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.

Was The Seattle Kraken Entry Draft Underwhelming As Well?

Boy, I hope not!

With the Kraken selecting second overall (and third in every subsequent round), you’d like to think we’d nab at least one quality player among the seven, but you never know.

Matty Beniers, a center from the University of Michigan, was the big prize for the Kraken. Owen Power – also from Michigan – was the consensus #1 overall player, and he indeed went to Buffalo with the first pick. Beniers eventually became the near-consensus #2 pick, and the Kraken didn’t fuck around. He’s an 18 year old center with one year of college experience (according to Wikipedia, he was slated to go to Harvard before the Ivy League cancelled their season due to COVID), but has shined throughout his amateur career. He’s been touted as one of the most NHL-ready players in this draft, which you can take a couple of ways. He could be the “safe” pick that might not eclipse expectations compared to some higher-upside prospects (but at least we know we SHOULD have a good all-around player), or he could continue his trajectory as one of the best hockey players in the world and really put it all together in the next few years. Either way, there isn’t a lot of downside in taking Beniers.

Ryker Evans went to us in the second round; he’ll be 20 in December. He’s a defenseman who’s considered to be quite a reach as a second rounder. He’s got a lot of experience in the minor leagues, so obviously there’s something in him the scouting department likes. It’ll be disappointing if he doesn’t pan out in the next few years.

Ryan Winterton was taken in the third round. He’s a center who some projected as possibly going higher, which is nice I guess. Overall, he’s seen as more of a depth piece, but that’s not nothing.

Ville Ottavainen is a defenseman out of Finland who was selected in the fourth round. This could be a find for the Kraken, as we’re particularly well set up in our Scandinavian scouting department.

Jacob Melanson is a right winger taken in the fifth round. Apparently anyone drafted below the third or fourth rounds are lottery picks more than anything. I nevertheless find it interesting the Kraken took Semyon Vyazovoi from Russia in the sixth round. Anytime your team drafts a goalie – even in the later rounds – he’s going to be someone to watch. Finally, the Kraken drafted Justin Janicke in the seventh round; he just turned 18 years old and is a left winger.

From what I’m reading, there’s nothing that blows you away with this draft by the Kraken. They didn’t try to get too cute by picking someone else over Beniers; that selection was so easy a caveman could’ve made it. Where we’ll ultimately judge the organization’s scouting department – as well as GM Ron Francis – is how well the players in rounds 2-7 pan out. Just like the drafts in every other sport, we won’t have a great idea about how well they did for another 4-5 years. So, I’ll see you in 4-5 years, when I’m better able to have an actual opinion on matters.

Was The Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft Underwhelming?

I guess we’ll see! Obviously nobody has any idea what the future holds. We could look back on this day and wonder what the hell these incompetents were thinking, or we could look back on this day WITH wonder at the start of a great hockey dynasty. Or, you know, any outcome in between.

What I’m getting at the moment – just a couple days removed from the big NHL Expansion Draft, where the Kraken selected an unprotected player from every other NHL team, save Las Vegas – is that there isn’t this sense that Seattle is an immediate juggernaut like the Golden Knights were in their first season. Sure, the Kraken grabbed some good players, but for the most part they left plenty of quality guys on the table.

So, what was the plan? It appears the Kraken focused first and foremost on salary cap flexibility. That means not selecting a lot of huge stars and trying to build some sort of fantasy team on day one. That means not taking on a lot of bloated contracts from past-their-prime players, so there isn’t a lot of dead money hanging over us. I get the sense Vegas did that in their expansion draft, and acquired a lot more draft picks for the amateur draft in the process.

Indeed, the only trade I’m aware of is Tyler Pitlick, who we selected from Arizona, and traded to Calgary for a 4th round pick. But, even he only had a $1.75 million cap hit. That, nevertheless, leaves the Kraken with over $30 million in remaining cap space. This likely means the Kraken will have some higher profile moves up their sleeves in the coming weeks. And, it should start the franchise off on the right foot going forward when it comes to their salary cap and flexibility in tweaking the roster.

It was also noted that there weren’t nearly as many opportunities for steals in the expansion draft. When Vegas had theirs, they took advantage of teams and GMs who had no idea what they were doing. It seems those people have either been replaced in the interim, or have gotten a lot smarter, because they weren’t willing to be fleeced this time around. I think the NHL world at large was pretty appalled at how amazing the Golden Knights were from the get-go, and they did everything in their power to not let that happen again.

