I Finally Went To My First Kraken Game!

My fiance got tickets to last night’s contest against the Washington Capitals from a co-worker with season tickets, so there was really no excuse. I had never been to a Kraken game before and she’d never been to a hockey game before, so this was the perfect opportunity! This also happened to be my first NHL game ever (I’ve seen the Everett Silvertips, the Tacoma Sabercats back when they existed, and the Thunderbirds back when they played in Seattle), so I was pretty excited, even though it was a Thursday night and I had work early the next morning.

I’ll be the first to admit, I haven’t watched the Kraken play since last season. Indeed, it might’ve been fairly early on in their inaugural season, when they were one of the worst teams in the league and very much looked like it. They were a rough hang. There wasn’t anything they did well, nothing exciting or fun or interesting. Granted, you could say they were building for the future, and trying to keep their salary issues under control, but out on the ice, that’s not something you want to watch for 80 games a year.

So, I’ve been kind of following along from afar this season. I know they’re significantly better. I know the offense is vastly improved. The defense could still be better, but they feel like an actual team now, and they’re winning games, which is all that matters.

We had great seats! Lower bowl, behind the net, 21 rows back. It was the net that – as chance would have it – saw the bulk of the goals scored (indeed, all but one). As far as first games go, it was like they tailored it just for us!

Grubauer gave up two goals in the first period, which honestly felt about right. He stunk last year. For someone making the kind of money he got in free agency, it seems like we really should’ve gotten someone to help carry us a little more. Obviously, I have no frame of reference when it comes to how the rest of the team around him affects his level of play, but he doesn’t seem to be elite, and he’s making elite goaltender money.

I heard he got hurt earlier this year, and thought it was no coincidence that the team’s fortunes started to turn around. I don’t know if Martin Jones is all that much better – he’s given up 17 goals in the last three games, all victories somehow – but again, I haven’t been watching this team until last night, so I dunno. I didn’t even realize Grubauer was back from injury, but when I saw him in front of the net last night, I figured he’d regained his rightful starting job. It turns out, this is the second game he’s appeared in since October, so I don’t know if they’re just bringing him back slowly, or if he’s entrenched as the backup for now. But, a relatively easy 2-0 deficit after one period sure felt like a Grubauer Special.

I wondered if our first Kraken game would be a shutout. Thankfully, those fears were allayed in the second period, when we pulled it to within 2-1 (and had a few good chances to tie it up heading into the final frame). We saw a goal, we saw our team score a goal, we saw a fight within the first few minutes of the game (something that absolutely blew my fiance’s mind), if that was all that happened, I would’ve considered the entire experience a huge victory.

But, then the game got interesting. Grubauer and the rest of the defense stiffened up. We shut down every subsequent power play opportunity after they scored on the first one. We dictated the tempo and kept firing away at opportunities. Finally, with just over two minutes left in regulation, we got one through to tie it up at 2-2. I thought for sure we’d find a way to squeak one in before the final horn, but overtime ended up being our destiny.

Matty Beniers won the overtime face off, raced to the puck that had slipped into Capitals territory, and shot one under the legs of the goaltender just seven seconds into the extra frame to win it. Check it out, what a sight to behold!

What a thrill! I thought the whole experience was incredibly fun. It was Indigenous Peoples’ Day, so there were some cool tributes going on. The jumbotrons (The Twins, as they call them, since there are two of them) were helpful but not intrusive. I dunno, maybe it’s a different experience for the poors sitting way up high, but all I know is my attention kept being drawn to the ice and not to the video screen, which is important. The concessions are a solid experience, even though everything is wildly over-priced. I couldn’t tell you what we paid for two chicken sandwiches, two waters, and a basket of fries, because it’s one of those things where you enter your credit card as you walk in, and then you just walk out with your food and they supposedly magically charge you what you owe; I guess I’ll find out at my next bank statement. We never left our seats once we got there, so I don’t know what it’s like during the intermissions, as far as crowded bathrooms and whatnot. It seems like they got it pretty well sorted out.

As for the hockey experience, everyone I’ve ever talked to who’d been to both always told me that the difference between minor league hockey and the NHL is night and day. I don’t know if I’m a sophisticated-enough fan to tell the difference. Hockey’s hockey, at least to my untrained eyes. The rink seemed bigger? I don’t know, I haven’t been to a game in person in YEARS; if I were to go to a Silvertips game tomorrow, maybe I’d understand.

