Seattle Sports Has Four New Head Coaches This Year

How will they all do? Who will succeed and who will fail?

Well, on a long-enough timeline, they all fail, don’t they? Except for the very extreme minority who get to go out on their own terms. But, success can be defined any number of ways, so let’s get into it.

The Seahawks, the Kraken, Husky football, and Husky basketball have all had to replace their head coaches for one reason or another. The Seahawks needed to move on from one of those success stories, probably a year or two beyond when was appropriate. The Kraken took a step backwards in their third season of existence, and have never really looked like they were well-coached. Husky football has tried to recover from the potentially-devastating loss of Kalen DeBoer after making a run at the national championship. And Husky basketball will be trying to recover from an extended run of incompetence (thanks to a contract they could ill-afford to get out from under until now). There are all sorts of different reasons teams move on from a coaching staff, but for the most part, the reason is: we want improvement.

The Seahawks had grown stagnant over the last decade, after making back-to-back Super Bowls; they needed a fresh voice and a total reset.

The Kraken never really seemed to get the most out of their players, particularly on offense. Which is funny to say, because in the 2022-2023 season, the offense was more-or-less fine, and we made the playoffs as a result. But, the step-back in 2023-2024 only solidified the fact that this team wasn’t making any progress. The young players weren’t developing, the scheme on offense never really took shape, they never improved in the areas they’ve always struggled (even in their playoff season, they sucked on power plays and in face-offs). This is a team that was built to succeed from within. Yet, the guys we’ve drafted a the top of the first three drafts haven’t done much of anything. That needs to change in the next couple years, or there will be a much bigger housecleaning coming. Getting the most out of the players we have is paramount; it’s less of a total reset, but still very much a fresh voice needed.

Husky basketball has been in need of a total makeover for a while now, but as I mentioned above, they were financially unwilling to take the hit needed to get rid of Mike Hopkins, until now. This is the biggest rebuilding job of the four, and yet it doesn’t feel as dire. Just because things are SO low for this program; there’s nowhere to go but up. We need a coach who knows how to recruit in this new era of college athletics. We need a coach who can take that successful mid-major mentality and carry it over into the power conference we’re joining. We need someone who’s adept at connecting to this relative hotbed of a basketball community, while at the same time able to bring in players from around the country, both developing them and getting them to gel as a unit. If it leads to a return to the Tourney, great. But, I would settle for baby steps. Just be fun to watch again!

Husky football arguably has the toughest rebuilding job of the bunch, because of all the players we lost – both to the NFL and the transfer portal – and because of the way we were left in the lurch by DeBoer. This is a team that can only go DOWN, at least in the short term. But, our new coach is tasked with trying to rebuild on the fly, to at least bring this team up to a competent level, and hopefully get us back to contending for conference titles and national championships sooner rather than later.

Oddly enough, I have the MOST confidence in Jedd Fisch with the Husky football team. It’s not that I necessarily think he’s the best coach or smartest guy or anything. I just think he’s a guy on the rise, we’re getting him at the absolute perfect time in his career, and he’s STARVING to both do well here and move on as quickly as possible to a better program. He’s the best Used Car Salesman we’ve ever had in Seattle; he’ll be able to extract the money we need to buy the players we need to bounce back in a hurry. I give him two glorious, better-than-expected years. If we don’t win it all in that time, I still think he will have done enough to earn a promotion elsewhere. That second year will really be the good one, I think. At the very least, look for the Husky football team to be in the 2025 Big Ten Championship Game, if not winning it and making it back to the playoffs.

I think I have the least amount of confidence in Danny Sprinkle, but that says nothing about him, and everything about the Husky basketball program. By all accounts, Sprinkle is great, and like Fisch, a guy on the rise who we’re getting at the exact right time. If I were to believe in Fisch as much as I do, I have no reason to doubt Sprinkle, who might not be quite the shyster, but is just as motivated to parlay this into bigger and better things. I just don’t think Husky basketball is ever going to be more than an occasional Tournament participant, and a Sweet 16 team once in a blue moon. It’s cool and all that we were able to sign Great Osobor to the highest free agent contract in college basketball history (or whatever the fuck we’re calling it, under the guise of NIL), but I’ve seen tons of elite-looking basketball recruits sign here. Only to accomplish nothing until they left after one season and turned pro.

