NHL Seattle Has Long Road Ahead

NHL Seattle is still over a year and a half away from putting a product on the ice. The organization and its fans need to exercise patience in waiting for milestones and then building toward Stanley Cup winners. Such milestones include building the arena, hiring the coaching staff, the initial entry draft, and finally Seattle’s first game.

The overwhelming talk amongst fans has been focused on when Seattle will release their team name. If fans are this impatient over a team name, how impatient are they going to be to hoist the Stanley Cup?

Seattle’s Team Name

In the span between the awarding of the NHL’s 32nd franchise on Dec. 4, 2018, and puck drop for the initial 2021-22 season, there are big gaps with no news. What better to fill the void than rumors involving the team name?

Related: What’s in a Name? NHL’s Original Six

This is an area where the team has been stringing fans along for months, making it ripe for alleged leaks and rumors. The long list of finalists includes the Kraken, Renegades, Totems, Emeralds, Sockeyes, Sea Lions, Seals, Evergreens, Whales, Cougars, Eagles, and Firebirds.

The club first said that the team name would be released around the first of this year, then it was assumed it would be at the All-Star break, now it is expected to be in March. The delay has allowed the most recent rumors that it could be the Kraken or Renegades to surface.

The King County Council approved the plan to return the NBA — as well as bring the NHL — to Seattle (credit: I, Daniel Schwen via Wikimedia Commons).

One thing is for sure, NHL Seattle will never make everybody happy. There are lovers and haters of each name on the list as well as team colors.

The organization is making sure all of their ducks are in a row (the Ducks name is already taken) regarding trademarks, etc., before they release their team name, logo, and colors. After that, they will have the very real task of building their team.

Building the Organization

Seattle needs to keep the long-term plan in mind and hire people that are all-in on that plan. A carousel of personnel will make it difficult to stick to. On June 18, 2018, CEO Tod Leiweke hired Dave Tippett as a senior advisor. Tippett lasted until he was hired away as the new coach of the Edmonton Oilers on May 28, 2019.

From there, Leiweke made two hires in July 2019. First, he hired Alexandra Mandrycky as the director of hockey operations on July 1. He then turned to Ron Francis and hired him as the team’s first general manager on July 18. Francis was the Carolina Hurricanes’ general manager from 2014 to 2018. He is charged with putting together a new staff from scratch.

Ron Francis

After hiring Ricky Olczyk as the assistant general manager on Sept. 3, 2019, Francis named five pro scouts on Sept. 24, including Cammie Granato, Ulf Samuelsson, Stu Barnes, Dave Hunter, and John Goodwin.

Never wanting to be a scout in the first place, Samuelsson left NHL Seattle to take a coaching job in Sweden on Feb. 3, 2020. This abrupt exit occurred less than a week after Samuelsson took part in The Science of Scouting symposium sponsored by NHL Seattle under the banner of “Building the Team:  Introducing Our Scouts” to a sold-out event of eager fans.

In a span of less than nine months, Seattle has lost over 20% of its top staff. The organization will need more stability going forward to implement a successful plan.   

Building the Facilities

It is tough enough to build an NHL arena. Try building one while you are also building a state-of-the-art practice facility in Seattle and an AHL arena in Palm Springs, California.

The Oak View Group broke ground to reconstruct the old Seattle Center Coliseum on Dec. 5, 2018. All that is left of the old building built for the 1962 World’s Fair is the roof. The estimated cost is $930 million and is still on target to be completed in the summer of 2021.

NHL Seattle also broke ground on training facilities and headquarters in the Northgate district of Seattle. The 180,000 square foot complex is expected to be completed in the spring of 2021 at a price tag of $80 million.

NHL Seattle, displays artist's renditions of a planned NHL ice hockey practice facility
Lance Lopes, Project Manager for NHL Seattle, displays artist’s renditions of a planned NHL ice hockey practice facility at Northgate Mall (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Elaine Thompson)

Palm Springs was awarded NHL Seattle’s AHL affiliate on June 26, 2019. The New Arena at Agua Caliente will be a 10,055-seat arena built by the Oak View Group at an estimated cost of $250 million and is expected to be completed by the fall of 2021.

Piling these three huge projects on top of the task of building an expansion NHL team will prove to be quite an undertaking for NHL Seattle.

Escaping the Knights’ Shadow

The Vegas Golden Knights’ early success will cast a shadow over Seattle’s expectations. Seattle enters the NHL under the same expansion process that Vegas did when they began play in the 2017-18 season.

Related: Golden Knights’ Logo Review

Vegas shocked the hockey world in their inaugural season by reaching the Stanley Cup Final where they were defeated by the Washington Capitals in five games. This level of success was unheard of by any professional league expansion team.

The Golden Knights were able to take advantage of the favorable expansion draft rules by making side deals with other NHL clubs and accumulated draft picks with the promise to not draft certain exposed players. The rest of the clubs will be all the wiser in the 2021 Expansion Draft with Seattle.

Seattle must shield themselves from unrealistic expectations caused by Vegas’ success and build a great foundation without expecting to be hoisting the Stanley Cup in their first season. Seattle has a long road ahead that goes well beyond the 2021-22 season. The (enter team name here) need to plan accordingly.