Anyway, great game, and a great time had by all. I can’t wait to go again!

The Kraken Had A Cool Draft

I wouldn’t say “despondent” is the right word, because it’s hard to say how invested I am in the Kraken after an underwhelming (to say the least) first season in the NHL. But, I was pretty down on things in general when the Kraken lost in the draft lottery, falling to the fourth pick overall.

To be fair, I have no idea what kind of impact player you would usually get at four. My gut says the NHL is a lot like the NBA when it comes to the draft, in that if you don’t have the top one or two guys, there’s probably a big step down to the next tier of incoming players. I could be off base, but that’s the vibe I get, and maybe it’s even more pronounced in the game of hockey than it is in basketball?

Last year, the Kraken were an incoming franchise, and even then we couldn’t just be gifted the number one pick overall, having to luck into getting number two. It just so happened that we landed a pretty solid all-around center in Matty Beniers (though, it’s my understanding that there was a top guy in a class by himself who we didn’t get, followed by everyone else), who ended up making a cup of coffee after playing another season in college last season. I think everyone is pretty high on Beniers and his chances to pop at the professional level.

But, you need more than one guy to make a team good. Considerably more than one, if we’re being honest.

Well, now it looks like the Kraken have a second guy.

Shock of shocks, the consensus #1 overall player in this year’s draft – Shane Wright – fell to the fourth pick, after three teams passed on him. Some teams allegedly passed on him because they didn’t need a center; clearly Montreal just favored someone else over him. But, what matters is, now the Kraken have two potentially elite-level centers to throw into the mix and build around for the long-term prosperity of this franchise.

The question that remains is: how long will it take for this building to bear fruit?

I mentioned this on Twitter, but I’ll repeat it here: this is the biggest pleasant surprise we’ve had from a player personnel perspective in franchise history. Truly, this is the best thing that’s happened since the Kraken team name was announced.

The expansion draft was largely underwhelming, and no one but the most pie-in-the-sky optimists could squint and find anything exciting to reference. Free agency last year was largely a shrug (and the way the season played out for most of those signings, we saw the worst case scenario of what could’ve happened). Even last year’s entry draft was a snooze, with Beniers being kind of a no-brainer consolation prize.

But, Wright seems to be a true difference-maker. Which makes it seem almost fishy that he managed to fall to Seattle at the fourth pick. It’s almost like someone in the league office worked their magic to FINALLY throw us a fucking bone, after all it cost us to join this fucking league. The Golden Knights of Las Vegas became instant championship contenders … but at least we finally got something to be hopeful about as we head into year two.

I don’t know what else to say about the draft after Wright. We picked 11 guys in total. Then, this week as free agency opened, we signed forward Andre Burakovsky to a 5-year deal. He comes over from Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, and is actually a 2-time champion in his career. It’s not a flashy signing, but it looks like he’ll bring a steady scoring presence. Considering how lacking we were in scoring last year, anything at this point will only help.

So, how long until the Kraken are good? We’ll see! We’ll see if the right guys are signed in free agency. We’ll see if they mesh well in this system. Hell, we’ll see if this is even the right system in the first place, or if we need to look into a coaching change.

For now, it does look like the youth movement is on the right track when it comes to drafting and developing. Let’s hope that’s accurate, and in another couple years, we’ll start to see a huge turnaround. At this point, I’m going to need the Kraken to be remotely interesting before I start giving more of a fuck.

The Kraken’s Miserable First Season Ended With Little-To-No Payoff

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.

I Haven’t Been Watching Too Many Kraken Games

You don’t come to me for hard-hitting hockey insight. You come to me as a relative n00b to the sport just tossing in his two cents.

As the title says, I haven’t been watching too many Kraken games over the last few months. Part of that, obviously, has to do with the team just being bad. Notwithstanding this latest five-game stretch where the Kraken went 3-2 (all at home), prior to that they lost nine in a row and 12 of 13.

Why are they so bad? That’s up for debate and better explained by more knowledgeable people than me. I would contend that while it’s not all the goalie’s fault, Philipp Grubauer isn’t playing like an elite, top five goalie in the NHL. Considering he got the contract he got heading into this season, I would say it’s fair to want more out of him.

