Analyzing the Seattle Kraken’s Improvement Since Their Inaugural Season

(David Zalubowski/AP)

The Seattle Kraken, the NHL’s newest expansion team, definitely didn’t have an ideal first season in the league. Although their roster included some good players and looked solid on paper, they didn’t perform to their expectations. The Kraken finished last in the Pacific division with a record of 27-49-6 for 60 points in the 2021-22 NHL regular season. So, what went wrong?

The two main struggles of the Seattle Kraken during their inaugural season in the National Hockey League were goaltending and offense. Yes, some can argue that their defense had been a problem, but not as much as the two mentioned. Goaltending and offense, the main weaknesses of Seattle in their first season, are crucial to being a successful hockey team.

Goaltending

Goaltending was a main issue of the Seattle Kraken in their first year. Typically, a goalie’s save percentage that would be considered “good” in the NHL is anywhere from 0.915% or above. As for the Kraken, their goaltenders all had well below-average save percentages.

Philipp Grubauer had a save percentage of .889, Chris Driedger at .899%, and Joey Daccord with .850%. Another statistic regarding these goaltenders is their GAA (Goals Against Average). Driedger had a GAA of 2.96, Grubauer with 3.16, and lastly Daccord at 4.30. These goalies all had GAAs of 2.9 and above. Anything around 2.25 to 2.9 and higher is considered a “below average” goal against average in the NHL.

Having solid and consistent goaltending in the NHL is a crucial thing to have to be successful. Sometimes, teams can manage to make up for their lack of goaltending with offense. However, for the Seattle Kraken, that was not the case, as it was the other main weakness in their inaugural season.

Offense

Offense is key to winning in the NHL. Some of the league’s best teams have stacked offensive lines. Their level of success has been, in some ways, determined by their forwards, how they perform as a player, and what they bring to the team. Power plays, specifically power play percentages, are an important aspect of offense from a team. Also, a team’s goals-per-game average can ultimately impact their level of offensive power.

In Seattle’s 2021-22 inaugural season, they finished 28th in the league for GPG (Goals per Game) at 2.60. Regarding the power play, the Kraken only scored 32 goals on 220 power plays, for a power play percentage of 14.55. This put them at 29th in the league for PP%. There’s no doubt that the Seattle Kraken’s lack of offense contributed to how they performed throughout the season.

Defense

Seattle was built to be a team with a solid defensive play style in the NHL. But that’s not exactly how it played out. Although the Seattle Kraken were successful in some defensive areas throughout their first season, they had defensive breakdowns and also weren’t successful when it came to the penalty kill. The Kraken placed 31st in the league on the penalty kill at 74.9%.

Seattle was not built to be a Stanley Cup contender like the Vegas Golden Knights were. The General Manager of the Kraken, Ron Francis, shocked many as he didn’t select players that people believed would be drafted to the team in their expansion draft. Instead, he picked up some young players and had a strategic approach when it came to the draft. The cap in the NHL at the time of the Seattle expansion draft was $81.5 million. By the end of the draft, Francis had spent just $54.4 million.

This was an unexpected type of draft, and the outcome had several hockey fans questioning the team’s success in their upcoming inaugural season as well as their future.

The Turnaround

Changes were made to the team, which included getting rid of players who underperformed compared to when they played with other teams in previous seasons. In the 2022-23 NHL season, some of Seattle’s players had bounce-back seasons. These players include Jaden Schwartz, Daniel Sprong, Jared McCann, Vince Dunn, and Jordan Eberle. Also, a lot of the team’s players stepped it up and helped turn around the team altogether.

They improved in several ways. One is their penalty kill. They finished 21st in the league with a 76.7 PK%. Their GPG in 2022-23 was 3.52, which was .92 percent more than their inaugural season. Also, the Kraken got better at the power play. Seattle placed 21st in the NHL with a 19.8 power-play percentage.

Goaltending seemed to be solid for Seattle compared to their first season. Philip Grubauer and Joey Daccord had improved in terms of both their save percentage and GAA. Also, the performance of Martin Jones, currently a former Seattle Kraken as he is now with the Toronto Maple Leafs, helped their goaltending as well.

Lastly, they finished the 2022-23 regular season with 46 wins, 28 losses, and eight overtime losses for exactly 100 points, ultimately making the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs. How about that for an expansion team? They went from dead last in their division for their inaugural season to improving tremendously and making the playoffs in their second year.

The Seattle “Kraken” are starting to seem as fearsome as their name.

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