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.

Kraken Thoughts

The Kraken head into the bye week and All-Star break with a 29-15-5 record and the most points in the NHL since the turn of the Gregorian calendar year. The Kraken went 2-1-0 this week with first-time-in-franchise-history wins against the Vancouver Canucks and Columbus Blue Jackets, and they are sitting in first place in the Pacific Division. I mentioned it on the Sound Of Hockey podcast last week but I felt the win against the Canucks was important to finally get that rivalry monkey off Seattle’s back. The Kraken are still a miserable 1-5-1 against the Canucks in their first two seasons.

It would have been nice to get the win against Calgary, but getting four out of a possible six points is more than adequate and a nice way to enter the bye week.

Penalty kill

If you just look at the penalty kill stats across the league, the PK does not look good for the Kraken. They have a penalty kill success rate of 72.3 percent which is good— er, bad enough for 31st in the league. However, sometimes you need to unpeel the onion to see what is inside.

For starters, the Kraken give up the 12th fewest short-handed opportunities per game, which is not outstanding, but it is better than average. The logic is even though their penalty kill is performing poorly, if you give fewer opportunities per game, you are not allowing as many power-play goals against.

All that said, the real story is that the penalty kill has been outstanding as of late, having not allowed a power-play goal in the last seven games. The reality is the Kraken’s power penalty kill numbers for the season are low because of a brutal penalty kill mid-November to early December. We cannot just throw those numbers out and say, “Look, the PK is good,” but if you consider its success over time, you can see how Seattle’s PK has had stretches where it is in the top half of the league.

Here is a look at a ten-game moving average for the Kraken in relation to the rest of the league.

I am not saying the Kraken now have one of the best penalty kills in the league, but it is certainly an encouraging trend that we will continue to monitor.

Eeli Tolvanen

The Eeli Tolvanen waiver claim in December could go down as the most brilliant/lucky front office move of the season. Tolvanen had a goal in each of the Kraken’s three games last week. He leads the Kraken with eight goals since he entered the lineup on Jan. 1. To add to the Nashville humiliation, Tolvanen’s eight goals are three more than Cody Glass and Filip Forsberg’s team-leading five goals since Jan. 1.

TV ratings

Last week, Geoff Baker from the Seattle Times wrote an article about lower TV viewership for Kraken games on ROOT Sports this season. The article is fine but as a seasoned data analyst, it is hard not to point out the flaws in some of the conclusions of unnamed sources.

First, remember that a lot of TV ratings have some kind of seasonality associated with them. We all know the Seahawks suck all the sports media coverage in season, so it is a challenge to divert eyeballs when the Seahawks are playing well. Comparing October through January ratings to October through April from the season before is incomplete. Second, winning will impact things like TV ratings and attendance, but there tends to be a lag in the success on the ice to show up in the TV ratings.

In addition to seeing a full-season comparable, I would love to evaluate ratings on the day of the week, time the game starts, opponent, and then evaluate how those change season over season. Some of those variables might not materially impact the ratings, but they are part of the exploration and analysis.

There was a take in the article that a “lack of local personalities might also be dragging on ratings,” and I personally don’t agree with that at all. I have heard from countless people that are in awe over the talent of the Kraken broadcast. We are so lucky to have this crew covering Kraken games, and in watching literally hundreds of games a season across the league, this crew stands up with the best of them. The content in intermission is insightful, and thank goodness they do not do a betting ad during the broadcast disguised as a segment.

I know there are a lot of people who have been arguing for a direct-to-consumer model, but the economics and reach of offering something like that do not make sense right now. Trust me, I wish it did. Regional sports network or RSN (i.e. ROOT Sports) deals are lucrative to sports teams because when they have RSN’s in their offering, it increases their value proposition to the consumer.

For you gamers out there, think of it like Halo’s relationship to the game console. If I really want to play Halo, the only console I can play on is Xbox, so what do I buy? An Xbox. If Halo was available on PlayStation as well, then to me—the avid Halo fan—the Xbox lost some value, so I might consider buying a PlayStation.

I do expect a day where you can subscribe to ROOT and ROOT only through a direct-to-consumer model, but as of now, it might not be economically viable.

In the meantime, I wish ROOT could add a few more over-the-top virtual MVPD providers like Hulu and YoutubeTV. Root Sports is available on Fubo TV, but since Fubo does not have a distribution deal with TNT, it is not a perfect solution for hockey fans.

