Surprising success of Vegas Golden Knights | Bonehead Picks

The surprising early success of the Vegas Golden Knights

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One of the biggest surprises in sports today is the success of the Vegas Golden Knights. The Golden Knights are the NHL’s newest team and currently lead the Pacific Division in points. They are also among the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. For an expansion team, the Golden Knights are in rare air with their success in their first year of existence. It is important to illustrate how rare it is for an expansion team to be successful in their first year of experience by taking a look at how the most recent expansion teams in the NBA, NHL, NFL, and Major League Baseball have fared.

The NBA’s newest team is the former Charlotte Bobcats, who entered the NBA as an expansion team during the 2004-05 NBA season. The first Bobcats team finished their inaugural season at 18-64 for a terrible winning percentage of 22 percent. They finished 14th out of 15th in the Eastern Conference and the franchise was officially renamed to the Charlotte Hornets for the 2014–15 NBA season.

The Houston Texans entered the NFL in 2002 as the NFL’s most recent expansion team. Unsurprisingly, their first year ended with a 4-12 record and their young quarterback David Carr being sacked an eye-popping 76 times. They were last in the AFC South and “earned” the 3rd overall pick for the following year’s NFL Draft in 2003.

Major League Baseball saw two teams start their expansion years in 1998. The Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Rays both had bad years. The Diamondbacks lost 96 games and the then-named Devil Rays lost 99 games. The Diamondbacks became a playoff team the next season and won the World Series in 2001, becoming the fastest expansion team in the Major Leagues to win a championship, doing it in only the fourth season since the franchise’s inception in the 1998 Major League Baseball season.

Like Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League added two expansion franchises at the same time by adding the Minnesota Wild and Blue Jackets during the 2000–01 NHL season. Both teams finished last in their respective divisions. The Blue Jackets made the playoffs in the 8th year of their existence while the Wild made the playoffs in their third year. Neither had close to the success of the Golden Knights in their first years.

While it is possible that the Vegas Knights are playing inspired hockey due to the Las Vegas shooting tragedy of last year, it is hard to believe that they would win this much their first year. Expansion teams are often full of castoffs and low-potential players but the leadership of Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant has been a notable part of the immediate success. It will be fascinating to see how far this first year NHL franchise can go when the playoffs start.


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