Few expansion franchises in Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, or the National Hockey League have had as much success from the get-go as the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Reaching the Stanley Cup Finals in their first season back in 2017–18, the Golden Knights have reached the postseason in six of their eight seasons, and the only season that missed the playoffs was a year they scored 94 points.

The franchise’s rapid ascent crescendoed last season as it beat the Florida Panthers in five games to take its first-ever Stanley Cup Championship, losing just six games in its four playoff series. The Golden Knights entered 2023–24 as overwhelming favorites, but they had a down year, scoring just 98 points compared to last year’s 111 points and entering the postseason as the #8 seed. Here are the biggest takeaways from the defending champ’s season.

Season Expectations

As noted, the Las Vegas Golden Knights had significant expectations going into the season as online sports betting favorites to win the Western Conference. Only the Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers entered the year with better odds to win the Stanley Cup in the West than the Golden Knights.

The season couldn’t have started better, with the defending champs winning 11 of their first 12 games. However, they struggled the rest of the way, going 34–36 and barely reaching the postseason as the final Wild Card representative.

Only eight teams in league history have won back-to-back Stanley Cups, and the Golden Knights made it much more demanding on themselves with a weak regular season. They had to battle back at the end of the year to reach the postseason and have struggled to find their identity, leading to Noah Hanifin’s and Tomas Hertl’s mid-season acquisitions. Those two players are among the standout performers this season.

Standout Players

Jonathan Marchessault led the way for Las Vegas in terms of points, scoring 69 points on a career-high 42 goals and 27 assists. Those 69 points were the most he has scored since 2017–18, his first season as a Golden Knight.

However, Marchessault’s position at the top of Vegas’ scoring leaderboard indicates what went wrong this season. Jack Eichel was the Golden Knight’s leading scorer on last year’s Stanley Cup championship team but missed time this year due to injury. Chandler Stephenson trailed him by just a single point but regressed this year offensively.

Despite playing just six games with Las Vegas in the regular season, Hertl scored four points after joining the team late in the year. The longtime San Jose Shark was a lone bright spot on a miserable Shark team that had a historically bad season and has been a consistent point scorer for years.

Standout Moments

Las Vegas’ dominant start stood out, as the team was 11–0–1 after 12 games and lost consecutive games in regulation in mid-December. However, by Christmas, they were 1–5–0 during the six-game stretch leading to their Winter Classic matchup against Seattle, which started a more significant trend in the wrong direction. The Kraken dominated Las Vegas in a 3–0 win, marking the Golden Knights’ 6th loss in eight games before getting beat down by Florida three days later.

Las Vegas struggled mightily after the All-Star break, giving up 3.44 goals per game since mid-February, ranking 23rd in the league. Goaltender Adin Hill has highlighted those struggles, with just a .877 save percentage during that span.

However, things did turn around a bit with the additions of Hertl and Hanifin. Las Vegas went 11–5–1 after the March 8 trade deadline, largely without Hartl, who missed time due to knee surgery in February. The late-season surge helped the Golden Knights sneak into the playoffs and have already given the #1-seeded Dallas Stars trouble.

Post Season Aspirations

While Las Vegas struggled in the regular season, they still entered the postseason with a championship pedigree, substantial defensive depth to solve their goal-surrendering problems, and a new weapon in Hertl. They opened up the postseason with two road victories over the Stars, putting the #1 seed on the brink early. While Dallas stole an overtime win in Las Vegas, the Golden Knights are still in control of the series, thanks mainly to Eichel’s dominant play.

The Golden Knights are still a threat in the Western Conference. The road will be difficult, but the team is similar to last season’s championship squad. According to most players, the second championship is the most challenging championship when attempting to go back-to-back.

Post Season Results

The team found itself at a crossroads as the curtain closed on the Las Vegas Golden Knights’ 2023–24 season. Despite a rollercoaster year marked by early promise and late struggles, the Golden Knights demonstrated resiliency and the heart of a champion. Their postseason journey, although ending in a hard-fought seven-game series against the Dallas Stars, underscored the unpredictability of playoff hockey and the thin margins that separate triumph from defeat.

This season may not have ended with the jubilation of last year’s championship, but it provided vital lessons and memorable moments that will shape the franchise’s future. The mid-season acquisitions of Noah Hanifin and Tomas Hertl, although initially seen as a gamble, paid dividends and suggest a bright outlook for the next campaign. Jonathan Marchessault’s resurgence as a top scorer and Jack Eichel’s playoff heroics are further evidence of the team’s core strength and potential for rebound.

Looking ahead, the Golden Knights are well-positioned to retool and return stronger. With a blend of experienced leaders and emerging talents, the team’s foundation remains robust. The challenge now lies in harnessing this season’s lessons to refine their game and ignite a renewed quest for the Stanley Cup.

As fans reflect on a season of highs and lows, they can take pride in a team that continues to battle against the odds, embodying the spirit of perseverance that has defined the Golden Knights since their remarkable inception. The quest for another championship is far from over; it is merely paused, ready to be reignited with the drop of the puck next season.


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