Other Kraken musings:

  • It was fun to see Alexander Wennberg score a goal in his 600th career NHL game against the team that drafted him. Wennberg has been strong and steady all year and does not get nearly enough credit for the contributions he has made to this team’s success. Stick taps for Wenny.
  • Trade deadline chatter is going to heat up over the next month. There is an argument to be made that the Kraken should stand down from doing anything major. This team has been extremely balanced with goal scoring throughout the lineup, and you never know how changes could impact the chemistry we are seeing.
  • The injury bug has started to bite. Matty Beniers joined Justin Schultz and Jaden Schwartz as the latest Kraken to be out for injury for the Friday and Saturday games. As Darren mentioned in his Walk and Talk after the Columbus game, Dave Hakstol mentioned that none of the injuries seem too serious, which implies that all these guys could be returning sooner rather than later.
  • Cale Fleury has really stepped in nicely since Schultz went down with an injury. The two play different roles in the Kraken defensive core, but Fleury looks comfortable in there, and Hakstol seems to trust him in most game scenarios.
  • Speaking of Hakstol, there have been a few awards projection articles in the national media, and none of them have Hakstol very high on their list for Jack Adams candidates. It seems silly to start arguing who should get the awards at the end of the year, but the fact that he is rarely even mentioned is another testimonial to the fact that a lot of the national media continues to sleep on the Seattle Kraken. I’m fine with that.
  • Daniel Sprong has not scored in five games, which is his longest goal-scoring drought of the season. In a backwards way, this is a nod to how good of a season he is having.
  • The Kraken goalie tandem of Martin Jones and Philipp Grubauer continues to play well. Jones will end January with a 9-2-0 record and a .916 save percentage, while Grubauer will end with a 2-1-1 record and a .940 save percentage. The league average save percentage in January is .907 through Sunday’s games.
  • It does not seem to be that serious, but Shane Wright suffered a lower-body injury last week and missed the three Windsor Spitfires games over the weekend.
  • ICYMI, it was reported that Joonas Donskoi suffered his seventh career concussion in the pre-season, which has kept him out all season. This one seemed to be more severe than prior concussions, shedding more doubt on his return this season.
  • Kraken fifth-round draft pick from the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, Jacob Melanson, has not missed a beat since being traded to the Sherbrooke Phoenix in the QMJHL. He has 11 goals and eight assists over 11 games since the trade. Melanson is signed by Seattle and is likely to be playing for the Coachella Valley Firebirds next season.

Kraken themes for the week ahead

There’s not much going on this week for the Seattle Kraken as they enter their bye week. Expect a lot of Instagram photos of the players on beaches and golf courses. The boys have had one heck of a season so far, so hopefully they get some rest and relaxation to recharge the batteries for a final push.

Despite the injury last week, Matty Beniers appears to be the Kraken representative to participate in the All-Star Game. As much ire as traditional hockey fans have for the All-Star Game, I still enjoy it. It is a chance to see some of the personalities and skills of the stars in the NHL, something that is hard to replicate during the regular season. The Skills Competition takes place on Friday at 4pm Pacific on ESPN. The 3-on-3 All-Star tournament starts Saturday at noon Pacific time on ABC.

Player Performance / Stick Taps

Oliver Bjorkstrand (SEA) – Bjorkstrand had four points in three games for the Kraken including two goals against the Vancouver Canucks. After being relatively snake-bitten most of the year, Bjorkstrand has been due for a pop. We hope he can keep it rolling after the break.

David Goyette (Sudbury-SEA) – The 2022 second-round draft pick has 14 points in 11 games during the month of January. He leads the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL with 61 points this season.

Jackson Boboth (SEA)Make-A-Wish Alaska & Washington teamed up with the Kraken to get this young goalie an opportunity to skate and “sign” with the Kraken. Boboth appeared to be the lucky charm to beat the Canucks on Wednesday night and was named the first star of the game.

Goal of the week

Kraken prospect Jagger Firkus scored the game-winning goal for the Moose Jaw Warriors 40 seconds into overtime on Saturday night.

Chart of the week

Who would have thought that Sprong and Donato would be top-5 in scoring per 60 for the Kraken at the All-Star break?

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.

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