It is Seattle Kraken OPENING NIGHT, folks! The boys are set to take on the Ducks in Anaheim on Wednesday and the Kings in Los Angeles on Thursday, before playing their first home game of the season at Climate Pledge Arena on Saturday. So, there’s no time like the present to get the hot take machine cooking again.
Last week, our own Curtis Isacke and Darren Brown put their heads together to make some predictions about individual player performances for the Kraken this season. Now, they’re expanding to more of a team-level and league-wide look at how they think things will pan out in the NHL.
How will the Kraken fare in the Pacific Division? Who will win the Stanley Cup? The guys do their best to answer those questions and more.
How many points will the Kraken rack up in the standings this season? Will they make the playoffs?
Darren Brown – I’m going to predict 90 points. That will not be enough to make the playoffs in what looks to be a pretty good Pacific Division, but they will be in the conversation all season long (I hope).
Frankly, 90 might be optimistic, but this is absolutely a better team than last season, and on top of the improvements to the roster, I think Philipp Grubauer is going to get back to the form he was in before being signed by the Kraken as a free agent last summer.
Of course, I would love to say the Kraken will make the playoffs, and the players have all stated publicly that playoffs is the goal, but I don’t know how realistic that is.
Curtis Isacke – I don’t think the Kraken will be able to climb quite that high. I’ll come in just south of your points prediction, Darren, and say the Kraken record 84 this year. To be clear, this would still be a remarkable 24-point/12-win improvement over last season. The difficulty I have in going higher is uncertainty on defense and in net. Last year we thought the blue line and goaltending were strong on paper and would be the engine of the team on the ice. But, as it played out, those groups vastly underperformed.
I am reasonably confident in projecting a significant improvement in the forward group. From Andre Burakovsky to Oliver Bjorkstrand to a full season of Beniers, the forward group is now skilled and deep. But the question remains: What are we getting on the back end? Is it the intimidating, defense-first unit we projected at this time last year or the group that showed a proclivity to lose structure and discipline at key moments? Time will tell.
Who will win the Pacific Division?
CI – I think Edmonton will rise to the top of the Pacific Division this year. Calgary navigated the loss of Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau admirably. But I expect it will take a little bit of time for the new core to find its footing, and I don’t think the team has the necessary depth to win at a high level if its elite players aren’t quite coalesced and producing. Edmonton, on the other hand, can roll out of bed and score goals with their all-world forwards. By the end of the year, I expect these teams to be very close and competitive. I’d sign up for another Battle of Alberta.
DB – Sadly, I have to agree with you. The Oilers’ couldn’t get a save last year, and they seem to have addressed that by bringing in Jack Campbell. I’m also curious to see how Vegas and Los Angeles will be this year. They played a very fun opener on Tuesday that ended with the Golden Knights skating off victorious, but the Kings–who surprisingly made the playoffs last season–look like they could be the real deal (at least on paper). Plus, Vegas had never-ending injury issues last season, so with better health, that team should be a divisional contender.
Who will win the Presidents’ Trophy?
DB – When it comes to questions about who will be the top team in the NHL this season, it’s really hard to bet against the defending champion Colorado Avalanche. They were so dynamic last season, and although they lost Nazem Kadri and Burakovsky, their true core players are still there.
To me, the only thing that was potentially standing between the Avs and the Cup last season was their goaltending. I’ve never been sold on Darcy Kuemper as an elite netminder, and—despite his mediocre stats in the postseason—they still won hockey’s greatest prize with him as their backstop.
They enter this season with Alexandar Georgiev as their starter. After playing second fiddle to Igor Shesterkin in New York, it’s really hard to say if Georgiev is an upgrade or a downgrade in the crease.
If he’s good, Colorado will win all the games. If he’s bad, Colorado will still win the vast majority of the games. I’m going to guess he’s good, and the Avs will skate away with the Presidents’ Trophy (but will not repeat as Cup winners).
CI – Hard to find fault in the Colorado choice, Darren. But if there is a weakness on the team, it might be their bottom-six forward group, which I’d call: Average? Maybe below average?
I’ll take the Maple Leafs here. They have found ways to fit talented players (*cough* Mark Giordano) around the large superstar contracts at the center of the team and will send out a skater group that lacks any significant weaknesses. The argument against Toronto focuses on two things; the goaltenders and the tough Atlantic Division. I don’t have particularly high confidence in either Matt Murray or Ilya Samsonov in isolation, but taken together I could see one or the other step up and record a serviceable regular season. The postseason is another question, of course.
Who will win the Stanley Cup?
CI – I’ll go with the Colorado Avalanche over the New York Rangers for a repeat Stanley Cup Champion. Chickpea pasta for everyone in Denver.
I was tempted to put one or both of Edmonton and/or Toronto in the Stanley Cup Final, but I think a Canadian team is going to need to prove it is possible first before I can actually pick one to win. Edmonton versus Toronto would be fun, though.
DB – It’s opening night, and I’m feeling frisky, so I’m going full Minnutiae here and picking my beloved (though slightly less beloved since the arrival of the Kraken) Wild. Sure, they historically have almost always bowed out in the first round, but the culture on that team has changed dramatically since Bill Guerin arrived. On paper, they got worse by trading away Kevin Fiala and Cam Talbot, but I have a hunch they will be just as good or better than they were last year.
Are we allowed to feel optimistic about Seattle’s chances this season?
DB – Absolutely. As I mentioned above, my expectation is that the Kraken will narrowly miss the playoffs, which will be disappointing in the end, but it’s all part of the process. Plus, experiencing the “must win” feeling in March, when the Kraken are battling for their lives, will be a big thrill.
As for the process I just mentioned, I think Beniers will establish himself as a star player this season, and Shane Wright will get the development experience he needs to be a difference maker next season or maybe the season after.
Here’s hoping Seattle surprises me, wins a few games it shouldn’t, and sneaks into the dance at the end of the year.
CI – Yes, fans should be optimistic. Seattle will blindside more than a few national commentators and fan bases this year with their skill up front. Gone are the days where Seattle has to grind out every offensive zone possession in the corners. The Kraken have the talent to control play, and it’s going to make for a much more exciting product. Even on tough nights, fans will find reason for excitement in the emergence of Beniers and the development of Wright. These are exciting times for Seattle fans, and it is alright to feel that way, playoffs or not.
Fans should always feel optimistic! I lean a bit more toward Curtis’s point prediction, and for the sake reason. Significant improvement, but improvement limited by an D that proved mistake prone last season. I am looking for the Kraken to be more competitive in games, and that’s enough improvement for me.