I’ll be the first to admit I dipped out pretty hard on the Kraken, right around the very beginning of the season when they lost four in a row. I was always aware of when games were going on – following key entities on Twitter made sure of that – but it seemed like 90% bad news whenever something popped up.
The season concluded on May 1st, with the Kraken falling to 27-49-6. That was good for the third-worst record in the NHL (had we won that game, it would’ve been the fourth-worst record, and highly annoying to boot). After having the third-best odds heading into last year’s draft lottery – and winning the second overall draft pick – there was at least some hope that maybe a little good luck might finally shine down upon us with another pick in the top 2.
Instead, the Kraken had the misfortune of getting the 4th overall draft pick. That’s highly annoying in its own right, as just nothing could fucking go right for this organization this past season.
The expansion draft didn’t fill our roster with very many players of immediate positive impact. We ended up dealing a number of guys ahead of the trade deadline – including our “big get” of the expansion draft, Mark Giordano – for extra picks in the upcoming draft. Our “big get” in free agency – goalie Philipp Grubauer – sucked for reasons that aren’t totally clear (either he’s not good, or the team around him was so terrible that his numbers flailed, but regardless, he did nothing to pick this team up on his back at any point this year).
The only positive you could possibly point to is our #2 overall draft pick – Matty Beniers – joined the team after finishing his college season, and did look like a future star in the making. But, I don’t know who exactly is worth a damn besides him, so we’ll see what that’s worth.
It’s hard to understand what the plan is, exactly. It seems like the front office is taking the long view on this organization. Does that mean they always intended to throw this season away? I really worry about the level of scouting and the decision-making at the top – especially when it comes to the expansion draft – because where are the diamonds in the rough? Who among them will be around for the first truly great Kraken squad? Maybe Jared McCann (who led the team in points), maybe Yanni Gourde (second in points, second in assists), maybe Vince Dunn (tops in assists). I dunno, we’ll see I guess.
Who besides Beniers was worth a damn from last year’s entry draft? Will any of them develop into NHL players? If you’re not one of the top one or two guys in any given entry draft, are you more of a coin flip or a lottery ticket? Are we talking 50/50 that you pan out, or is it more like one in a million?
This upcoming draft figures to be pretty important, since we made so many moves to add extra picks; is this a good crop of players we’re looking forward to? One would hope we have a good amount of money to put towards free agency; is that accurate? And, are there free agents out there who can come in and make an impact?
I’d also be curious to know where fan interest is at right now. Were games still well-attended by season’s end? How were television ratings? I’m sure the hardcore hockey fans stuck with it, and would have much more insight into matters than I do. But, I bet a lot more people are casual fans at best; were the other people like me still remotely interested in the product on the ice?
Seattle is a front-runner town. If you’re not winning, you’re not drawing eyeballs. That’s how it is in most cities, so I don’t want to make it sound like I’m ragging on the northwest for no reason. But, we really don’t have a huge, entrenched hockey fanbase. Not compared to football, basketball, or baseball. I’d say even soccer had a bigger base when the Sounders first hit the scene, and that’s pretty much a model organization when it comes to increasing local interest among the fair-weathered.
I don’t think the Kraken can settle for a slew of last place finishes over the next few years; they need to start being competitive pretty soon here. Otherwise, I have to imagine heads will roll. I didn’t get the sense that this coaching staff was much of a value-add. When you factor in the scouts and general manager probably not having the longest leash after the embarrassment that was the expansion draft, we’ll see how patient this ownership group will be. I know the arena wasn’t cheap.
Everyone’s convinced the Supersonics will return sooner rather than later. The Kraken have until that moment to carve out its niche in this sports market before everyone goes crazy for the NBA again. At that point, with two competing winter sports, even with the NHL returning to this market first, the Kraken will be far and away the little brother in this arena timeshare, as far as fan interest is concerned.
So, my advice would be to do better. A LOT BETTER. Win over the idiots like me and you might have a chance.