Monday Musings is a collection of random thoughts and observations about the last week of activity from the hockey world with an emphasis on the Kraken and other happenings around the Puget Sound hockey community.
The boys are rolling
The Kraken have won four straight games to start the new year, and they are doing it impressive fashion. They beat the Islanders, Oilers, Leafs, and Senators all by three goals or more. They are getting back to the Kraken style of hockey with more of a defense-first mindset that makes them tough to play against and limits the quality shots by opponents.
We have talked about it numerous times, but Seattle’s strength is its depth of scoring. In November, when the Kraken went 10-1-1, the top goal scorers were Andre Burakovsky, Jared McCann, Jordan Eberle, and Matty Beniers. In December, only McCann would score more than two goals in that group, and the team needed to also rely more on Daniel Sprong and Ryan Donato for their goal scoring (six and five goals respectively in the month of December).
Getting contributions from guys like Sprong and Donato is great and important for the overall success of the Kraken, but relying on depth players to be the offensive leaders created a challenge for the team. That was reflected in the Kraken’s December record of 4-7-1.
It is early, but January is looking more like November than December. We are just four games into the month, but everyone is contributing again. Beniers and McCann have three goals each. Burakovsky scored his first goal in 11 games. Bjorkstrand has two goals in January and appears to be heating up. They made a big deal about it on the TV broadcast, but the Kraken’s 8-4 victory over the Ottawa Senators had eight unique goal scorers for the Kraken.
Shane Wright decision
After winning the IIHF World Junior Championship for Team Canada on Wednesday, the Kraken assigned Shane Wright back to his junior team, the Kingston Frontenacs in the OHL. If you have been listening to the Sound Of Hockey Podcast, we have been speculating that would be the decision made by Ron Francis and company. There are a few reasons why the decision to send Wright back to the OHL was an easy one.
- Winning. The team is winning and is in a great position to make the playoffs. All skaters in the bottom six of the forward group give the Kraken a better chance to win now than an 19-year-old with eight career NHL games.
- Health. One of the strengths of this team this season is how healthy it has been [knock on wood]. Theoretically, if there were more injuries, Wright would be able to slip into the lineup from time to time. He did get that opportunity when McCann was out because of injury in two games in early November. This enabled him to play further up the lineup and log more minutes compared to his early season games on the fourth line, where he averaged less than seven minutes a game.
- He needs to play. Before being loaned to Team Canada for World Juniors, Wright played only 13 pro games, eight with the Kraken and five with the Coachella Valley Firebirds on the AHL conditioning assignment. If he stayed with the Kraken, he would be unlikely to play regular games, and even when he would play, the minutes would be limited. In the OHL, he has the likelihood to play 30 regular-season games and average around 20 minutes per game. Assuming he is traded from Kingston, he is also likely to get a playoff round or two in the OHL playoffs.
As much as the team would love to get Wright into the lineup and help develop his game at NHL speed, it simply does not make sense right now given the position the team is in halfway through the season. Plus, although this wasn’t the deciding factor, there is the added benefit that the first year of his entry-level contract now will not kick in until next season.
Other Kraken musings:
- With the Kraken win at Ottawa Saturday night, they improved their road record to 12-4-2. Meanwhile, their record at Climate Pledge Arena is 10-8-2. That is a mystery to me.
- One area of concern I have is the faceoff percentages of the Kraken. I know faceoffs are not as important as they once were, but Seattle has been bottom five in faceoff win percentage all season. In January, they are averaging under 40 percent in faceoffs. I hope to dig into this a bit more next week.
- The Kraken have had an open roster spot since Gustav Olofsson was returned to Coachella Valley on Dec. 17. That’s another testament to the Kraken’s depth and health this season.
- Kraken fifth-round selection from the 2021 draft, Jacob Melanson, had seven points over three games last week, including a hat trick yesterday against the Shawinigan Cataractes. After two good seasons since his draft year, Melanson is tracking better than a normal fifth-round selection and will likely play next season in Coachella Valley. Melanson was recently traded within the QMJHL from Acadie-Bathurst to Sherbrooke.
- Speaking of Coachella Valley. The Firebirds are in first place in the AHL’s Pacific Division and are 8-1-0-1 in their last 10. What is 8-1-0-1, you ask? That’s eight wins, one regulation loss, zero overtime losses, and one shootout loss, obviously.
- The Firebirds shootout loss came yesterday to the Ontario Reign. In net for the Reign was none other than Cal Petersen. Petersen was assigned to the AHL after he allowed four goals over 16 shots in the LA Kings “thrilling” 9-8 loss to the Kraken on Nov. 29.
Kraken themes for the week ahead
This road trip was expected to be the granddaddy of all road trips for the Kraken this season. If you would have asked me what success would be, given the teams they are playing on this extended swing, I would have said 50 percent of the points available. Of a possible 14 points, they already have six with eight still on the table. The remaining games on this trip are a bit tricky, though.
They have two good opponents sandwiched by two not-so-good opponents. Ironically, the Kraken have lost to the two bad teams in Chicago and Montreal and beat one of the good teams when Buffalo visited Seattle in October. It is reasonable to expect four of the remaining eight points in this stretch, but it sure would be nice to come back home with even more than that. I am really intrigued to see how the Kraken match up with Boston, which has been the best team in the league by a long shot this season.
I also want to specifically see redemption against Montreal and Chicago. The Kraken were the better team in both of those earlier matchups, but for various reasons, conceded the games to inferior opponents.
Player performance / Stick taps
- Vince Dunn (SEA) – seven points in four games this calendar year including two goals. Prior to his goal against the Maple Leafs on Thursday, Dunn had not scored since Nov. 27.
- Jack Hughes (NJD) – the 2019 first overall draft pick for the New Jersey Devils has scored at least a goal in each of his last five games and has six goals in four games in 2023.
- Martin Jones (SEA) – Jones has started all four games for the Kraken this year and has a 4-0 record to show for it. The team in front of him is playing well and limiting the number of quality opportunities for opposing teams, but he has made some saves at key moments in just about every game. Jones is the only goalie in the league to have four wins in 2023 and will start again against the Canadiens Monday.
Goal of the week
This week’s goal of the week comes from Chicago Blackhawks rookie Lukas Reichel and his first National Hockey League goal. Gotta love his pass to Seth Jones there as well.
Chart of the week
This is a recycled chart, but every once in a while I like to refresh the data to see if the narrative has changed. It hasn’t. The Kraken continue to be one of the most improved teams in the goal-scoring category across the league.
Thanks again for all your engagement and questions on these posts. If you have anything you want me to look into, feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments.
Happy New Year!
On Shane Wright…
In addition to the 13 pro games, he’s played 5 NHL preseason games averaging 15+TOI and 7 WJC games for a total of 25 games. He’s had double-digit TOI in 19 of those games. No.3 pick Logan Cooley has played 26 games… one more.