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Monday Morning Mailbag: Preparing for what could be a very busy day

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The trade deadline is here, and we’re answering your questions to start the day off.

2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Media Day Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The day is finally here. Trades are happening. Will the Vegas Golden Knights take part in the fun? It’s too early to tell for certain. But one thing’s for sure — you can never count out George McPhee.

Let’s get to some questions.

The question that’s on everyone’s mind. Will the Knights make a big trade? Will they make a small one? Will they do anything?

A lot of people think the Knights should retain their assets and move forward with what they have. After all, this year’s team, at least from a personnel standpoint, isn’t that much different from last year’s squad that went to the Stanley Cup Final.

Personally, though, I don’t see the day ending without McPhee making some sort of move. Perhaps the benching of Colin Miller is more calculated than we know. After all, he’s a talented right-shot defenseman who can generate plenty of offense. Players like him are always coveted.

It seems GMGM may have a surprise up his sleeve. Could one of Vegas’ key players (like Miller) be moved in order to acquire assets? Considering how badly the team has been playing recently, it’s hard to rule anything out.

As mentioned previously, it wouldn’t shock me whatsoever if Colin Miller ended up being moved. If a coaching decision really is the reason Miller has been watching games from the press box recently, then he’s clearly in Gerard Gallant’s doghouse. And it’s not uncommon for players who have fallen out of favor with their coach to be included in a trade. Just look at Anthony Duclair.

If Miller doesn’t get moved, though, it wouldn’t shock me to see Brandon Pirri included in some sort of deal. Pirri’s been excellent for Vegas this season, but he does have the tendency to be rather streaky. After all, it wasn’t long ago that he was watching games from the press box after losing his scoring touch. Perhaps a playoff team in need of depth scoring could be interested in acquiring Pirri’s services.

Daniel Carr does seem to be a plausible candidate to earn another stint with the Knights at some point, but I have a hard time believing he would make enough of an impact to fix Vegas’ numerous problems. If the Knights are going to call someone up, especially if they do end up trading Miller (or another defenseman), they’ll need to call up a player capable of giving the team an immediate boost. For me, that player is Erik Brannstrom.

Granted, I have my doubts about the Golden Knights’ willingness to call up a 19-year-old defenseman as the team looks to make a playoff push. That said, though, Brannstrom may be the most NHL-ready of any prospect currently in the Knights’ system. Brannstrom dazzled throughout training camp, and he’s continued to do so in his rookie AHL season, posting 28 points in 41 games. And let’s also not forget about his stellar showing in the World Juniors (four goals in five games).

I don’t see the Knights actually calling up Brannstrom, but I do think he’d be the player to make the biggest impact if he were given the opportunity.

This next question comes to us from Michael Bongard, who writes:

Last season the team’s PDO was just above 100 and in the top 10 in the league. This season, the PDO is 98 and in the bottom five in the league. If I understand PDO correctly, it is comprised of shooting and save percentage, with a PDO significantly over 100 signifying the team is lucky and significantly below 100 signifying the team is unlucky.

The team’s shooting percentage is about 2 percent lower than last season. In your opinion, is the team’s struggles in large part due to the low shooting percentage? And is the team just unlucky, or is this a problem that the front office needs to address?

Early on in the season, there was no question that the Knights were easily one of the unluckiest teams in the NHL. And one could feasibly argue that they’ve been unlucky all season. After all, their PDO is one of the lowest in the league to this point. Only the Wild, Coyotes and Panthers rank lower.

However, it does not appear to me that luck is the primary issue. From what I’ve seen, this team seems to lack the confidence it oozed all of last season. It appears at times that the Knights try too hard to make the sexy plays instead of the right plays. Gerard Gallant even hinted at this being an issue after Vegas’ 5-2 loss to the Coyotes earlier this month.

“It was a 2-2 game and all of a sudden we try and get cute again, start making drop passes and passes through the slot,” Gallant said. “I didn’t like the way we played. I thought we played about 10 minutes of real good hockey tonight. There was no passion in our game, there was no aggressive forecheck in our game, we played a soft game.”

And then there’s this little nugget from Vegas’ loss to the Jets:

Confidence? Work ethic? Luck? It’s hard to pinpoint the exact area that’s keeping this team from winning games. But whatever the issue is, it needs to be fixed fast, or this team won’t last long in the postseason (if they make the postseason).