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NHL: Vegas Golden Knights season preview

The Vegas Golden Knights enter 2022/23 looking to bounce back from a season in which they failed to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in their five-year history.

Ruthless in their pursuit of success, the Golden Knights sacked coach Peter DeBoer and hired Bruce Cassidy, formerly of Boston Bruins, and with a star-studded line-up and better health, Golden Knights' General Manager Kelly McCrimmon will not only expect him to get the franchise back into the playoffs, but also meet their +1700 odds to win the Stanley Cup.

Cassidy coup

The Golden Knights (43-31-8) finished three points behind the Nashville Predators for the second wild card spot into the playoffs from the Western Conference last season.

Their absence from the post-season was a major shock and DeBoer, who was hired just two years earlier, paid the ultimate price when he was fired with a 98-50-12 overall record.

Likely to their surprise, the Golden Knights were able to hire 57-year-old Cassidy who led the Bruins to six straight playoff berths, including an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final in 2019 before he was savagely fired this summer.

Cassidy went 245-108-46 with the Bruins and will need to make an instant impression in a market where anything less than a Stanley Cup Championship is considered a failure.

Ruthless in their pursuit

The Golden Knights' obsessive pursuit of the cup has drawn wide criticism, particularly their chopping and changing of popular players.

Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and defenceman Nate Schmidt have been two of the biggest-name casualties, and in the recent off-season forwards Evgenii Dadonov and Max Pacioretty, plus defenceman Dylan Coghlan, have been traded away to create salary cap room.

From loveable underdogs who made the Stanley Cup Final in their first season as a franchise to one of the league's least popular outside of Vegas, the Golden Knights' strategy has certainly been a controversial one.

However, it has led to them collecting an array of superstar talent including defenceman Alex Pietrangelo and forward Jack Eichel.

It hasn't paid off yet, but optimism remains high, especially since their recent downturn can be excused through poor health.

Hope for health

Vegas were one of the worst-hit teams in the NHL for injuries last season losing 500 man-games due to health issues.

Captain Mark Stone was a significant loss, being forced to have back surgery after just 37 games, and Eichel was only able to play 34 after being acquired from Buffalo Sabres.

Eichel's absence was expected, after he was given permission by the Golden Knights to have neck surgery, never performed on an NHL player before, as part of the trade agreement.

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Vegas' luck hasn't turned yet, though, with Stone continuing to be a major question-mark for the opening-night roster and number-one netminder Robin Lehner ruled out for the season with a hip injury.

The workload in goal will fall to relatively unproven Logan Thompson, 25, who played 19 games (17 starts) as a rookie last season with a 10-5-3 record, .914 save percentage and 2.68 goals-against average (GAA).

To add some insurance between the pipes, Vegas added Aidin Hill, 26, from the San Jose Sharks who registered a .906 save percentage and 2.66 GAA in 25 games (22 starts) last season.

Eichel impact

The 25-year-old Eichel had 25 points (14 goals, 11 assists) in his 34 games for the Golden Knights last season after recovering from the surgery which caused a major fall-out with the Sabres.

Insisting he'd done his research into the procedure, Eichel appeared to go from strength to strength on his return and he'll make a huge difference if he can get back to his world-class best.

The second overall pick from the 2015 draft has scored 380 points (153 goals, 227 assists) in 406 NHL regular season games and at his peak is one of the best centreman in the league.

Ironman Kessel

A player Vegas will feel they can rely on is 35-year-old Phil Kessel who signed a single-year contract in the off-season after three years with the Arizona Coyotes.

The two-time Stanley Cup Champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins has played 982 consecutive NHL games and needs just seven more to tie the league's all-time record held by Keith Yandle (989).

In 1,204 total regular season games, Kessel has amassed 956 points (399 goals, 557 assists) and will aim to help further improve a Golden Knights offence which finished 12th in the NHL with 266 goals last season.

Expectations high

With a healthier roster, and a former Jack Adams Award winning coach in charge, the Golden Knights will at least expect to have an opportunity to contend for the Stanley Cup come April.

Whether they have enough to compensate for the inexperienced goaltending is open to question, but one thing is certain, that won't be accepted as an excuse and more heads will roll if they aren't hoisting their first championship at the end of it all.

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