But, a goalie can’t do it all by himself. He needs his defense to be up to snuff, and that’s where it really seems like the Kraken are lacking. I think we had this notion that scoring would be hard to come by for this team, but we’d make up for that by playing stout defense and keeping all scoring – by both teams – to a minimum. That has decidedly NOT been the case. I don’t know if it’s a lack of skill, a lack of toughness, or a bad scheme by the coaching staff, but something ain’t right. We’ve given up the third most goals in the league; I’d call that a defensive failure.

Of course, you can’t say much for the offense either. If we’re trying to sacrifice a little defense to help our offense, it isn’t working! We’ve scored the ninth-fewest goals in the NHL.

I can’t help but think the coaching has been a collosal bust; they’re certainly not getting the most out of these guys. All I read about is how there’s no consistency with the line play. The season started in October; how have we not figured out where our best lineups are? This was more understandable early in the season, but now I think it’s time to start settling things down, rather than continuously throwing shit at the wall and seeing what sticks.

Ultimately, though, there might not be a coaching staff on Earth that could help this team. When you don’t have the talent on the roster, you’re not going to win very many games. That’s the bottom line, regardless of the sport. What remains to be seen is if the front office botched it, or if this was intentional. I don’t think anyone goes into a season intending to lose, necessarily, but it could be one of those scenarios where winning is not a priority either. You’re building an organization from the ground up, you’re not constructing a fantasy hockey team. You bring in some guys with untapped potential, you see which ones are worth hanging onto, you keep your financials flexible, maybe you acquire some higher draft picks (while letting your original high draft picks blossom in a low-stakes college environment), and then you pounce when the iron’s hot after a season or two.

If it were just that simple, I don’t think anyone would have a problem. But, you’re also a brand new NHL team in a city that hasn’t had the NHL in over a century. You’re trying to build a fanbase. You’re trying to drum up interest in both attending games and watching them on television. In that sense, you want a good team right off the bat to take advantage of all the momentum that’s been built up. The novelty WILL wear off eventually. Then, what do you have? A bad hockey team losing an insufferable number of games.

The silver lining, if there is one, is that at this point the Kraken have the fourth-fewest points in the NHL. Barring a dramatic turnaround over the next few months, we should be in line for a pretty high draft pick. Back-to-back years drafting in the top five will, hopefully, set us up for great success down the line. We just need to hope that there aren’t any panic moves made in the meantime, where the organization feels pressure to Win Now, by putting a band aid over a slash to the jugular.

I also gotta say – as a reason why I haven’t been watching too many Kraken games – is the fact that there are so many! I know it’s obvious, but I haven’t followed a professional winter sport since 2008. There’s another game pretty much every other day; I’m just not used to that sort of rhythm yet. That’s a dumb argument when you figure baseball is almost every single day, and I follow that pretty regularly. But, I will say, when a team is this bad, MORE of that team is the last thing you want. There’s a reason why I will let days go by without watching a bad Mariners team when they’ve got me particularly frustrated.

What A Shitty Year For Seattle Sports!

As we celebrate this Veterans Day as only we can – by sleeping in, going out to breakfast, reading the newspaper, and enjoying a most-unexpected day off of work – let us reflect on the year that was in Seattle sports. It’s been a bloody nightmare!

The absolute best thing you can say about 2021 in Seattle is that the Mariners managed to win 90 games and look poised for greater things in the immediate years to come. But, that’s still a team that failed to make the playoffs, and was clearly playing unsustainably above their talent level.

Wanna take a walk down memory lane? I don’t think you do! But, I’m going to take you anyway, so submit to my emotional kidnapping and try to think happy thoughts.

The 2021 sports year kicked off – more or less – on January 9th, as the 2020 division-winning Seahawks hosted the hated Los Angeles Rams. That was another team you could’ve argued played above its talent level, but as a 12-win team playing at home – against a team intentionally going with its backup quarterback, because its starter (Jared Goff) was so mediocre – I think most of us expected the Seahawks to advance to the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Instead, that backup quarterback got injured early, and the mediocre Goff led the Rams to a 30-20 victory.

2021 also welcomed into the world a Washington Huskies basketball team. Heading into the calendar year, the Dawgs were already a paltry 1-7. The Huskies would go on to finish the year 5-21; no hyperbole: probably the worst Husky basketball team I’ve ever seen. And that’s kinda saying something.