Dan Bylsma, the new Kraken head coach – after his promotion from our Coachella Valley affiliate – is the biggest wild card to me, mostly because I know very little about hockey, and what makes a good NHL coach. He has prior NHL coaching experience; seems like a good thing. He also has experience coaching a lot of our younger players at Coachella Valley, which I feel like is a great thing. With the success that team has had, and their ability to score the way they have, it seems like he should be a perfect fit here. Someone to actually get the most out of these players. Someone who will hopefully turn Matty Beniers and Shane Wright into monsters. Someone who can jumpstart this offense while still getting the most out of our defense. I’m a fan of the hire, but obviously we’ll know a lot more once the games start this fall.

Potentially the most interesting hire of the bunch is Mike Macdonald. He seems like the one with the most potential for greatness, and obviously the one most likely to stick around the longest. If he’s as smart as advertised – if he’s the defensive version of Sean McVay – then we’re talking about a guy who can take us all the way.

It feels pretty rare to have so much coaching turnover happen in the same offseason. That makes this a really pivotal time in Seattle sports. Our lives could be changing drastically for the better … or it’ll just be a lot of the same mediocre bullshit.

The Kraken Signed Vince Dunn To A Big Extension

This is just … SUCH old news, but I’ve been waiting for an opening where I didn’t have anything else to write about.

Anyway, Vince Dunn was signed to a 4-year extension, worth over $7 million per year. That’s a decent chunk of change; indeed, the biggest cap hit on the team next season. He’s a defenseman, coming off of his best year ever, and we avoid an arbitration hearing in the process by locking him up long term.

So, I hopped onto Spotrac to look at the state of things, since I really don’t know much about salary cap in hockey. I don’t know if I was necessarily expecting a huge offseason full of moves, but by the looks of things, the Kraken have less than a million dollars left in cap space. Other than filling in around the margins or minor leagues, I don’t foresee much in the way of free agent signings happening before the start of the season (which is in early October).

It’s interesting, then, to see the approach to building the 2023/2024 team. We’re largely the same as we were in 2022/2023. Which means, we’re kind of banking on this team growing organically. Young guys like Beniers making the leap in his second full season in the NHL, Andre Burakovsky staying healthy for the duration, and everyone just sort of gelling as this team without a mega-star, but lots of really solid dudes playing their specific roles perfectly.

And, if we look ahead, 10 out of our top 11 contracts are signed through 2025; only Jordan Eberle’s deal expires after this upcoming season among the most important Kraken players. I think that’s pretty great, as the Kraken build off of their first-ever playoff run. Having this kind of cohesion is vital for a hockey team.

It’s also, I think, valuable for the Kraken to be built this way – no mega-studs, lots of good, solid pros – if they’re going to continue to supplement through the draft. We don’t necessarily need to draft guys and play them right away. We can wait until they’re ready. And, when they are ready, we can bring them along slowly until they get their feet wet. It’s not like in other sports, where you’re largely throwing guys to the wolves right out of the gate.

I should point out that nothing the Kraken have done so far precludes them from making improvements via trade (other than the fact that Grubauer has a no-trade clause, and a number of other guys have modified no-trade clauses). I think that was on the minds of prognosticators heading into this offseason as a likely possibility, though I’m not aware of anything coming down the pike just yet. We’ll see.

If the team we have is the team we have, I won’t be upset. I think there’s natural growth to be had from the players already on our roster. I also don’t see why Grubauer couldn’t parlay a very good playoff run into further regular season success. He’s done it before! Maybe as the team around him continues to improve, it’ll unlock his natural ability to be a stone wall for us.

The Kraken Are On The Brink Of Elimination

That’s back-to-back games now where the Kraken have looked inferior in every possible way.

The way the Stars’ top line is dominating this series, it got me to thinking. We’ve been endlessly praising how deep the Kraken are throughout the playoffs. They’re four lines strong! They can keep sending wave after wave of quality player at you! But, you know what they don’t have? When the chips are down, the Kraken don’t have that elite, top-shelf player or line that can carry you over the hump, or drag you back from the brink.