The Kraken also appear to be building on the strength of their defense, as most of their best players and biggest stars are either great two-way players, or are just better on defense. I don’t know if it’ll make for the most exciting, high-flying brand of hockey, but at least it’s a plan. At least it’s an identity. And, given the general vibe of sports fans in the Pacific Northwest, I’d say it’s fitting. We love us some defense around these parts! Even those great Supersonics teams of the 90’s under George Karl featured swarming and suffocating trap defenses. On top of that, the Kraken seem to be focused on bruisers. Tough guys. Setting a hard-ass tone on the ice. If we’re not going to be great, we should at least be able to whoop some ass and leave teams feeling it afterward. Northwest fans also love aggressively tough teams, so again, it fits the vibe.

And, even though I talk about the stars they got, the Kraken definitely avoided bringing in too many huge names, at least so far. Mark Giordano is the biggest name of the bunch, but he’s been in the league 15 years and will be 38 years old when the season gets underway. He’s our unquestioned leader and captain, but he’s also on the final year of his contract.

Two of the other bigger names we brought in are Jamie Oleksiak and Adam Larsson, who are both defensemen. These are guys you’ll want to learn about, as they figure to be prominent players this season.

Other guys, in no particular order, who should see a lot of time (assuming they don’t get traded) are Joonas Donskoi (forward), Calle Jarnkrok (forward), Jordan Eberle (right wing), Brandon Tanev (left wing), Vince Dunn (defense), Yanni Gourde (center), and Jared McCann (forward). I would also throw in players like Haydn Fleury (defense), Colin Blackwell (center), and Mason Appleton (forward) who could improve a great deal with opportunities to play and compete for spots.

Just about all of the guys the Kraken took are younger, less experienced players, with room to grow. The sky is the limit, really. I don’t know if there’s a ton of upside, necessarily – especially when it comes to the 2021/2022 season in particular – but I like this strategy over more established veterans who might have injury issues, or might not be as hungry because they’ve already earned the bulk of their career money. We might not be great now, but we’ve given ourselves plenty of opportunity to find some diamonds in the rough. Like this current Mariners rebuild, we can use this season to figure out where we’re good, and where we need to fill in the cracks. If things break right, we might not see the Kraken in the playoffs in year one, but they could be a force in the next 2-4 years.

Whether or not the Kraken follow in the footsteps of the Golden Knights has a lot to do with the goalie situation. We didn’t grab Carey Price from Montreal, who is an established stud (but also maybe more of an injury risk), but we stuck with our plan of going for inexperienced guys with undetermined upside. Chris Driedger was a backup in Florida, who looks like he’ll get a shot to start here. You never know how well these guys will play until they get in front of the net every day, but it sounds like he was effective in his limited duty as a backup, so I have high hopes. Even if he’s not as good as Price might’ve been in year one, if he’s 90% as effective or better, I think that’s a steal, given the salary savings.

Vitek Vanecek figures to be our backup goalie, who is more of a prototypical backup (in that he should be fine in spot duty), with Joey Daccord more of a developmental project. Since the Kraken have built around the strength of their defensemen, that should provide an additional boost to the goalies, and if one of them proves to be better than advertised, you never know! Worse teams have succeeded based on the strength of keeping scoring down to a minimum (I’m assuming; I’m really talking out of my ass on all of this here).

Also, shoutout to Alexander True, who used to play for the Seattle Thunderbirds back in the day. I have no idea if he’s any good or not, but he’s young and returning to where he had some minor league success, so I think that’s fun.

I obviously didn’t list off everyone the Kraken drafted, so there’s a good chance I missed someone who might be solid. But, I’m just trying to do SOME due diligence when it comes to learning about the NHL.

Which is more than I can say for the Seattle fucking Times. I bought the newspaper on Thursday, thinking I’d get some quality analysis on the players we got. There was one article on the front page that took a global view of everything; it had at least some stuff on the bigger names. But, on the actual Sports Page, there were two articles: one about the fans in attendance at the live draft event at Gasworks Park, and one about the local sports celebrities in attendance at the live draft event at Gasworks Park (none of which actually play the fucking game of hockey). In an insert, the Times had a list of the players, with no analysis whatsoever. What a fucking joke.

You have a responsibility, Seattle Times, to educate fans on this team and this game. Stop feeding us puff pieces and give us information we can chew on!