Let’s see, following the Super Bowl, we had that whole kerfuffle with Russell Wilson possibly trying to talk his way out of town with his media campaign to voice his frustrations with A) losing, and B) getting sacked so much. Cooler heads eventually prevailed, but not before a zillion words were spilled onto Internet pages about the Seahawks, Wilson, and the list of teams he’d be willing to be traded to. Boy, did those weeks suck!

Then, we get to the Mariners. I can’t deny that was a fun team to watch, but in the early going it was a little rough. James Paxton got injured in his first start, more arms went down in those first few weeks, we were clinging to an ill-advised 6-man rotation even though we literally didn’t have six viable starters to throw out there (often going with miserable Bullpen Days, which severely taxed the biggest strength on this team, and only once translated to an actual win on the field). Sure, the Mariners won 90 games, but this team was below .500 for much of the first half of the year.

Another kerfuffle popped up at the trade deadline, with the Kendall Graveman deal that was actually a win for the Mariners’ organization, but was portrayed as the biggest catastrophe ever to befall Seattle sports (approx). As the season went on, the Mariners pulled together and impressed the hell out of most everyone, but by the last month or so there were too many games to make up in too short of time. The bottom line was: these Mariners weren’t very good against the teams they needed to beat to legitimately compete in the playoffs; the Astros, Yankees, and Red Sox. Time will tell if the 2021 Mariners were a mirage, and we see a huge unintentional step-back in 2022.

If you’re into the Seattle Storm, it appears they largely underachieved, and lost in the first round of the WNBA playoffs. I’ll also add that 2021 was yet ANOTHER year without the Supersonics in Seattle, always adding at least a little bit to our collective sports misery.

Then, football season arrived, and BOY has that been a shitshow!

So much has been written about the under-achieving Washington Huskies. They were expected to contend with Oregon for the Pac-12 North title, which also means they were expected to contend with Oregon for the Pac-12 Conference title (because the South will rise again sucks). We promptly lost to Montana in the first game of the season, dashing those hopes. Then, we got fucking destroyed in Michigan. Yadda yadda yadda, and here we are, with the offensive coordinator FINALLY fired, the head coach suspended for at least the one game (though, looking more and more like he’ll be fired sooner or later), sitting with a 4-5 record and a high likelihood that we fail to qualify for a bowl game. Unbelievable.

The Seahawks have proven to be just as aggravating. We started off with a 2-5 record before blowing out a bad Jags team at home two weeks ago. Our iron man of a quarterback landed on the IR and missed games for the first time in his career. We continued to employ Geno Smith, who led us to a 1-2 record in Wilson’s absence. The offense – which was supposed to be more efficient and improved – has gone in the tank for large stretches of games/this season. And the defense started off as miserable as it was at the beginning of last year, before a turnaround happened (mostly thanks to the schedule easing up). We have no first round draft pick next year – going to the Jets in the Jamal Adams deal – so we can’t even root for the Seahawks to tank! It’s my worst nightmare, manifested. We’ll see if they can turn things around, but I’m not holding my breath.

I was kind of hoping the inaugural season of the Seattle Kraken might be a nice little wintertime distraction, but so far they’re 4-8-1 and look to be pretty punchless both offensively and defensively.

I don’t care enough about soccer to give a shit about what the Sounders are doing.

My last hope was the Washington Husky basketball team, potentially-rejuvenated with a vast influx of transfers. But, they just lost their season-opener to a team they were favored over by 20 points. Feels likely to be more of the same as last season’s team.

Maybe some Hot Stove action in baseball could improve my outlook on life in the weeks ahead, but I know in my gut the Mariners will find a way to make all the wrong moves to continue being among the worst-run organizations in all of professional sports. When you’re hanging all of your hopes on the Mariners … I mean, can it get any worse than that?

2021 has been a sports disaster for Seattle. I’d say it’s time to adopt another city’s teams and move on with my life, but I’m a sickeningly loyal man. This is the laundry I’ve attached myself to. This is the laundry I’ll die with.

The Kraken Lost Their Inaugural Home Opener

I just have to say it’s unbelievably greedy and against the spirit of the night to not actually show the Kraken’s home opener on regular/cable television. You had to have either ESPN+ or Hulu Live (the expensive version of Hulu) to be able to watch it in the Puget Sound market. How about you throw us a bone? We’re a brand new fanbase and you’re trying to drum up interest in this new sports product; maybe try A LITTLE BIT to cater to our needs before you start gouging us in the back.

