In George McPhee’s first season as Capitals general manager, in 1997-98, he helped propel Washington to its first NHL Stanley Cup Final appearance. The team compiled 10 seasons of 90 points or better in his 17-year tenure.
In McPhee’s first season as Golden Knights GM, Las Vegas oddsmakers expect the expansion franchise to be among the worst teams in the league before enjoying a relatively rapid rise to Stanley Cup contender.
“They’ll probably be the worst or second-worst team in the Western Conference,” Westgate sports book manager Ed Salmons said. “Arizona is bad, and Colorado is a bad team. I’m pretty sure the Knights will have the lowest point total of any team in the league.
“With that being said, I would say by the third year (2019-20 season) they’ll be in the playoffs and by the fourth year they can be a top-four seed. Realistically, this team in five years can be contending to win the Stanley Cup.”
The Westgate opened the Knights’ regular-season point total at 70½ before it was bet to 69½. The point total is 70½ at William Hill sports books and 71½ at Station Casinos.
Only four teams finished the 2016-17 season with fewer than 71½ points: Arizona and New Jersey (70 each), Vancouver (69) and Colorado (48).
The Westgate also has posted a prop on whether the Knights will make the 2017-18 playoffs. No is the minus-1,100 favorite after opening at minus-900. Yes is plus-700.
“It’s very difficult for an expansion team, just from a meshing standpoint,” Sunset Station sports book director Chuck Esposito said. “It’s unrealistic to think the playoffs will happen in the first couple of years. But the way it’s set up now, they can get to the playoffs much quicker than expansion teams in the past.
“They did a phenomenal job in the expansion draft of acquiring all those picks. That’s the key to getting in the playoffs sooner. It’s building through the draft.”
Salmons said McPhee “hit a home run” in the expansion draft and entry draft.
“To have three of the top 15 picks in the first round before you even play a game is phenomenal,” he said. “McPhee’s a really smart guy. He built that team in Washington that had the most points in the league year in and year out. It’s not his fault they didn’t take advantage in the playoffs. He’s not coaching the team.
“Usually these things go one of three ways. I would say the teams that don’t look at the three- to five-year plan and try to take a bunch of older players you’ve heard of and try to win early is the wrong way to do it. At the other end, you take all young players and lose so much that there’s a bad culture on the team. The Knights went more in the middle. They did as well as they possibly could.”
After the Knights selected Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and nine-time 20-goal scorer James Neal from the Nashville Predators in theexpansion draft, a Westgate bettor wagered several thousand dollars on Vegas at minus-105 in its Oct. 10 home opener against the Coyotes.
“I like Fleury because of what he brings. He’s a three-time Stanley Cup champion and was the first overall pick 14 years ago,” Esposito said. “He’s a good locker-room guy for a young expansion team and can be the face of the franchise early on as the kids try to find their way.
“They’ve got some scoring options and a veteran goalie back there. For me, it’s how well they can solidify their defense.”
Golden Knights odds and props
Courtesy of Westgate, William Hill and Station Casinos sports books
Total regular-season points
— 69½ (Westgate)
— 70½ (William Hill)
— 71½ (Station)
Will the Knights make the 2017-18 NHL playoffs?
— Yes; +700
— No; -1,100
How will the Knights’ first goal be scored in season opener (home or away)?
— Full strength; 2-3
— Power play; 2-1
— Short-handed; 10-1
— Penalty shot in regulation; 25-1
— No goals scored in regulation; 4-1
Win Western Conference
Win Stanley Cup
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.