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Do the Vegas Golden Knights have a Loyalty Problem?

On several social media platforms, Vegas Golden Knights fans can be seen expressing concerns towards the team’s front office and their apparent lack of loyalty. The moves made this offseason have seemingly caused this sentiment to receive a dramatic rise in popularity. But trades of other players prior to this offseason is the basis of where the accusations of disloyalty began.

The perceived lack of loyalty

Trading Marc-Andre Fleury was never going to be a popular decision with the fans.  He was a player that a majority of the fanbase attached themselves to as soon as he was drafted to the team. Fleury was/is an icon in the city of Las Vegas. He had proved his value to the team several times in his four seasons with the team. He also endeared himself to the people of Las Vegas with his personality and the way he interacted with fans.

When it was announced that Fleury did in fact get traded for essentially nothing in return, fans were not happy. When it was later reported that the reigning Vezina winner found out about the trade via Twitter, fans were outraged.  While the context of the trade was more complicated than it was being portrayed, fans still saw it as a betrayal. Regardless of the circumstances, however, the means by which the Fleury trade played out did not help the Golden Knights’ reputation.

When Erik Haula was traded, it was the first time the Golden Knights faced a notable number of disloyalty accusations. After a season-ending leg injury during the 2018-2019 campaign, Erik Haula was traded the next offseason, with the last game he ever played for Vegas being the one that he was injured in. When Nate Schmidt was traded in 2020, the rumor returned. These rumors have persisted since then and were reinforced ten-fold by the Fleury trade this past offseason.

Benefit of the doubt

The Vega Golden Knights is an organization that wants to win the Stanley Cup. This has been clear since their fairytale run to the Finals during their inaugural season. As a result of their instant success, they set the bar extremely high for themselves. This led to the team facing pressure from both management and the fans alike. With the fanbase having been spoiled with such a successful entry into the NHL, it’s been difficult for them to have realistic expectations towards their team.

The fans’ attachment to players has also complicated things for the team’s management. George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon, from an outside perspective at least, try to handle player transactions pragmatically.  The problem that comes from this is that it makes the front office appear rigid and unemotional. This is in stark contrast to Golden Knights’ very animated and loyal fanbase. Which leads to a clash in values that results in the misunderstanding of motives and decisions.

McPhee and McCrimmon want to win a Stanley Cup, so they make these trades because they believe they will get the team closer to achieving that goal. They do not make them out of malice.  They understood how much players like Fleury, Haula and Schmidt meant to the fans, but made these deals despite this. Not to spite the fans or scorn the players, simply to make the team better from their perspective.

As far as loyalty goes, McPhee and McCrimmon are loyal to the Vegas Golden Knights, not individual players on the team. The unfortunate reality is that hockey players and professional athletes, as a whole, are assets to their organization. And in order to find success in any league like the NHL, a team’s front office cannot allow themselves to grow overly attached to players.

Closing thoughts

The disconnect between  VGK’s fanbase and management is obvious.  Vegas fans being so new to professional sports as a whole has led to them having a naive sense of loyalty in regards to their team. Fan’s attachment to original members of the Golden Knights prevents them from seeing the pragmatism of these trades.

Whereas the pragmatism and rigid nature of the Golden Knights’ management rubs the team’s emotional naive fanbase the wrong way.  Their apparent lack of concern towards the players they trade leaves a bad taste in the mouths of the fans. Though management sees these deals as a means of improving the team, fans do not recognize this.

The problem as a whole is quite simple.  Both the fans and the team’s front office have the same goal, win the Stanley Cup.  However, the means by which each wants to achieve this is different. Management wants to win using the best possible team they can assemble each year.  The fanbase also wants to win, just without trading away their favorite players.

Featured image courtesy of the L.E. Baskow and the Las Vegas Review-Journal

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