all the other expansion teams out of the water.

Compared to the expansion team history in the NHL, the Golden Knights top some of the lists there as well. The lists in question are the best z-scores (standard deviations relative to average) for point percentage and goals per game differential by NHL expansion teams between the years 1968 and 2018. First, I will mention the z-score for point percentage. I must note that the scores I give for the Knights are midway through the season. The z-score for the Golden Knights in point percentage is a +1.73. Not only does this z-score top the list in this category, but it’s also the only score on this list that is positive! The next best score by an expansion team is -0.06 by the Florida Panthers in 1994. Moving on to a similar situation on the goals per game differential list, the score for the Knights is +1.28 while the next best team is again the 1994 Florida Panthers at an even 0.00. It is safe to say the Golden Knights have proven to the NHL that they are the most successful expansion team that the league has seen in the last 50 years, and they are not looking to mess around.

Stepping away from the statistics for a second, the Las Vegas Golden Knights are historic in other ways. The NHL has seen many expansion teams over the years. From all the way back in 1942 when the league only had six teams, it grew over the next 58 years expanding its team total to 30. 2000 was the last year that the NHL saw an expansion with the introductions of the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Minnesota Wild. In 2016, it was announced by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman that there would be an addition of a franchise in Las Vegas that would begin play in the 2017-2018 season. This team, who would later be named the Golden Knights, made history by being the first major professional sports team to be located in Las Vegas.

Many other franchises soon followed suit as the Oakland Raiders of the NFL were able to get a vote passed in 2017 to approve their move from Oakland to Las Vegas as soon as the 2020 NFL season. The Knights have paved the way for an entirely new sports market in Las Vegas as I’m sure with these two major moves to the city, other sports will soon follow.

The Las Vegas Golden Knights in this writer’s opinion is the most successful expansion franchise that we have seen in the four major North American sports. Their efforts this season and postseason have rocked the sports world and the Knights are not looking to slow down. After sweeping the Los Angeles Kings in the first round, the Golden Knights face off against the San Jose Sharks in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

After all the success sports fans have seen, there is only one question to be asked: will the Las Vegas Golden Knights be the first expansion team in history to win a championship in their inaugural season?