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Vegas gamble
Golden Knights could win it all - in their first season
3/6/18 - By Paul Krill -

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman once called the Stanley Cup the hardest trophy to win in sports. But thanks to a decision of the NHL hierarchy, his statement may soon be rendered laughable. The Vegas Golden Knights, a first-year expansion team, are in first place in their division, 10 points ahead of the second-place Sharks at this juncture.

Yep, a first-year expansion team that, barring a complete collapse, will make the playoffs. They might even win the championship. Doing so would make a joke out of Bettman's statement about the Cup being the hardest trophy to win if an organization that didn't even exist a couple years ago brings home the big silver trophy.

Thanks to favorable expansion rules, maybe a bit too favorable, as well as shrewd selections and likely some luck, the Knights don't have to pay their dues. They don't have to serve as whipping boys for the rest of the league during their first couple of seasons. When the schedule came out last summer, I looked at the Sharks' games against Vegas as likely to be easy wins. That's how it's supposed to be when playing first-year expansion teams. Well, the Sharks have played Vegas twice so far and lost both times.

If Vegas wins the Cup, this is going to rub more salt in the wounds of franchises that have been around for decades and never won. Such as the Blues, the Canucks, the Capitals and, yes, the Sharks. (And this is different than the Avalanche winning in their first year in Denver. That team moved from Quebec, where it had been among the league's worst teams for a few years.)

Adding insult to injury, the NHL looks ready to add yet another team, in Seattle, with the same favorable expansion rules. Meanwhile, teams in Florida, Carolina, Arizona and other places play to empty seats nightly, and Calgary and Arizona have been unable to secure new arenas. But the league is in expansion mode, anyway. Gotta get those lucrative expansion fees.

Let's hope teams enjoy those expansion revenue checks. Particularly the ones displaced from the playoffs by the Knights, and maybe soon, the new Seattle team.

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