Editor’s note: Vegas finally has a roster. It’s time to get excited. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be introducing you to these new Golden Knights players.
Newly-minted Vegas Golden Knights fans, you have the centerpiece of your franchise. From the Pittsburgh Penguins comes three-time Stanley Cup champion Marc-André Fleury, a 32-year-old netminder drafted first overall 14 summers ago. To learn more about that day and his upbringing, I must direct you to this excellent piece by Dejan Kovacevic.
While his career .912 save percentage and 2.58 goals against average are not exactly world-beating numbers, it is important to note that the Penguins, throughout most of his tenure, have been an offense-first club, bearing precious little outside of Sergei Gonchar and Kris Letang as truly excellent defensemen.
While you can win a title without top-notch defenders (see: Pittsburgh Penguins, 2017), it is difficult to turn out consistently strong performance between the pipes, however Fleury managed to post a save percentage of at least .915 six times, including four of the past five seasons.
Sure, there’s tread on the tires, but there’s also 375 regular season wins. There are the playoff meltdowns in 2012 and ‘13, but there has also been a .920 save percentage in his past 35 playoff starts. There are the occasional lapses in positioning, but there are also the breath-taking, highlight reel saves as well.
Fleury is not the perfect goaltender, but he may very well be the perfect teammate. Evgeni Malkin was heartbroken to see him go. Sidney Crosby couldn’t resist getting in one final embrace at the awards show. Even the hard-nosed Rick Tocchet gave him some dap on the way out.
Selecting a player like the Flower guarantees Vegas that they will have above average goaltending over the next two years at minimum, and fans will surely fall in love with the good-hearted prankster from Sorel-Tracy, Quebec. Currently 15th in wins, Fleury would ascend into the all-time top 10 with another 50 victories, certainly possible over the next two seasons.
Expansion teams will, with very few exceptions, take you on a rocky road in the first few seasons. But with players like Fleury, James Neal and David Perron (what is this, Penguins West?), the Golden Knights will have a few bright lights in the lineup, and with their arsenal of upcoming draft picks, the future does look bright.
And, hey, Vegas fans. Treat Marc-Andre well, eh? The Flower is my favorite player in the NHL and watching him put on that Golden Knights uniform was admittedly one of the most emotional experiences I have had as a sports fan. Fleury is a good player, a good teammate and most importantly, a good man—maybe the best. May he prosper between the pipes for his new club.