NHL's newest entrant enjoying rare success for an expansion franchise
Normally, when a franchise enters a new league, they would start and finish at the bottom of the standings in order to build a momentous playoff run for the coming years. Except, the Vegas Golden Knights are not your average expansion team.
Playing at the T-Mobile Arena on the Vegas strip, the Golden Knights are currently placed second behind the first place Los Angeles Kings. In years past, there were talks of moves of current franchises to the city of lights, including the Atlanta Thrashers (who moved to Winnipeg to re-incarnate the Jets) and the Arizona Coyotes.
The Knights opened their existence on the road with a win against Dallas before coming home in the second game of a home-and-home series with natural rivals, the Arizona Coyotes. The opening ceremony was powerful, marked with the recognition of the first responders nine days after the dreadful Las Vegas Massacre, which killed more than 50 people and injured over 200 at a music festival down the road from the arena.
On the premise of "Vegas Strong", the Golden Knights won eight of their first nine games in existence, the best start for an expansion franchise in NHL history. That strong start propelled them into second place in the Pacific Division.
However, they have lost five of their last six since that historic start.
The team are lead by expansion draft pick James Neal, who they picked from the defending Western Conference Champion Nashville Predators. He is tied for the team lead in points (12) with David Perron, an expansion pick from the St. Louis Blues. Their goalie corps is led by veteran Marc-Andre Fleury, the legendary goalie that helped the Pittsburgh Penguins win their three previous Stanley Cups.
It is too early to say that they might make the playoffs, but they are in prime position to become the fastest expansion team to win the Stanley Cup. That honour currently belongs to the 1973-74 Philadelphia Flyers who won their first Stanley Cup seven years after beginning their franchise in 1967-68, with the legendary Broad Street Bullies.
Vegas' next game is at home against the Winnipeg Jets, who are experiencing similar success since moving from Atlanta in 2011, when they were known as the Thrashers. Winnipeg's previous Jets franchise moved to Phoenix to become the Coyotes in 1996.
Other expansion franchises have been in the pipeline, but have not been formally announced yet. Quebec City and Houston are potential candidates, but no announcement has been made. Quebec City was home to the Quebec Nordiques before moving to Denver and becoming the Colorado Avalanche in 1995. Houston has never hosted an NHL team, but the new owner of the Houston Rockets, Tilman Fertitta, is interested in bringing a 2nd team to the Lone Star State.
Only time will tell when the NHL would expand to several more teams.