That said, was it effective? Well, it was enough for my brother to break down and buy ESPN+, later justifying it by noting all the sporting events he’s now able to watch (he enjoys non-traditional sports, so this streaming platform is actually right up his alley). Nevertheless, it was a misstep, and frankly one this franchise can’t afford to make. The more I read, the more people in the know believe it’s a foregone conclusion that the Supersonics will return to existence eventually. When they do, with the roots this community has in professional basketball, the Kraken will easily slide into 4th or 5th banana role (depending on what you think of the MLS and the Sounders). The Kraken might want to drum up some good will before what we REALLY wanted all along – the Sonics – comes back to us.

It was with this attitude that I watched the opening introductions, where the NHL commissioner and Tod Leiweke were falling all over themselves to thank the fans for doing this. As if it wasn’t all decided by the local politicians and a few billionaires. Again, had they listened to what the fans really wanted, we’d have the NBA back in Seattle; hockey is a fine consolation prize and all, but don’t try to pretend this wasn’t a calculated move to expand into a fast-growing, money-rich city. Yeah, I can’t wait to spend $20 on a can of beer; you’re welcome for all of our hard work, billionaires!

And we retired the number 32? I still don’t totally get that; is this a thing in hockey? Did every new franchise retire the number corresponding to how many teams are in the league? You realize it was just a coincidence that they signed up 32,000 people to indicate their desire to buy season tickets, right? Also that number seems a bit fudged to go along with this pointless narrative of 32. And even though the number is supposed to represent the fans – a la the Seahawks and the retired number 12 – the banner over Climate Pledge Arena just says “Kraken” on it. So, the Kraken retired the number 32 in honor of themselves?

Only in Seattle, Jesus Christ.

All right, I’m done bitching. I promise I’m not really that angry about any of this. I mean, shit, I was willing to miss the game entirely, so actually getting to watch it on Saturday was a real treat!

Sure, the Kraken lost 4-2 to the Vancouver Canucks, but it was a thrilling match up until late in the third period. The game was scoreless until late in the first, when the Kraken scored their first-ever home goal, thanks to Vince Dunn. I don’t think that’ll necessarily be the answer to any trivia questions, but you never know. There are some real trivia obsessives out there!

We gave up the lead in the second period, as the Canucks scored on a flukey play where the puck got away from us right in front of the goalie. It was tied 1-1 heading into the final frame, when Mark Giordano scored a little over five minutes in. I really thought that 2-1 lead was going to hold up! But, they got a pretty easy one on a power play, and then scored again about three minutes later. An empty-netter was added late to give the game its final score.

I’m noticing a trend with the Kraken, but I don’t know if this is just common to all hockey teams. But, it seems like the Kraken have been seriously unlucky on their shots on goal just BARELY missing for whatever reason. We even had an opportunity to score on a breakaway within the first 30 seconds of the game, but our guy JUST missed it. Maybe that happens all the time and I’m new to the sport, but it’ll be interesting to watch going forward.

Another trend is the simple fact that the Kraken struggle to score a lot. Maybe Vancouver just has an awesome goalie; that’s certainly on the table. He passed my eye test, anyway. But, this loss drops us to 1-4-1, and we’ve scored over two goals just twice in the early going.

It’s also leaving me questioning how well our goalie, Philipp Grubauer, is playing. Again, this is my simple-man’s eye test talking, but he’s looked just okay to me. Middle of the road, adequate. But, I don’t know if that’s totally fair, because the scoring-challenged Kraken make every goal we give up amplified to the 10th power. It’s hard to keep teams down to 1 or 2 goals every night. At some point, we need to make it easier on our guy. But, also, it wouldn’t hurt for him to really step up and carry this team on his back until we figure our shit out.

It’s been much more of a growing pains situation than I think most of us expected when we learned Seattle was getting a hockey team. Las Vegas really set the bar unfathomably high in their first season, and it’s unfair to expect to keep up. But, you also hate to see the Kraken get in too deep of a hole. They need to be competitive. Right now, it seems like they are, but also it seems like a real struggle just to stay competitive, and a lot of games might start getting away from us the more we lose in this fashion.

