I am a product of playoff hockey, so when the Seattle Kraken punched their ticket to the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs last week, it meant a bit more to me than just seeing my favorite team compete in the postseason. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are known for throwing gasoline on an existing fire, which is particularly important for a new NHL market. Playoffs become appointment television for hardcore, casual, and new fans alike. It will be a jumping off point into hockey for a quarter of a million sports fans. This playoff appearance will have a huge impact on the Seattle fan base and will expedite the growth of the game in the region.
Speaking of the playoffs, I have always had a soft spot for the first players who came to Seattle before the first season. Specifically, Adam Larsson, Jamie Oleksiak, and Chris Driedger opted out of free agency and chose Seattle by signing contracts during the Expansion Draft negotiation window. Similarly, Alex Wennberg, Jaden Schwartz and Philipp Grubauer signed with Seattle just a week later in 2021 free agency. I would like to think that clinching the franchise first playoff berth was just a little more meaningful to them.
The underrated play of Alex Wennberg
Alexander Wennberg is one of the unsung heroes of the Seattle Kraken this season. I’ve always enjoyed his slick puck handling skills in tight spaces, and it was not until I read this article by Alison Lukan that I really changed the way I watch him. It felt like he never gave up the puck over the last week, despite commonly in high-traffic areas of the ice. It turns out that he did have one giveaway in the Chicago game, but that was his only giveaway the entire month of April. In the article, Alison talked about the takeaway-giveaway differential, so I looked at the numbers across the entire league to see where Wenny and the other boys stood.
The numbers match the eye test. Next time you watch a game, just keep an eye on No. 21 for the Kraken; he has been a treat to watch this season.
Shane Wright headed to Coachella Valley
The Windsor Spitfires were eliminated from the OHL playoffs last week, which marks the end of Shane Wright’s OHL season. As expected, the Kraken assigned Wright to the Coachella Valley Firebirds on Monday. This will be an excellent opportunity for Wright to continue to develop while playing against higher-caliber players in the AHL.
The bigger question comes next season.
Wright will be just 19 years old, and according to the CHL-NHL development agreement, he will need to either play in the NHL or return to the OHL vs playing in the AHL next season. However, the development agreement states that 19-year-olds that play four seasons in their respective league can be assigned to the AHL. Wright would have played four seasons, but the OHL did not have a season in 2020-21.
The Kraken could probably get that requirement reduced to three seasons because the OHL did not offer a season for Wright to play. Another wrinkle is the agreement defines a season as playing 25 games or more. Wright only played 24 in 2022-23. The entire discussion could be moot as Wright likely makes the Kraken out of training camp and could remain with the team all season.
In the meantime, seeing what Shane Wright does in the AHL in their remaining games and into the postseason will be fun.
Other Kraken musings:
- Last Saturday’s 7-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks was the fourth time this season that the Kraken at seven or more players scored goals in one game.
- That Chicago Blackhawks game reminded me of the lowest moment of the Kraken season. It was October 23rd when the Kraken allowed two goals in the final 10 minutes of a game to lose in regulation to the Blackhawks. The Kraken were 2-3-2 after that game and the feeling was this team was on the path to repeat the 2021-22 season.
- Watching the last few games has been the least amount of stress I have felt all season. That will change next week.
- If you were in the building for either of the last two home games, you could already feel the buildup for the playoffs. The energy is palpable, and it will escalate in the playoffs.
- Matty Beniers should absolutely be under Lady Byng award consideration.
- I love watching Matty in this clip
Kraken themes for the week ahead
With two games remaining on the schedule, the goal should be to stay healthy and focused. A couple of scenarios could still determine who the Kraken play in the first round, but the team should keep rolling as long as they play. The common narrative is that no one wants to play the Oilers, but I think that is a defeatist mentality. This team should not be afraid of playing against anyone. The only team they did not beat this season was the Tampa Bay Lightning, so they have literally proven they can beat anyone in the Western Conference, including the Colorado Avalanche, twice.
Player Performance /Stick Taps
Jared McCann (SEA) – Scored his 40th goal of the season last night and has 10 points in his last five games.
Jordan Eberle (SEA) – Four goals and four assists in his last five games.
Kyle Jackson (NBB/SEA) – The Seattle Kraken’s seventh-round selection from the 2022 NHL entry draft had three goals and three assists in the North Bay Batallion’s opening-round series victory over the Mississauga Steelheads in the OHL playoffs.
Goal of the week
Who doesn’t love a big cat breakaway goal?
Chart of the week
The Kraken logged their 100th point in the standings last night with a 4-1 victory over the Coyotes. This is a 40-point increase over last season. This is only the 6th time since the league went to an 82-game schedule that an NHL team has improved by 40 points season-over-season.
Thank you all for reading, and if you have any topics you want me to explore, please leave them in the comments section below.
Thanks for the musings… this and the podcast are my absolute favorite hockey takes each week.
Good read, thx.
Would love a breakdown of what feels like bad faceoff numbers. Additionally, I personally feel like we have a terrible time consistently gaining the zone on power plays while retaining possession. Comparative to other teams, I think we have a much harder time than average and just a sub-par PP strategy overall. I know we’ve seen some goal scoring success as of late but feel like the fundamentals there still aren’t great.
I wholeheartedly agree that playoff hockey is a springboard to growing a fanbase. It can turn casual watchers into fans or more. That’s what happened to my daughter. It was weird turn of events that my first team, the Montreal Canadiens, made a deep playoff run the year before the Kraken emerged for the depths. I watched almost every single game with my daughter, who then asked me to join the learn to skate program at KCI, and continued down her hockey path, soon to potentially join a AA girls team in the Fall. All because of the excitement of playoff hockey.
Side note, don’t be afraid to ask whatever establishment you are in to switch a TV to the game. It’s a great way to get more eyes on the sport. Because for some reason, people still tend to overlook hockey, but it’s getting better. All we need now is more ice.
Should also add that David Goyette is also joining the Firebirds. Although the Kraken signed him from next season, the Firebirds signed him to a PTO this season. Does that extend into the playoffs?
It will be interesting to see how the future centers on the team will line up, with Beniers, Wright, Goyette, and Winterton. Could be 1C-4C right there over the next few years.
You should add David Goyette and his signing a PTO with the Firebirds. It will be interesting if the top four young centers for the Kraken in the future are: Berniers, Wright, Winterton, and Goyette.
I was surprised to see how negatively The Hockey News viewed the Kraken’s performance and ripped on Jared McCann in their predictions. I get that they’re outsiders, but it seemed to imply they don’t deserve to be in the Playoffs:
14. Seattle Kraken +5000 (Implied Odds: 1.96%. Moneypuck.com Cup Odds: 2.4%)
It’ll be interesting to see what the Kraken management say after the season. They’ve had a really high shooting percentage despite not having any elite players, and their goaltending isn’t any good. At crunch time in the playoffs, who are the players they will go with in certain situations? The Kraken were really good because there’s no hierarchy to their lineup, meaning they were balanced and could rely on multiple players during a gruelling season, but if they need a goal, is Jared McCann really their best option?
The Kraken were one of the league’s best teams at 5-on-5, but so were the Flames, who ranked second and missed the playoffs. The Panthers and Devils finished third and fourth, respectively, and there’s a good chance they’ll both exit in the first round. I still see the Kraken as more “lucky to be here” than a dark horse, and the odds certainly reflect that notion as well.