Now, it’s true, you don’t necessarily want to be too overly reliant on that top line, or that top player, to the detriment of the rest of your roster. But, the Kraken are a little lacking in superstars, and I think it’s biting them in the ass this series.

Maybe Matty Beniers will turn into that player one day. Maybe that other high draft pick will be someone of note. But, we don’t have that person on this roster right now, and it’s costing us the playoffs.

The Kraken lost 5-2 last night, two days after being blown out 6-3. The Stars got two extremely quick goals in the first period, and took a 3-0 lead inside the first minute of the second period. Adam Larsson got one right back, and later in the period Jared McCann slammed one home to make it 3-2.

This game was interesting for a little while after that, but midway through the final frame, the Stars made it 4-2, before scoring an empty-netter late to put it away.

I didn’t think Grubauer looked particularly competent in this one. Those first two Stars goals looked mighty easy. Then again, I just think the Stars are the better team, and they’ve looked that way in all but one of the games. In a way, it’s kind of impressive we made it this far, but I think this series is all but over. They’re just too talented, and it forces the Kraken to be absolutely perfect if they want to win a game.

We were able to be perfect once, and I think we were lucky to come away from Game 1 with an overtime victory, but to do so throughout a 7-game series is a pretty big ask.

There have been a lot of firsts this season for the Kraken. First playoff appearance, first playoff victory, first overtime playoff game, first Game 7, first series win, and now we’re heading into our first elimination game from the other side. Backs against the wall, we’ll get to see how the Kraken respond, in our home building no less! Should be fun. I hope the Kraken at least put on a good show in what figures to be our final go around the ice.

The Kraken Blew Out The Stars In Game 3

I guess the Kraken really benefitted from the extra day off between games!

Game 3, in some ways, represented an amalgam of the first two. There was a scoreless first period – as there was last Thursday in Dallas. And, there was a period where the scoring just exploded – as there was last Tuesday in Dallas. But, unlike those games, the Kraken never let the Stars get their footing.

Unlike in Game 2, the scoreless first period last night felt a little more even. It didn’t seem like the Kraken were lucky to have shut them out for 20 minutes. Everything felt a little more in control, as if we had a plan on how to defend them and take them out of their game. Shots were few and far between, but also evenly distributed. Faceoffs weren’t one-sided. No penalties. But, still lots of good, hard hits. It was as clean of a period as I’ve ever seen.

Then, from the second period onward, it was total annihilation.

The Kraken put up two goals in the first three and a half minutes, then continued the scoring barrage midway through the period, scoring two more within two minutes of one another, before the Stars finally got one back. However, just before the second break, the Kraken made some nifty long-distance passes to get a fifth score in the books.

At 5-1, the Stars ended up pulling their goalie ahead of the third period. No matter, the Kraken continued to pour it on, ending the game up 7-2.

Seven different Kraken players scored: Jordan Eberle (getting the rebound off of a Stars’ player’s face, right in front of the net, in a nasty bit of bad luck for them), Alex Wennberg, Carson Soucy (in a nifty bit of puck handling to take it to the net himself before shooting it past Oettinger), Matty Beniers, Eeli Tolvanen, Yanni Gourde (short-handed, early in the third), and Justin Schultz.

There was also some really strong play by Grubauer in this one, saving 92.3%. He continues to pick his game up for the playoffs and has been our rock throughout.

You could really feel the advantage the Kraken have in being such a deep team. But, it also looked like we made some adjustments to neutralize their attack. I don’t know what any of this means going forward; I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Did we unlock a magic key to taking the Stars out? Or, was it just one game, and tomorrow will look a lot different? I tend to believe the latter.

What’s not in doubt is the fact that this series – at worst – will go six games. That means, of course, we’ll at least have two more home games to try to punch our ticket to the Western Conference Finals. Of course, there’s the slim possibility we win out, and this doesn’t get to six games; but that’s a good problem to have.

Also, not for nothing, but Jared McCann was seen practicing over the weekend for the first time since his brutal injury against the Avalanche. I think Geoff Baker confirmed it was a concussion (though I don’t know if the team actually reported that or not), which makes sense. You gotta be careful with that kind of injury in hockey. There was rumbling McCann might be ready to return tomorrow, which would be interesting. Tye Kartye has been more than capable in taking over for McCann, so we’ll see what happens if/when McCann returns.

