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Golden Knights have team to beat in NHL … on paper

Math was never my thing, so I will trust those who tell me an 8×11 sheet of letter paper weighs 0.16 ounce. When it comes to how good folks believe the Golden Knights could be this season, such praise would fill every last inch of it.

It’s just presumed greatness for now. Doesn’t mean much until proved on a different kind of sheet.

But what the Knights will feature on ice should be their most talented group, more than the magical expansion team of 2017-18 and its historic run to the Stanley Cup Final. More than anything we’ve seen in the short history of the franchise.

“I think we’re in that group of teams for sure that everybody should be talking about as a Stanley Cup contender,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “Going from contending to Stanley Cup champion is a big jump. The one team that does it every year has to have a lot of things, including intangibles, leadership, chemistry, in your dressing room.

“I love the fact that people are talking about us in that mix. I think we belong.”

Earned respect

They win differently now. There is no more talk of misfits. Hasn’t been for some time. Opponents haven’t slept on these guys since that first year.

It’s not as if a roster this good can rely on an age-old ploy in sports, in which great players or teams explain success by immediately using a perceived lack of regard from others as a source of motivation.

Nobody is throwing an ounce of shade at the Knights.

Alec Martinez won two Stanley Cups with the Kings. In 2014, the Knights defenseman scored winning goals in the Western Conference Final and Stanley Cup Final — both in overtime. He knows what makes a winning side.

“I think you can have all the talent in the world, and if guys don’t like each other, you don’t have chemistry, then you’re not going to be successful,” Martinez said. “I think that’s anything in life.

“I’ve said it since the moment I got traded here. I noticed it right away that there really is a good chemistry on this team. Guys genuinely like each other. Not only are there good hockey players here, but there are good people. I think that goes a long way. Without that, there’s not a chance in this league that you can be successful.”

I buy the part about chemistry in sports far more than I do the concept of momentum, which simply doesn’t exist. The Knights have always offered a unique room, one without a captain and different sorts who led different ways. The room matters. It never has been an issue. It’s just different now.

Marc-Andre Fleury is (was?) the face of the franchise and is now a backup. Nate Schmidt helped keep everyone loose and has been traded. Deryk Engelland was a veteran statesman and is now retired.

Some things haven’t changed. Ryan Reaves and Jonathan Marchessault are still terrific quotes.

But much like how the Golden Knights were originally built changed — from a seemingly equal distribution of wealth to a handful of high-priced salaries — so too will be how continuity is formed.

DeBoer has spoken about naming a captain before the season begins, and such a move would work far better now than three years ago. You sort of expect it with how this team has been constructed, with star players such as Mark Stone and Alex Pietrangelo firmly in the fold for years.

‘Time is now’

“I think we have a great game plan,” defenseman Brayden McNabb said. “(DeBoer) has been with us since (January 2020), and we’re getting more used to the system. We believe in the system, and the more we play in it, the better we’ll be. We have a lot of talent. The more we play, the better we will get.”

Lots of folks would think that’s a scary proposition, this particular team improving more and more over time as a condensed season plays itself out. The Knights have a chance to be as good as they desire, as others have predicted.

“I think we’re a hell of a team,” center William Karlsson said. “I think we can go all the way. I think our time is now.”

Paper suggests as much.

All 0.16 ounce of it.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com 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.