It is no secret that to have success in the NHL, teams need to have strong special teams. During the 2021-22 campaign, the Seattle Kraken finished 29th on the power play and 31st on the penalty kill. This was a major reason why they finished 30th in the league with just 60 points and should be a focal point for the organization going forward.
Fixing the Kraken’s Power Play
First, let’s break down the power play from last season. The Kraken finished the season 32 for 220 with the man advantage or 14.6 percent. There were a few trends which stood out as problem areas that explain why the power play was so bad. The first is 5-on-3 opportunities. In 2021-22, Seattle finished with the fourth most with 12 and the fifth most total time with 11 minutes. Despite the major advantage, they finished with just two goals and the 28th worst percentage. The Kraken need to find a way to capitalize when given such a great opportunity if they want to see improvement next season.
The other issue is that Seattle ran their power play through one player, Jared McCann. If the opposing team knows that there is only one shooter on the ice, it makes it easy to defend. He led the Kraken in points with 17 and shots with 68. The next highest shot generator on the power play was Ryan Donato with 33, followed by Mark Giordano with 29. It is extremely difficult to score when a team can’t get pucks on the net. While puck movement is good, others need to find a way to generate some offence with the man advantage.
The good news is the Kraken have taken steps this offseason to fix their power play. A full year of Matty Beniers should help, but the additions made through trade and free agency are where the solution lies. First was adding Justin Schultz, who has 103 career power play points. He should be able to mentor Vince Dunn and take some of the pressure off the young defenceman next season, thanks to his wealth of experience.
Up front, André Burakovsky, who recorded 11 power-play points last season and Oliver Bjorkstrand, who recorded 19, give the Kraken more diversity with the man advantage as they aren’t afraid to shoot the puck. Add them to a unit that already has McCann, Jordan Eberle, Jaden Schwartz and potentially Shane Wright if he makes the team and there is no question Seattle should be more successful on the power play in 2022-23.
Fixing the Kraken’s Penalty Kill
Fixing the penalty kill is going to be a challenge for the Kraken. Last season, they finished 31st overall with a 74.9 percent success rate. On a positive note, they were a disciplined team finishing with the 10th fewest penalties taken all year, but the bad news is that they constantly struggled to kill them off. The reason is obvious, goaltending.
The Kraken’s goaltending struggles are well documented, with their shorthanded play causing major issues for the team. As a unit, they ended the season with the second worst save percentage (SV%) at .8314%. They also finished last in the league with a .6818% high-danger save percentage.
If Seattle wants to fix their penalty kill, they need their goaltending to be better, plain and simple. In 2021-22, Philipp Grubauer’s had a .850 SV% while Chris Driedger had a .794 SV%. As for new backup Martin Jones, he had a .856 SV%. The team around them is doing their part suppressing shots; it is now up to the goaltenders to play better if the Kraken want to get above an 80 percent success rate next season.
Special Teams Need To Be Better, Plain & Simple
While teams may get away with one of their power play or penalty kill being average, it is rare to see a successful one be ranked near the bottom of both. Just look at the Tampa Bay Lightning. They have been to three straight Stanley Cup Finals, and a big reason is they rank fourth on the power play and seventh on the penalty kill since the 2019-20 season. If Seattle wants to compete for a playoff spot in the extremely competitive Pacific Division, there needs to be an improvement on both special team units next season.
Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks team. His work can also be found at area51sportsnet.com where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.