Of all things hitting the Seattle Kraken ahead of their first post-Christmas tilt against the Philadelphia Flyers, Brandon Tanev’s season-ending injury is one of the worst. He tore his ACL in their Dec. 18 loss to the Edmonton Oilers. This is one of, if not the worst personnel loss that could have hit the Kraken.
Tanev was the emotional heartbeat of this team. The question now is who is going to fill that void?
Tanev Is the Kraken’s Heart and Soul
How does a player become an emotional leader of a team? Well, it stems from how they are in the room, as well as on the ice. According to former teammate Kris Letang, “…he’s a great teammate. Cares about all the guys in the room. Wants to make sure everybody has a good time. He keeps our dressing room tight but loose at the same time.” (from “The Penguins are happy to have ‘maniac’ Brandon Tanev back” by Seth Rorabaugh, Pittsburgh Tribune, April 2, 2021)
Great in the room — check. If you’ve watched any Kraken hockey this season, you’d know what he brings on the ice. In case you haven’t, let’s do a quick recap. Physical play is important in creating energy and emotion, and he brings it night-in and night-out.
Tanev leads all Kraken forwards in blocks with 22 in 30 games, seventh on the team overall. That’s a sure-fire way to energize your team; even during the 2020 World Junior Championship broadcasts, it’s easy to hear benches erupt from a big block on the broadcast. Another is hitting, and he came to Seattle as advertised. His 98 hits lead the team and are ninth in the NHL.
While one may not expect someone who plays his style to provide a ton of offense, it’s too bad for them that he never heard that noise. He’s scored nine goals and 15 points in his 30 games, including one of two Kraken shorthanded goals, and two power-play goals on just three shots in under seven minutes of power-play time.
He was on pace to set offensive career highs across the board. As of now, if healthy, he was projected to score 25 goals, 16 assists and 41 points over 82 games. His first 20-goal, and first 40-point seasons; his previous career highs being 14 goals and 29 points, respectively. That would be great value from your best grinding forward, your emotional leader. So, who are some options to replace him?
The Kraken Should Not Test the Market
This is going to be a short and sweet section. No, they shouldn’t make a trade to replace what they lose from him. As was discussed on the Dec. 29 episode of THW’s What’s Kraken, they should be sellers, not buyers. Draft capital is essential for the Kraken right now, and they should be looking to acquire some more.
Tanev leads the way with his physicality, but no one follows, so what’s the point? Then you’d have to figure out what to do with the addition next season, if it isn’t an expiring contract, once Tanev’s healthy. Could they replace the stats via trade? Maybe, but for someone to just walk in and fill that emotional void? Highly unlikely.
Kraken Have a Few In-house Players Who Could Step Up
There are a few players who could try and fill Tanev’s role, though no one could truly fill the void he’ll be leaving.
This seems to be an obvious choice. Once Gourde entered the lineup, he was providing offense and his natural ability to get under opponents’ skin, and was doing a great job of it. He’ll play in all situations, and was producing at a greater clip than Tanev while logging over four minutes more average ice time.
His 10 assists are fourth, and 16 points tied for fourth with Alexander Wennberg on the team. He doesn’t block as many shots — just eight — but his 27 hits in 22 games are ninth on the team and third among forwards. He was known to bring the energy for the Tampa Bay Lightning during his two-Cup tenure, and this could be his time to take the reins for the Kraken.
Ryan Donato may be a bit of a stretch, but he’s had an interesting tenure with the Kraken, and in his NHL career in general. The 25-year-old has played over 200 NHL games, but is on his fifth team, and has even been healthy scratched at times this season. He’s yet to truly find a home. However, if he takes this information and channels it correctly, that could turn him into someone players want to get behind.
It’s almost as though he’s a mini underdog story. He averages 12:19 minutes per game, with some power-play time, but his overall role has varied. Yet, he’s scored three goals on eight shots in just under 12 minutes per game over his past three games. He’s fourth on the team with eight goals, and has 22 hits in his 27 games. He could be someone undercover who could step up in a time where they need it.
Whether it’s Gourde, Donato or someone else, the biggest takeaway is that the Kraken shouldn’t look to the market to replace Tanev, not at this point. This could be the perfect opportunity for someone to really prove themselves to general manager Ron Francis and the rest of the Kraken brass. For many of their players on one-year deals, this could earn them the opportunity to stick around come next season.
Sean Raggio lives for hockey. He will be covering the Seattle Kraken, and is a co-host of “What’s Kraken” for THW. Sean gained experience in writing for television, print and radio while studying journalism at Quinnipiac University and being an active member in the student media organizations there. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out on Twitter! A link can be found at the bottom of his articles, such as this one.