Heading into the 2021-22 season, the Vegas Golden Knights were seen as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, one that was expected to lead the Pacific Division all season long. However, a quarter way through, they have a somewhat subpar 14-10-0 record which has them sitting fourth in the Pacific. Despite that, there are still some who believe they are not only the best team in their division, but the entire Western Conference, including Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter.
“Well, they’re the best team on paper,” Sutter said after the Golden Knights defeated his team 3-2 on Sunday. “They’re clearly the best team out west, maybe other than the team that owns the Stanley Cup, if you look at it.”
“If you want to get out of (the West) you’re going to have to go through here. Or if you want to get in, you’re going to have to beat this team… It’s not even that close, to tell you the truth.”
This is some extremely high praise from a well respected coach in Sutter. The Western Conference, one in which he says the Golden Knights are the best team, has a collection of great squads in the Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets, St. Louis Blues, and Sutter’s own Flames. Still, taking a look at names on paper, the only team that may have an argument of being better on paper is the Avalanche.
The problem for the Golden Knights this season has been injuries. They have been without some of their top forwards in Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, Jonathan Marchessault, and William Karlsson at points this season, and have also been forced to play a number of games without defencemen like Alec Martinez, Shea Theodore, and Zach Whitecloud. The good news is that they are starting to get healthy again, and should see their play pick up as a result.
Another part of what makes the Golden Knights so good on paper, even better than when the season started, is the acquisition of Jack Eichel. He has yet to play this season due to a neck operation, but was recently spotted skating for the first time since the surgery. There is talk he could return before the end of the 2021-22 season, which would provide a huge boost to the Golden Knights lineup. While it may seem farfetched right now, everyone may come to realize Sutter was correct after all by the time playoffs roll around.
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