After a strong to the season, the Seattle Kraken struggled in the month of December and sit outside the playoffs at the start of 2023. In 12 games, they only managed four wins and finished 27th in points percentage across the league. Here is a look at five stories from December 2022.
Kraken Goal Scoring Dries Up
The most shocking part of December was that the Kraken seem to have forgotten how to score. After scoring the fifth most goals in the league during October and November with 84, they recorded just 33 goals in December which ranked 29th. Whether it was at even strength or the power play, which operated at 6.7 percent, they struggled to create scoring chances despite averaging more shots per game than they did during the first two months of the season.
The main reason the Kraken struggled to score is that they got barely any offence from their top players. Shane Wright, who had one goal in one game during the month of December, had the same amount of goals as Alex Wennberg, André Burakovsky, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Jaden Schwartz, who all appeared in at least 11 games. Seattle needs to find a way to get their top guys going, or else they will quickly find themselves out of the playoff race by the end of January.
Daniel Sprong Tearing It Up
Luckily for the Kraken, one player has been tearing it up lately, and that is Daniel Sprong. He was tied for the team lead in scoring during the month of December with six, finished second in shots on goal with 29, and was one of two players to score a power play goal. What might be most impressive about his play is that he is making the most of his opportunities as he only averages 11:26 of total ice time per game. If not for his goal-scoring, December would have been a historically bad month for Seattle.
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Sprong’s success in Seattle is a great story, as he seems to have revitalized his career since being traded to the Kraken last season. As one of the few players producing offence as of late, one must ask if he should be playing more or if he is having success because of his limited role. Based on his play, it may be time for coach Dave Hakstol to elevate him in the lineup, especially considering that he accounted for 15 percent of the team’s goals in December.
Goaltending Once Again An Issue For Seattle
Once again, Seattle’s goaltending let them down, as neither Philipp Grubauer nor Martin Jones had a good month. Both finished below a .888 save percentage (SV%) and had a goals-against average over 3.50. While the overall team defence was questionable on a night-to-night basis, a weak goal was given up in almost every game that changed the momentum in the opposition’s favour.
The most concerning part of the month was that Seattle was forced to pull Grubauer twice. The first was against the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he allowed four goals on 20 shots, and the second was in their last game of 2022, where he allowed three goals on the first five shots of the game versus the Edmonton Oilers in less than four minutes of action. Goaltending has been a constant issue for the Kraken, but December was by far their worst month this season.
Firebirds En Feugo
The Coachella Valley Firebirds were on a tear during December, winning 11 of their 14 games and finishing off the month with five straight victories. While their offence had no issues filling the net, their goaltending really stepped up as the tandem of Joey Daccord and Christopher Gibson shut out the opposition three times. They enter 2023 with 20 wins in their first 29 games and sit second in the division behind the Calgary Wranglers, who have the same amount of points but one more win.
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Head coach Dan Bylsma has turned the Firebirds into a well-oiled machine, with everyone on the current roster but Gibson recording a point this season. He has also created a four-headed monster with Kole Lind, Jesper Froden, Max McCormick and Andrew Poturalski all above 30 points. The Kraken organization has done a fantastic job building this roster and has created a Calder Cup contender in their inaugural season.
Prospect Spotlight: Kyle Jackson
The Kraken’s seventh-rounder in 2022 was on a tear during the month of December. In 11 games, he had 20 points for the North Bay Battalion, including eight games with two or more points. He also had a 13-game point streak that started in late November but came to an end on Dec. 30 in a 3-2 loss to the Sudbury Wolves.
Not only does Jackson lead the Battalion in goals, but he also finds himself tied for sixth in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with 22. He is also top five in the OHL in points, with 48, and is on pace for 94 this season. An older prospect who turned 20 in October, he is making a massive impact in his final junior season.
New Year Means New Opportunity
The Kraken finished 2022 with a 35-43-6 record which was ranked 25th in the league by points percentage. While this is not where Seattle would like to be, it is encouraging that 40 of their 76 points all-time have come this season. With the holiday season over and a brand-new calendar year starting, the Kraken have the chance to put the pain of December behind them and start 2023 off the right way with a strong January.