There’s no identity for this team right now. I think we were expecting hard-nosed scrappers, but there’s no edge to us. I’m not some hockey yokel who’s only watching it for the fights, but it would be nice to see some aggression. It would be nice to see us make an impact on the boards. Make teams really feel it after they’ve played us.

If we’re going to lose, then dammit, kick SOME ass along the way!

Where Do The Seahawks Go From Here?

And, quite frankly, where do I go with my fandom from here?

I don’t expect the Seahawks to go into Pittsburgh and win this Sunday night. I come on here before every game and give my thoughts on what I think will happen; it’s usually a Friday ritual before the game two days later. Two things have happened this week that lead me to believe the streak might be coming to a close at some point: Russell Wilson mashed up a finger on his throwing hand, and the Kraken started playing games that count in the standings.

As long as I have Kraken games to watch, I’m going to try to write about them. Hockey is new and fun and interesting and I’d like to keep up on it in the early going, to see what soaks in. I haven’t fully embraced a new sport since the tail-end of 1995 with the Mariners and Major League Baseball. I was 14 at the time; my brain was much more malleable. I spent all of 1996 devouring that team – and the game as a whole – to try to learn all the little nuances. I read the newspaper most every day, I poured over the box scores; I was obsessed. As a result, even though that 1996 team severely underwhelmed (mostly thanks to a Randy Johnson injury that knocked him out for most of the year), that was probably my favorite Mariners team. A scrappy bunch of underdogs that couldn’t quite recapture the magic of their 1995 predecessors, but still had lots of fun players to root for (many of whom would go on to make the playoffs again in 1997).

I’m 40 now; I don’t expect I’ll be quite so rabid about the Kraken. But, right now, I’m much more interested in them than I am with a go-nowhere Seahawks team missing its best player in what’s looking more and more like a Season From Hell.

I know Geno Smith looked semi-competent in the fourth quarter of that Rams game last week, but again I would contend the Rams were playing him differently than Wilson, to try to bleed clock and force us to be perfect on multiple drives. I also know it’s easy to try to talk yourself into this not being the Same Ol’ Geno Smith of old. Of New York Jets fame. The huge, embarrassing bust who could never get out of his own way. The walking back-breaking interception waiting to happen. It’s fun to think this older, wiser Geno Smith might have stepped up his game significantly in the years he’s been backing up Russell Wilson.

I think that’s nuts. I think that’s a great way to get your hopes up, only to find them dashed on the floor as the Steelers’ defense gets in his face early and often. He’ll revert to his old habits in short order, I guarantee it. Lots of unnecessary checkdowns. Lots of errant passes. Lots of turnovers and 3 & Outs, with brief glimpses of competency.

It’s also easy to talk yourself into the Seahawks’ defense stepping up and carrying this team for a few weeks. What have they done so far that would lead you to believe they’re capable of that? Sure, the Steelers on offense have looked moderately inept with a WELL past-his-prime Roethlisberger looking like he should have retired three years ago. But, he’s not dead yet, and I don’t know if he’s had the luxury of going up against a secondary this mediocre.

Of course, Tre Flowers was just waived this week – picked up by the Bengals, for some reason – so maybe there’s a little Addition By Subtraction going on? Let’s hope so, but I’m not holding my breath.

I kind of expect this game to be ugly and low scoring, but I also think it’ll end up being a blowout, where they beat us by multiple scores. Maybe something like 20-3?

And if this is indeed what we have to look forward to as Seahawks fans, then I can’t see myself giving nearly as much of a shit. My coverage of the Washington Huskies has been flushed down the toilet; I didn’t even watch one minute of the loss to Oregon State! There’s no way I’m driving myself batty with a Seahawks team that’s going to embarrass us on a weekly basis.

I have better things to do with my time. Like watch Kraken games.

The Kraken Won Their First Game Ever In Nashville

I got home a little late, so I missed the beginning of this one; I walked into the house and it was already 1-0 Nashville, where it looked like they got a goal on a quick little flukey play off a face-off in front of the goalie. Just like Tuesday, all the deficit meant was that it was time for the Kraken to go to work.

