It’s less complicated than the Netflix series “What/If,” although still dramatic and thrilling in parts, and we’re not just talking about the pregame show at T-Mobile Arena.
A third season shall soon commence for the Golden Knights, so in examining some of the more important storylines — and ones that just intrigue us in a peculiar manner — we wonder:
What if … Marc-Andre Fleury finds himself in net for 61 games again?
Outcome: The Knights won’t win the Stanley Cup, given the last goalie to do so when at least 35 (Fleury celebrates that birthday in November) was Dominik Hasek in 2001-02. It might help, however, on those rare nights the team allows backup Malcolm Subban to play that Fleury takes the first period. Subban is, shall we say, a slow starter.
What if … When the Knights play New Jersey for the first time this season, Nikita Gusev skates over to Vegas coach Gerard Gallant before the puck drops and, in his best Ivan Drago voice, says: “I must break you.”
Outcome: Gallant turns to assistant coach Mike Kelly and says: “I thought Shipachyov went back to Russia.”
What if … Mark Stone is even better than we already believe?
Outcome: The Knights could win the Stanley Cup. The team’s best player is all settled in after his arrival via trade with Ottawa in February, and when you combine his skill with a long-term contract and peace of mind over 82 games, the idea that he could carry Vegas to a title is hardly outlandish.
What if … Kelly McCrimmon as the team’s new general manager actually holds regular news conferences and expands on his answers beyond a few (words) sentences and doesn’t treat information about injuries and other newsworthy items as more top secret than the Pentagon Papers?
Outcome: Do you mean before or after president of hockey operations George McPhee almost causes himself great bodily harm by sprinting from his office at City National Arena while wearing a large parka to drag McCrimmon by the ear far, far away from those nosy reporters, banishing him to a youth rink in Winnipeg … or at least until the team needs a recommendation for its next TV broadcaster with Manitoba ties.
What if … Alex Tuch plays himself into a top-six role?
Outcome: Not likely, and not just because Gallant prefers to mix his lines during the season about as often as Bill Foley roots for Navy. The top six, barring injury (which could absolutely find a few of those guys), is fairly cemented. So while it remains a safe bet Tuch will continue to boost the third line, remember that he was productive last season when placed in a second-line role. He just keeps getting better.
What if … Cody Glass, be it to begin the season or during it, is part of the NHL roster?
Outcome: The incredibly overpriced jersey I bought my son three years ago finally will be put to good use.
What if … Someone finds merchandise (or even a pencil) that isn’t incredibly overpriced at any of the team stores?
Outcome: You’re darn right, Al Michaels, we believe in miracles.
What if … Not one but two rookie blue-liners play a significant amount of time this season?
Outcome: Some good, some bad, lots of learning, a chance for fans to begin seeing the future up close and personal. I’m just hoping that, at some point in the not-so-distant future against Boston, we see Nic Hague square off with Zdeno Chara. Come on. Tall Guys Brawl in hockey? Sign me up.
What if … Several players again decide to spend their bye week in Cabo and happen to sample some of the local rib-eye tacos?
Outcome: I mean, given the joke that is the NHL’s drug testing program, you’d have to be crazy to think even, well, a dirty sample the size of a pinch of salt in an Olympic-sized swimming pool could be detected. Oh, wait … I’m sure McPhee would just order all players to ingest only preapproved protein shakes during the season.
What if …Nate Schmidt misses any sort of significant time?
Outcome: Not a total disaster, but in the neighborhood. The Knights went 8-11-1 when Schmidt served his 20-game suspension to begin last season, and given how young the blue line might look in spots, losing the team’s best defenseman is a vision Gallant would prefer not to awake in a pool of sweat over.
What if … The Knights find themselves leading 3-0 in the third period of Game 7 of a first-round playoff series, and after a faceoff at the Vegas end, an opposing player is cross-checked to the ice and a major penalty is wrongly assessed?
Outcome: No worries. All is good. I mean, it’s not like any team could be bad enough to then allow four power-play goals in four minutes, right?
Contact columnist Ed Graney at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.