How the Golden Knights became one of the most hated hockey franchises

While it might be hard to believe, it didn’t take long for the majority of the hockey world to find themselves heading toward the Vegas Golden Knights.

Sure, there were a small group of fans who thought the NHL gave them an unfair advantage from the start by changing the rules of the expansion draft, but there were many who simply focused on the story of their underdog. That story saw a team of outcasts not only make the post-season, but advance all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season. But since then, Vegas’ support has waned significantly.

For a variety of reasons, the Vegas Golden Knights seem to be rubbing many out-of-Vegas hockey fans the wrong way these days. (GT)

In only four seasons since that brilliant tour, only six players from that roster remain with the Golden Knights today; Seven if you include Zach Whitecloud, who appeared in only one game that season. This isn’t the result of players choosing to leave, as many have been vocal about how great Vegas is to play for. Instead, it is management decisions that constantly try to force their way into the Stanley Cup while showing no regard for loyalty to their players.

On the one hand, this mentality is understandable, as they have put together several great lists in recent seasons. However, players want to feel valued by their team, and the Golden Knights haven’t shown much loyalty, if any, in their five seasons. The latest example came earlier this week in a since-dismissed trade that includes Evgeny Dadonov, but is far from the only questionable decision made by their management group.

One of the first examples came when they chose to trade Nate Schmidt to the Vancouver Canucks ahead of the 2020-21 season. The 30-year-old was one of many who went from being a marginal NHLer to a very legitimate player after joining the Golden Knights, and quickly became a fan favorite due to his exuberant personality. He also expressed on several occasions how much he loved playing with the organization. Despite this, he was moved to make room for star defender Alex Petrangelo.

After the Schmidt deal, whispers about whether or not management were mishandling began to look beyond the locker room chemistry in order to try to build a position of strength. Those whispers became much louder the following season when Marc-Andre Fleury was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks for almost no return, in what was clearly to make room for the many other players they brought in. The move came in less than a month after he won his first-ever Vezina Cup.

While the trade annoyed many, it became an even worse outlook for the organization when fans learned that Florey found out on Twitter. It was a very disrespectful way of dealing with a player who is one of the main reasons for the success of the Vegas hockey market.

Heading into the 2021-22 season, this team wasn’t even close to the happy-go-lucky story they returned in 2017-18. They entered the year with several superstars such as Mark Stone, Max Pasurietti and Petrangelo, while also having Robin Lehner as the undisputed new goalkeeper. Their support from many has already gone, and it only got worse when they continued their team-like mentality last November, acquiring Jack Eichel from the Buffalo Sabers.

By all means, this move had, and continues to have, the potential to work for the Golden Knights. Once again, however, they continued their track record of disloyalty, with one of the pieces going the other way was Alex Tuch, who was one of the few pieces left on the roster from the 2017-18 season.

As of now, the acquisition of Eichel has caused a lot of trouble to management, with Vegas struggling to make things run wisely. The team has tried to fix this in its worst disaster yet, in an effort to move Dadonov – who was just acquired by Vegas last season – to the Anaheim Ducks on deadline. The trade was turned down by the NHL, however, as the Ducks were one of the teams on Dadonov’s 10-team roster.

It became very clear from social media how much fans turned to this team that many weren’t afraid to express how happy they were that the move, which was supposed to help the team create so much space, wasn’t allowed to go through. Moreover, this was another example of the Golden Knights’ mistreatment of one of their players, as it was clear that they had not done their due diligence in the case of Dadonov’s contract prior to his transfer, and since then had to welcome him back. In a very embarrassing way.

While the highly volatile approach has certainly lost a lot of support, it’s not the only reason many NHL fans have run the franchise. Many believed that after their success straight out of the gate, Golden Knights fans developed a sense of entitlement, failing to realize that the league had put them in a great position to succeed from the start. This is evident from a lot of fan social media, and can even be said in the team’s official Twitter account.

Some may find it fun and harmless, but many have been upset by Vegas’s Twitter account, which isn’t shy when it comes to showing off after victories. The reckoning became something else that quickly transformed them from a favorite in the league to the most despised team in the entire NHL, a team that many are now publicly rooting for in losing every night.

The good news for many fans who are tired of them is that their whole approach all the time may finally be back to bite them. Since activating Eichel from the injured reserve, the Golden Knights have found themselves in some serious trouble – which is why they tried to get Dadonov to duck in the first place. With Dadonov still in the squad, they don’t have enough room to activate three of their best players Mark Stone, Riley Smith and Alec Martinez, all of whom are currently in Long Injured Reserve (LTIR).

As we saw last year with Tampa Bay Lightning and Nikita Kucherov, hiding players on LTIR can be a smart strategy to deceive the cover system. That’s not what the Golden Knights mean to do now, because they’re on the outside looking inward when it comes to the in-between picture. If they miss, it would be a major failure by the organization as they have been considered one of the League Cup contenders entering the 2021-22 season.

However, for many fans, it will be considered karma.

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