The Kraken Must Win Tonight

The Kraken are a thrilling team to watch, but they’re also extremely frustrating. For a team that was sixth in the league in goals scored, and a team that allegedly led the league in goals scored in 5 on 5 situations, you’d think they’d be better in power play situations. Anecdotally, I can see in other games where teams are easily able to whip the puck around and find some openings to get some shots on goal.

Yet, the Kraken can’t seem to do a fucking thing with the puck! They’ve got Avalanche players in their face, they’re constantly getting it knocked out of the zone, and worst of all, the Kraken seem so fucking nonchalant about getting the puck back into the opposing zone. I mean, what’s this shitty thing they do where they keep passing it back and passing it back, until they’ve got four guys at the blue line and one trying to bust through a line of scrimmage of sorts. All it does is waste precious fucking time and give the opposing defense a chance to crowd the blue line, thereby making it more difficult to maintain possession in their zone and find scoring opportunities. Shots on goal during a power play feel like a motherfucking miracle whenever they happen! But, of course, none have a prayer of going in, because they’re usually shots from way out, in the brief instants where we have an opening.

In general, I don’t get why the Kraken so often try to slow things down. Even when they’re holding it for lines to change, it’s continued to be held for an inordinate amount of time afterward for some unknown reason. Yet, when do we see the Kraken at their best? In that frenzy of the first few minutes of the game, when the Kraken are pushing the issue, have the defense on its heels, and scoring before they even know what’s what. That’s the kind of play we saw throughout game 1, and for the first half of game 2, before we went into our turtle shells and hid out for the remainder of regulation.

For the third game in a row, the Avalanche won over 55% of faceoffs, which leads to a much easier time for them offensively. Hence the 6-4 victory. The fact that we even scored a power play goal at all was lost on me after the Avalanche went up 6-3 on an empty-netter; I turned the game off and went back home at that point. Meaningless, if you ask me; what incentive did Colorado have for putting any effort into stopping us, with so little time remaining? We still had double their power play opportunities (6 to 3) and did next-to-nothing with them. At home. In our first-ever home playoff game. In front of some extremely loud and rowdy fans. I was proud of them, at least.

Also, the Kraken are just sloppy with the puck. There are too many giveaways in every game; I don’t know how you clean that up. Maybe that’s it. Maybe we try to push things, that leads to giveaways, and then the coach reins the team in? I dunno. It’s just frustrating. You can see they’re a good team, but something’s holding them back. Maybe it’s coaching, maybe it’s youth, maybe we’re just one or two good players away from being great.

It was nice to see Jaden Schwartz get a couple goals, as well as Matty Beniers get his first-ever playoff goal (to tie the game in the second). And Jamie Oleksiak had a nifty move 19 seconds before Beniers scored, to start to turn things around. I’ll also give it up for our own power play defense, which has thus far shut the Avalanche out through three games. But, that non-power play defense has A LOT of growing up to do, because there are far too many breakaway opportunities against Grubauer. I’ll say this, he didn’t play as bad as the final score indicates. One of those six goals was from an empty net. At least two were on giveaways that they beat him in one-on-one situations.

I see these other teams with crisp, precision passing. I see the Kraken often flailing their sticks around, not really aware of where the puck is going. I dunno man, clean it up!

Game 4 is tonight in Seattle. If we don’t win and tie up this series, consider it over. As I said before and I’m sure I’ll say again, we can’t beat this team three in a row.

The Kraken Enter The All Star Break In First Place

It’s been night and day, this year compared to last. The Seattle Kraken finished their inaugural season 27-49-6; it’s now only the end of January and they’re already 29-15-5. It’s a remarkable turnaround that has the Kraken in first place in the Pacific Division with 63 points, just one more than Vegas and L.A.

How did we get here? Well, don’t talk to me about goaltending until I’ve had my morning coffee.

The fact of the matter is, the offense has been tremendous. Last year, the Kraken scored 216 goals all season, good for fourth-worst in the NHL. Pair that with 285 goals against – ninth-worst in the NHL – and you get a recipe for a team in the bottom three in the league. With 33 games remaining this season, the Kraken have already scored 177 goals, good for fifth-most in the league. Our goals against are middle-of-the-pack, but even that is a drastic improvement.

