A new team emerging in the Pacific Division in 2021-22 is bound to cause a stir. The San Jose Sharks quickly evoked a rivalry with the previous newcomers, the Vegas Golden Knights, and it is not a far reach to assume they will do it again with the Seattle Kraken. With possible tension due to the fight for the best jersey, cultural similarities with Seattle, a new Pacific team heading into the division and strife over big-name players, it is fair to assume the Kraken could be a contentious team for the Sharks.
Sharks vs Kraken Jerseys
The Sharks are passionate about having the best jerseys in the league. From an early stage, those jerseys defined them and set them apart from other teams in the league. This may seem like a small point of contention, but as mentioned previously, the Sharks had limited fans in their inaugural season. It was due to the fact that everyone wanted their apparel that the Sharks were able to thrive as a franchise. Now, the position of best jersey is up for grabs.
The Kraken colours are listed as ice blue, boundless blue and shadow blue. With a sophisticated design and beautiful blue hues, it will be up to the fans to decide which jersey is the best.
A more simple point of discussion — cultural comparisons. Starting with weather, Seattle is known to have absurd amounts of rain and grey skies, whereas San Jose has hot summers, and cool (but never too cold), sunny winters. It’s impossible to say that Seattle’s rain beats that. As well, Seattle may have Microsoft but San Jose is surrounded by Silicon Valley, a major technology hub.
Next, wine. Seattle is a short drive to the Washington State wines, but they could never compare to Napa Valley wines. Both are equally distant from their city cores, but there is no denying that San Jose also beats Seattle on that one. Lastly, in the 2018-19 season, when the Sharks pulled off their iconic Game 7 comeback to beat the Golden Knights, the SAP Center went crazy, including some of the San Francisco 49ers players. It is only a matter of time before the Seattle Seahawks get in on the excitement.
This would extend their football rivalry to the game of hockey, and would elevate the Kraken versus Sharks contention. Most great hockey rivalries start from the teams, then stretch out into rivalries against cities themselves. If the Kraken and the Sharks begin their rivalry, there is no denying that they will make these cultural similarities (and differences) a focal point.
New Team to the Pacific
Now, back to hockey. The Pacific Division currently houses eight teams, with the Kraken coming in as the ninth. The Sharks already hold a rivalry with the Golden Knights, the second-newest team to the division. The Knights came into the league strong and won the Pacific Division in their first season, making it all the way to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.
In the 2019 playoffs, the Sharks fought to beat Vegas in a riveting Game 7. The Sharks climbed back from a 3-0 deficit during a five-minute penalty that was issued against Vegas center Cody Eakin and went on to win the game 5-4 in overtime. This kept the hatred ignited between the two teams. In their first three seasons, the Knights came out at the top of the division twice, keeping the Sharks — who finished last in the Pacific Division for their 2019-20 season — angry.
Most people assume that the Vancouver Canucks will be the Kraken’s biggest rival, mainly based on geography. However, similarly to the Knights who assumed their main rival would be the Los Angeles Kings, sometimes it is not just about location. There is every possibility that the Sharks will create a rivalry with the newest Pacific team, especially if they come out strong. This would be enough to anger the Sharks and turn their focus to defeating the Kraken.
The most important factor in sparking the Kraken-Sharks rivalry will be their players. If the Kraken draft a player that already has “beef” with the Sharks, it could spiral into a team-based rivalry. As well, the Sharks along with all other NHL teams will be able to protect either seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, or eight skaters and one goalie in the expansion draft. Two of the big-name players, Erik Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic are automatically protected and one can assume that the Sharks will also protect Logan Couture, Tomas Hertle and Timo Meier.
But where does that leave other Sharks? Brent Burns’ fate will depend on the trajectory of the team as they head into the 2021 offseason. If the Sharks have turned things around, keeping him makes the most sense. However, if the Sharks are headed into a rebuild, it is possible that they would make Burns available to the Kraken, in order to create more salary cap space.
In addition, assuming Martin Jones is still on the roster, and falls short of a major bounce-back season, it would seem that he will likely be on the Sharks unprotected list. That being said, the Sharks don’t have another established goalie behind him. If one does not emerge, they may be forced to protect Jones. Losing a big-name player such as Burns or Jones to the Kraken will create bad blood between the teams, especially if that Sharks player becomes a star in Seattle. When it comes to players, only time will tell what the Kraken will do, and how the Sharks will react.
With the introduction of a new team, there are bound to be new rivalries. The Sharks are not opposed to causing a stir with newcomers and the Kraken could be the newest target. Due to the Sharks’ pride over their jerseys, cultural-based similarities with Seattle, the Kraken being a Pacific Division team, and discord over players, it is possible that the Sharks will choose the Kraken to be their next rival.