We took advantage of both first period power plays to go up 2-1 after one frame. Jared McCann scored the first-ever power play goal in Kraken history less than a minute into it. This followed a massive hit by Vince Dunn on one of the Predators, who then engaged Dunn in a fight. Both were sent out for fighting, and the power play was tacked onto their guy for roughing. Outstanding!

Almost immediately after tying the game, the Kraken took advantage in the Nashville zone, forcing them to trip our guy approximately 12 seconds later. That led to a nifty little goal by Brandon Tanev, who was in the right place as the puck bounced straight to him with the goalie not looking.

Early in the second period, there was a foul on a Kraken player; we had a chance to see if we could keep our streak alive of stopping opposing power plays. However, 84 seconds into it, we got dinged by a second penalty and couldn’t prevent the goal with a 2-man disadvantage. The game was tied and there was still a lot of time left in the second power play session, but we managed to stop the bleeding there.

A few minutes later, we were able to score the go-ahead goal by Alex Wennberg to maintain our 3-2 lead heading into the final frame.

That last period was intense! It really looked like the focus shifted to an extreme defensive mindset by the Kraken: hunker down, flood the area in front of the goalie, and don’t let them get behind you or be in position to get anything cheap. Philipp Grubauer was amazing in that third period! I don’t know how many shots he took in that frame, but in the game he saw 30 and it felt like the vast majority came in the third. The Predators had the puck in our defensive zone for damn near the entire 20 minutes. They had a few really excellent chances, but Grubauer blocked them all.

Then, with about two minutes left, desperate to tie the game, the Predators pulled their goalie. In the fracas, we managed to get the puck away and Tanev scored his second goal of the game, with an empty net. The Predators – finally – managed to score with about 40 seconds left in the game to make it 4-3, but we held on to close out the victory.

Did the Predators pull their goalie too early? My dad seemed to think so, and felt vindicated when he saw them score eventually. But, I didn’t mind the aggression. They’d just spent around 18 minutes in our zone trying in vain to score 5 on 5. This was the defense I’d been led to believe we’d be seeing all year long; it was really stifling when we needed it most!

Either way, it was fun to see the Kraken get their first-ever victory. I’m starting to narrow down my list of players whose jersey (sweater?) I wouldn’t mind getting. I won’t get one right away – to see what the vast majority of people end up with – but I’m definitely getting one at some point!

The Kraken Lost Their Inaugural Game To The Golden Knights

What a fun hockey game! I know it was a 4-3 Kraken defeat to the Golden Knights in Las Vegas, but for a first-ever regular season NHL game for a Seattle-based team in my lifetime, I was thoroughly pleased and entertained. I’m not yet at that point where I’m a maniacal fan living and dying with every slap of the puck; I’m just a beginning observer looking for a good time.

It’s a bummer that we got stuck in such a deep hole, because it was brilliant how we managed to come all the way back down 3-0. Unfortunately, the first period really decided this one, even though the game was eventually tied 3-3 in the third period. The Kraken started off fast and aggressive on the offensive end, with lots of crisp passing and an abundance of shots on goal. There was even, at one point, a short-handed break-away that Brandon Tanev mishandled (that really SHOULD have been our first-ever Kraken goal). We managed to shut down that power play (and, indeed, all of their three power plays on the night), but the Golden Knights scored shortly thereafter.

The defense in the first period was pretty sloppy, as Vegas had numerous fast-break (for lack of a better phrase) opportunities, charging hard at the goal. They didn’t have a ton of shots on goal early, but managed to hit on 2 of their first 3 to take a 2-0 first period lead. They would briefly hold a 3-0 lead in the second – after a massive flurry of shots in the early going of the period – before we got a couple goals back within 72 seconds of each other. The crowd was mostly silenced in that second period – and in the beginning of the third, as we went and tied the game – but Vegas got just the most annoying fourth goal to take the lead for good.

There was controversy that the Golden Knights skater kicked the puck into the net – which is not allowed – and it had to be reviewed. The key is: there has to be a legitimate kicking motion. In this case, the puck bounced off of the outside of his skate – which he angled towards the net to get it to go in – yet while the motion wasn’t pronounced, he still ever-so-subtly nudged it in that direction. It wasn’t some oafish Charlie Brown kick, but it was a kick. When you’re skating that fast, you don’t need a big wind-up to kick a puck into the net.