So, how does that happen? Well, it’s very much a team effort, as we have zero players in the top 50 in points, and only one player in the top 50 in goals scored – Jared McCann – who is tied for 24th with 23 goals. That shows up in the +/- rankings, where we have six players in the top 50: Adam Larsson (3rd at +30), Vince Dunn (5th at +26), Brandon Tanev (12th at +23), Morgan Geekie (25th at +18), Yanni Gourde and Ryan Donato (34th at +17). Predictably, we had zero players in the top 50 in any of these categories last year.

In spite of only having one goal scorer in the top 50, we have eight players in double-digits, with another three guys right there with 9 goals. I don’t know a lot about hockey yet, but that feels pretty ideal. You don’t want to have all your eggs in one basket, do you? Seems harder for other teams to focus on shutting down any one guy.

If there was that guy, it would probably be our lone All Star, Matty Beniers, in only his second professional season, at the age of 20. He’s certainly lived up to the hype of his status as a #2 overall draft pick. But, you can see he’s still got a lot of room to grow, which is what’s really exciting about all of this.

At some point, you have to talk about the goalies, so let’s get into it.

Philipp Grubauer has effectively lost his starting job to Martin Jones, but I couldn’t tell you if either are worth a damn. Jones is 23rd in the league in goals against (2.82), Grubauer is 31st (3.03). Not a humongous difference, but a difference nonetheless. Their respective save percentages are even shoddier when compared to the rest of the NHL; Grubauer is tied for 37th at .897 and Jones is 41st at .896. But, if you’re an Ends Justifies The Means kind of fan, Jones is tied for second in the NHL in wins with 23! So … maybe he’s good luck? It sure as shit seemed like Grubauer was beaten up with some pretty bad luck in his starts last year; but he also did himself no favors, never bothering to lift this team up on his shoulders, in spite of his considerable contract.

To his credit, Jones has looked a lot better in January, with 2.36 goals against per game, and a .916 save percentage (including 2 of his 3 shutouts this season). He’s a veteran in his 10th season in the NHL, with his best days seemingly long behind him. His heyday was with San Jose, leading them to the finals one year. But, it’s been tough times since then. He signed with the Kraken prior to this season on a 1-year, $2 million deal. Turned out to be a wise move on his part, as there was clearly an opportunity here to supplant an under-performing starter.

What’s been particularly remarkable is how good the Kraken have been on the road, with a 16-5-2 record, including a recent 7-0 road trip through Canada and the East Coast. The team was shaky to start the season (a 3-4-2 start), and had a significant rough patch in December (winners of only 4 out of 12 games), but I would attribute a lot of those more-recent struggles to injuries on the team. Hockey is a physical, violent sport. You’re going to be down a few players every once in a while.

All in all, though, this is a recipe for very strong team-building. It’s a shame the local market hasn’t caught up, as I’m hearing the ratings are pretty abysmal. Is it a byproduct of everyone jumping off the bandwagon after that terrible first season? Is it natural growing pains of trying to introduce this sport into a market that had gone a century without it? I would say things could be helped a lot if there was one singular television network that aired the games. I know Root Sports is “the home for Kraken hockey” or whatever, but they don’t air all the games like they do with the Mariners (speaking of which, the Kraken’s games are often shunted elsewhere when those two teams go head-to-head in the same timeslot). Sometimes games are on ESPN or ESPN 2 or ESPN+, and sometimes games just aren’t on and we all get the fucking finger. I don’t know what it’s like to listen to hockey on the radio, but it doesn’t seem particularly thrilling.

While it’s strong team-building, I don’t know what this will mean for our playoff run this year (assuming we keep this up). I recall playoff hockey being very dependant upon defense and preventing goals, and I just don’t know how equipped this particular Kraken team is at that part of the game. We’ll see; maybe there’s a magical playoff run in our future. But, I’m guessing it’ll be more of a Just Happy To Be There sort of thing. An essential building block for better things to come in the future, but maybe not the dream end we’re all hoping for.

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.

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.