Home News Building a Path to Repeat: How the Vegas Golden Knights Can Defend Their Stanley Cup Title

Building a Path to Repeat: How the Vegas Golden Knights Can Defend Their Stanley Cup Title

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Caption: The Vegas Golden Knights made history as they clinched their first-ever Stanley Cup championship by overpowering the Florida Panthers in a thrilling five-game series. After falling just short in 2018, the Golden Knights finally achieved their ultimate goal this time around. With the crown now secured, the question arises: Can they successfully defend their title in the upcoming 2023-24 season?

Repeating as Stanley Cup champions is no easy feat, with only 16 teams having accomplished it in the history of the league. Most recently, the Tampa Bay Lightning secured back-to-back championships in 2020 and 2021. Over the past 25 years, this remarkable achievement has only been managed twice, with the Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins claiming consecutive titles in 2016-17.

According to Caesars Sportsbook, the Golden Knights currently hold the second-best odds at +800 to win the 2023-24 Stanley Cup, narrowly trailing behind the Colorado Avalanche. So, what steps must the Golden Knights take to enhance their chances of repeating their triumph?

Re-signing Hill and Barbashev

Like any championship team, the Golden Knights face tough decisions regarding their roster. Fortunately, they have fewer critical free agents to address.

Among them is goaltender Adin Hill, who played a pivotal role in the team’s Stanley Cup victory. Despite utilizing various goalies during the 2022-23 season, Hill emerged as a savior for Vegas after Laurent Brossoit struggled in the postseason. Hill, 27, displayed exceptional skills throughout the playoffs, boasting an 11-4-0 record, a 2.17 goals-against average, and a remarkable .932 save percentage in 16 games. His outstanding performance continued in the Stanley Cup Final, where he recorded a 2.40 goals-against average and won four out of his five starts. Notably, Hill made a stunning save against Nick Cousins, utilizing his goalie stick to deny a point-blank shot.

Acquired for a mere fourth-round pick, Hill’s contribution exceeded expectations, considering his salary of just $2.675 million in the previous season. His impressive playoff run puts him in line for a significant pay raise, attracting interest from other teams. However, the Golden Knights must prioritize retaining his services to solidify their championship defense.

Another key free agent is center Ivan Barbashev, who joined the Golden Knights via a trade with the St. Louis Blues during the 2022-23 season. Barbashev, 27, made a notable impact during the playoffs, ranking fifth on the team with 18 points (seven goals and 11 assists). He also contributed a crucial goal and two assists in the Stanley Cup Final. His standout performance came in the second-round series against the Edmonton Oilers, where he accumulated three goals and three assists, kick-starting the series with a two-goal performance in Game 1.

Despite possessing significant forward depth, re-signing Barbashev becomes a priority for the Golden Knights’ quest to defend their Stanley Cup title. Having earned $2.6 million in the previous season, Barbashev’s improved performance warrants a substantial salary increase.

While other unrestricted free agents like Brossoit, Jonathan Quick, and Phil Kessel exist on the roster, the Golden Knights are likely to let them walk, as their contributions to the team’s championship run were minimal. By allocating their resources toward retaining Hill and Barbashev, the Golden Knights can enhance their chances of repeating their success.

Eichel’s Elite Performance

The acquisition of Jack Eichel in 2021 was a pivotal move that propelled the Golden Knights closer to their championship aspirations. Eichel played a crucial role in the team’s journey to lift the Stanley Cup and remains an essential component of their future success.

Throughout his eight-year career, Eichel has demonstrated elite offensive prowess, recording back-to-back seasons with 82 and 78 points in 2018-19 and 2019-20, respectively. Despite encountering setbacks due to a neck injury in the following years, the former second overall pick rebounded with a stellar performance in the 2022-23 season, tallying 66 points (27 goals and 39 assists).

Under the guidance of first-year coach Bruce Cassidy, the Golden Knights adopted a new system emphasizing defense and intensity. Consequently, Eichel expanded his game, becoming a more productive two-way player. In the 2022-23 regular season, Eichel set career highs in blocked shots (56) and takeaways (47). These impressive numbers carried into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where Eichel recorded 30 blocked shots, 25 hits, and 19 takeaways across 22 games.

Eichel’s ability to elevate his game, combined with his leadership by example, provides the Golden Knights with a significant opportunity to secure another Stanley Cup championship in the near future.

Maintaining Optimal Health

While it may seem obvious, maintaining good health is paramount for any team striving to defend their championship in any sport. The Colorado Avalanche, after clinching the Stanley Cup in 2022, encountered substantial challenges due to injuries throughout the 2022-23 season. The absence of their captain, Gabriel Landeskog, who underwent knee surgery following the 2022 Stanley Cup Final and missed the entire subsequent campaign, profoundly impacted their performance. Furthermore, key players such as Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, and Artturi Lehkonen also faced injury-related setbacks during the season.

In contrast, the Golden Knights embarked on their postseason run with relatively good health. Notably, star players like Eichel, Jonathan Marchessault, and Mark Stone remained injury-free throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Stone, who played only 43 regular-season games due to injury, made a triumphant return for Game 1 of the opening-round series against the Winnipeg Jets.

If the Golden Knights can maintain their talented roster’s health, their potential for success knows no bounds.

By addressing these key factors, including re-signing crucial players, relying on Eichel’s elite performance, and prioritizing player health, the Vegas Golden Knights can establish a strong foundation to defend their Stanley Cup title in the upcoming 2023-24 season.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Stanley Cup defense

Can the Vegas Golden Knights defend their Stanley Cup title in the 2023-24 season?

Yes, the Vegas Golden Knights have the potential to defend their Stanley Cup title. They have a strong roster, key players to re-sign, and the presence of Jack Eichel as an elite performer. Additionally, maintaining good player health will be crucial for their success.

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2 comments

HockeyLover94 June 19, 2023 - 3:36 pm

omg!!! can VGK do it again? i think so!! Hill was amazin in the playoffs, his sav on Cousins wuz insanee!!! Barbashev also kikd butt, we need to keep him!!! And Eichel? he’s gonna b a beast, no doubt! as long as the team stays helthy, the cup’s ours again!!!

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GoldenKnightFan22 June 20, 2023 - 5:03 am

Re-signing Hill and Barbashev is a must! They were key players in the playoffs. Eichel’s been incredible, he’s takin his game to the nxt lvl. We need to keep him performin at his best. And staying helthy is super important, injuries can rly mess things up. Let’s go VGK, defend that cup!

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