With a new year comes new goals. For the Seattle Kraken, if they want to sustain their success and make it into the playoffs in just their sophomore season, they need to take their New Year’s resolutions to heart. I’ve identified three aspects of their game that they need to improve upon, and will break them down in this article.
There’s always room for improvement across the board; that could be said for any and every NHL team. Despite what we’ve seen so far, the Kraken cannot sustain success without improving in these areas, so how about I let you know what they are? Let’s do it.
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1) Kraken Penalty Kill Continues to Struggle
The Kraken’s penalty kill in 2021-22 was abysmal, and they haven’t taken any steps in the right direction so far in 2022-23. They finished their inaugural season 31st in the NHL with a 74.9 penalty kill percentage (PK%) and allowed 56 power-play goals against, which was ninth-most in the league. This season hasn’t started much better.
They are back in that 31st position with a 68.5 PK%; yes, same spot, but their percentage has dropped even lower. They’ve also risen to sixth in the NHL having allowed 35 power-play goals against, just six back from the Anaheim Ducks whose 41 are league-worst.
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Here’s something interesting to look at; when the Kraken went on a five-game winning streak from Oct. 29 – Nov. 8, they didn’t allow a power-play goal on 13 opportunities. However, when they went on their franchise-best seven-game winning streak, their penalty kill allowed 10-of-20 goals. Read that one more time, their penalty kill allowed 50 percent (!!!) of opposing power plays to score. An offensive explosion seeing them average five goals per game over that span definitely helped mitigate the damage, but those numbers do not correlate with sustained success, and it rapidly needs to be addressed.
One of the problems I see with addressing it is that it’s hard to think about who they should scratch from the lineup to bring in another player. The team as a whole has gelled pretty decently, and their scoring depth has been strong so far this season. I think a major factor in such a poor percentage can be goaltending, but that’s something that will be touched upon later in this article.
Heading into the new year, the Kraken really need to figure out their penalty killing. If that means giving new units a look, then they should absolutely do that. If the team wants to be playing meaningful hockey down the stretch, it’s imperative that the triage and adjustments start now.
2) Kraken Goaltending Still Not Good Enough
Will I be accused of beating a dead horse at this point? Kraken goaltending has started off the 2022-23 season right around where they finished their inaugural year; sub-.900 save percentages (SV%) and goals-against averages (GAA) circling around three.
Philipp Grubauer finished last season with a 3.16 goals-against average (GAA) and .889 save percentage (SV%), and has started off this season with a 3.53 GAA and .881 SV%. He was coming off an injury, but he needed to have a bounce-back year and so far that isn’t looking likely. Martin Jones stepped in after signing as a free agent, and while he has a strong 15-5-3 record, his 2.96 GAA and .888 SV% are definitely concerning for his and the team’s long-term success.
The Kraken are led in save percentage by Joey Daccord with his .900 SV%, but he only played one game, which emphasizes just how much their regular duo has been struggling. So what is the solution?
There really isn’t much of a solution, not an easy one at least. Chris Driedger is still out with an injury, but even his numbers last season were nothing to write home about; a 2.96 GAA and .899 SV%. The team is further handcuffed by Grubauer having a no-trade clause (NTC), and both Jones and Driedger having modified no-trade clauses (M-NTC).
Even if they could find a trade partner, it could be difficult to get a favorable return without having to give up more than they’d like, or having to retain salary. This is going to be very interesting to watch leading up to the trade deadline, and a lot of it depends on where the Kraken sit in the playoff picture. If they have a strong chance at making the postseason, they may want to try and make a move. However, I think they should stay the course.
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If the Kraken were to make the playoffs this season then it would be an added bonus, as in my opinion they’d be playing with house money, but they should still be focused on their overall build. I don’t know how I’d feel about them moving draft picks in any type of deal right now unless the return was an absolute grand slam. Therefore, their goaltenders need to pick it up themselves, because I don’t think they’ll be getting any outside help.
3) Kraken Can’t Succeed if They’re Always Fighting for Puck
Setting up a play in hockey isn’t always easy; it’s a fast moving sport and the puck can always bounce in weird ways. Where’s one place we typically see teams run a set play? The faceoff dot. What are the Kraken unable to do consistently? Win faceoffs. How is this team going to sustain success if they’re constantly having to fight to get the puck back? Good question.
Last season, the Kraken were 26th in the NHL with a 47.7 faceoff win percentage (FOW%). This season, they’re doing even…worse. They dropped to 31st with a 45.4 FOW%, just .1 higher than the last-place Buffalo Sabres. If that wasn’t bad enough, they’re below 50 percent in every faceoff category.
|Faceoff Type||League Rank||Percentage|
Among Kraken who’ve taken at least 90 faceoffs, Jaden Schwartz leads the team having won 50.5 percent. It’s hard for a team to mount a comeback when they’re down if they can’t win a faceoff. Additionally, power plays can lose a ton of steam if the team has to repeatedly regain possession and break into the zone, instead of already being there and setting up.
As I touched upon in the penalty killing section, the answer may not be as simple as just making a move to bring in another player who’s proficient at winning draws. This team really needs to bear down and focus on these aspects of the game that matter so much to the big picture.
Kraken Need to Buy-in to Resolutions
Things are getting serious for the Kraken quicker than many have anticipated. In my opinion, their strong start to the season exemplifies how they’ve shaved a year off their build following the moves they made this past offseason. They have to take their resolutions to heart and really look to come out strong in 2023 to keep this ship moving toward the postseason.