I just got back from the store and picked up a brand new red pen, which means it’s time for another edition of the Seattle Kraken Report Cards! This one will be focusing on the trio of goaltenders that saw the ice this past season. Expectations were all over the place, and one player fell below them. Another had injury issues throughout the year and has since suffered a new one. The final player is someone who I believe could be a decent backup or even a 1B, but needs consistency in order to succeed.
Before we start, let’s break down our grading system. It’s your basic A-F system where an A is excellent, and a C- means they have a lot to work on. Minimum qualifications for inclusion are usually having played 10 games and finished the season with the Kraken, but I’ll make an exception this time around. Time to put my latest purchase to good use and get the grading started.
Philipp Grubauer was riding high after his 2020-21 season with the Colorado Avalanche. He went 30-9-1 in 40 games with a 1.95 goals-against average (GAA), a .922 save percentage (SV%), and seven shutouts. He was even a Vezina Trophy finalist. He then left Colorado and entered the deep, playing the most games in a single season in his career with 55. He also struggled to an 18-31-5 record with a 3.16 GAA and .889 SV%.
To be totally fair, those stats aren’t entirely his fault as the team in front of him struggled immensely to both score and stop goals. The Kraken’s 213 goals were 28th in the NHL, while their 284 goals-against were ninth-most…ouch. That’s a minus-71 goal differential. Special teams didn’t help much either, as their power play was 29th and penalty kill 31st. He might’ve benefitted from less action, but backup Chris Driedger had injury issues and third goalie Joey Daccord wasn’t given much of a chance; he struggled when he did see the crease. Either way, Grubauer didn’t perform up to snuff.
The best thing for Grubauer to do is to wipe this season from his mind and go into next year with a clean mental slate. The Kraken have been infused with excitement ahead of this upcoming season after drafting Shane Wright, signing André Burakovsky, and trading for Oliver Bjorkstrand. Assuming that these moves result in a bump in goal support, it will aid him in returning to form.
Player Grade: C+
Driedger had a difficult season; not just between the pipes, but with injuries as well. He was off and on injured reserve several times and only managed to play 27 games. The 27 games were an NHL career-high, but his performance fell off from what may have been expected due to his success with the Florida Panthers the past two years. In those two years, one split between the American Hockey League (AHL) and NHL, he had a 21-8-4 record with a 2.07 GAA and .931 SV%.
With the Kraken this past season, he went 9-14-1 with a 2.96 GAA and .899 SV%. That win-loss ratio wasn’t bad relative to Grubauer’s, and the team’s struggles as a whole definitely impacted that. It’s tough to fully blame him for the season he had between his injuries and the team playing poorly in front of him. To make matters even worse heading into this upcoming season, he’s been further sidelined due to an ACL injury, thus he will miss the start of the 2022-23 season.
Driedger has one thing that I notice when looking at his career statistics, and it’s something that I highly value; resiliency. He’s had several stints in the ECHL and the AHL en route to sticking with the Panthers and then the Kraken. He’s 28 years old and has ground his way to where he is now. It’ll be interesting to see both where the team is at, and how he performs when he returns to the lineup and makes his season debut.
Player Grade: B-
If you’ve been following along with the monthly Kraken Prospect Reports, or THW’s “What’s Kraken” (shoutout to my co-host, THW’s Adam Kierszenblat), you’d know I’m pretty high on Daccord being the current future of Kraken goaltending. I won’t delve too much into his AHL season, but he finished the year strong and even earned “Goaltender of the Month” honors after his performance in March. His five games with the Kraken did not mimic his AHL performance, though.
It was the third time Daccord made an appearance in the NHL and his second-most number of games in a season, as he went 0-4-0 with a brutal 4.30 GAA and .850 SV%. My biggest gripe was that he didn’t have a lot of consistency. When he did become the team’s backup, head coach Dave Hakstol would seldom throw him in the crease. When he finished the year with the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers, that’s when he finally established some consistency as he was in one place and actually seeing the ice.
The Kraken’s goaltending situation is interesting right now. The Kraken signed Martin Jones in free agency and he will assume the backup duties, presumably until Driedger is back. As Kierszenblat wrote, it’s a risky signing. However, if he stays healthy, it could give Daccord the consistency of sticking with the Coachella Valley Firebirds and leading them forward throughout the season. That could drastically help the near 26-year-old’s development coming off an AHL season where he played his AHL career-high in games, including a seven-game playoff run. While I am excited by his AHL season, his player grade will only reflect that of his NHL performance.
Player Grade: D+
As with most teams, goaltending performance will be heavily impacted by the team in front of them. This trio hopes to benefit from the team’s new additions that should pay dividends in the immediate future. I’m not saying the Kraken are going to the Stanley Cup Final, but they should be at least slightly improved from their inaugural season. If that’s the case, their goalies will benefit as well.