Friday, May 11, 2018

Can an Expansion Team Win It All?

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Sports are a funny thing; no matter how many safe assumptions you make as to which teams will win, you can end up completely wrong. One bet that tends to hold true is brand new teams taking many years to become competitive. The Vegas Golden Knights, however, are betting on themselves and thriving on the unpredictable during this year’s hockey playoffs. They dominated the regular hockey season despite this being their first year in existence, and their success in the playoffs shows they are bucking the conventional trend of expansion teams taking years to amass talent, camaraderie and cohesion. Will the Golden Knights be the next expansion team to win quickly? That question got us thinking about some expansion teams throughout North American sports that exploded onto the scene and won in short order.

1971 Milwaukee Bucks
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The Milwaukee Bucks were an expansion team in 1968, and they struggled in their first year in the league. After a stroke of luck awarded them the first pick in the 1969 draft, the Bucks selected a towering man named Lew Alcindor, whom you may now know as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. This was coupled with a trade for Oscar Robertson, and Milwaukee suddenly had one of the best front and backcourt duos in the league. Just a few short seasons later, they were crowned champions.

1996 Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars
The Panthers and Jaguars entered the NFL as expansion teams in 1995 and played admirably in that first year. In 1996, however, both teams saw great success on the field, upsetting heavily favored opponents on their way to their respective conference title games. They would lose those games, but they put the league on notice for getting so close to the Super Bowl in such short order.

1997 Florida Marlins
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The year before the expansion Diamondbacks came into existence, another fresh-faced team was the talk of the league. After just four seasons, the Florida Marlins shocked the baseball world and beat the favored Cleveland Indians in a seven-game classic.

2001 Arizona Diamondbacks
The Fall Classic against the powerhouse New York Yankees was one for the history books, and it gave the Diamondbacks their first league championship after just three short years in Major League Baseball.

The Golden Knights will have a tough task ahead of them, regardless of whom they have to play to hoist the Stanley Cup and become the first expansion team to win a title in their first year. They’re certainly bucking popular thought, though, and making analysts and fans take expansion teams seriously. How do you think the Golden Knights will fare in the rest of the playoffs? Which expansion team story is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below, and enjoy the games!