I dunno, all the announcers and the rules expert were pretty damn sure that wasn’t a kick, so I’ll defer to them. But, whenever you create a rule that has to be left to the judgment of a referee, there’s a level of interpretation involved that’s rarely satisfactory to all parties.

Anyway, try as they might, the Kraken could never get that all-important fourth goal. I kinda thought – if the Kraken were going to win this one – they’d have to rely on their defense to keep scoring to a minimum. With Philipp Grubauer being their high-priced free agent goalie, I expect him to hold teams to under 4 goals. But, Vegas is widely considered the favorite to win the Stanley Cup this year, and their offense is no joke. I would expect better games from the Kraken’s defense against inferior opponents, and as they figure out their personnel and how they want to organize their lines.

Ryan Donato scored the first-ever regular season goal in Kraken history, so tuck that away in the ol’ memory bank. Jared McCann was credited with the second goal after some review by the official scorer. And Morgan Geekie had the nifty little one-on-one goal to tie it up late. Overall, I thought it was an impressive offensive showing for a team many considered to be deficient in that area. The Kraken left more goals on the ice, as things got sloppier as the game progressed. Against a worse opponent, we might’ve scored five or six.

I think the defense is an easy fix. My guess is, the guys were really jacked up to start this game, knowing what it represented. As they settled in, they were able to overcome their earlier miscues (though, I still don’t know what the goalie was looking at on that final goal for Vegas; but it wasn’t anywhere near the direction of the puck). As far as first games go, it was an impressive loss.

Next up is a trip to Nashville to play the Predators tomorrow. I can’t wait to park my ass in front of the television (assuming it’s ON television; I’ll need to consult my directory).

The Seattle Kraken Signed Some Free Agents

Things are really rounding into shape!

The two drafts – particularly the expansion draft – gave us some insight into what to expect from the Kraken, both in the inaugural season, and as an organizational philosophy going forward: defense and toughness, versatility and flexibility. But, if there were two concerns heading into free agency, it was the lack of proven stars, and wondering where the scoring would come from. I mean, defense is great, but you have to actually score goals to win, right?

Well, with around $30 million to play with, the Kraken got to work settling our concerns by signing three guys who are varying degrees of proven stars, two of which appear to be among our strongest goal-scorers on the team.

Philipp Grubauer is the big “get” for us, a goalie who recently played for Colorado. This was a bit of a surprise, as we’d taken three goalies in the expansion draft, and Chris Driedger signed a 3-year contract to give the appearance of being our primary net man. It seemed like the Kraken were all too happy to go on the cheap with a potential up-and-comer, especially with the strong defensive squad giving him all the help he’d need.

But, Grubauer is legit. He was a Vezina Trophy finalist last year, leading the league in shutouts. He’ll be 30 years old in November, so his six year deal should encompass the vast majority of his prime. Colorado was the best regular season team in the NHL last year, and Grubauer was a big reason why; I love this deal!

That obviously led to an opportunity to trade from our glut of goalies, so we sent Washington Vitek Vanecek – the player we’d taken from them originally in the expansion draft – for a 2023 second round draft pick. Brilliant! I mean, it’s 2023, and that player could wind up being a nobody, but how cool is that? This is the type of deal I think a lot of us expected the Kraken to be making originally (prior to this year’s draft), but I think I prefer having this type of stockpile saved for the future.

Jaden Schwartz is a forward out of St. Louis that we signed to a 5-year deal. He was instrumental in their Stanley Cup run of 2019, and having just turned 29 years old, is also right there in his prime. He’s scored 154 goals in 10 seasons in the league, giving us some punch in the lineup and some veteran savvy. I’m expecting to see quite a bit out of him in the early going.

Finally, we brought in Alex Wennberg on a 3-year deal. He played most of his career in Columbus, but had 17 goals with Florida last year. He’s only 27 years old, and is a center, so there’s room for him to grow and blossom. But, his contract is reasonable, and it seems like he’d fit in nicely with the group of guys we have here so far. We’re veteran where it counts – Schwartz, Giordano, Grubauer, Gourde, Tanev, Eberle, Larsson – but a lot of our guys are kind of fringey who have some experience, but haven’t realized their full potential just yet. If enough of those guys take the next steps in their development, that could set us up for immediate success.

At the very least, after the first season, we should have a good idea of where to attack free agency in year two. But, so far, I’m really happy with the direction Ron Francis is taking this team.