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May 30, 2018

Vegas Golden Knights: Chemistry 101

The National Hockey League, and its commissioner Gary Bettman in particular, do not get a lot of credit when they do things right usually.

But one thing they have finally gotten right is expansion.

NHL expansion is not a new game. It's been going on multiple times since 1967, and it just follows typical sports expansion practice in the bigger picture. The story is not very different in football or baseball or basketball. 

The formula goes something like this - new franchise pays exorbitant fees for very little quality on field/court/ice in return. New franchise struggles for a few years. When that happens in a virgin market - which is often the case for the NHL - that often has severe long term consequences.

By granting the Vegas Golden Knights the most generous expansion draft terms the league gave the new team an opportunity to be competitive, and to thrive in the new marketplace. And for the half billion dollar expansion fee, the Knights better have had that opportunity.

Now that's not to say Bettman and co should be given too much credit for this. The Knights did their homework and found players to perfectly fit into their vision and the perfect coach to get the most out of them. Throw in the fact that they were the lone expansion entrant - allowing for side deals and salary cap manipulation - and the perfect storm brewed.

And of course Vegas architect general manager George McPhee will be the first to admit luck has played a great role. When he built this team from scratch he could never have envisioned what has happened. He wisely selected these players, but lucked into the fact that they would quickly find that elusive chemistry every team wishes for. No team has better chemistry than Vegas.

And that, as much as anything, is why they are three wins away from winning the Stanley Cup


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