This is the first story we’ve published on soundofhockey.com since the passing of our dear friend, Andy Eide, on Friday. There will be Kraken talk in this article—that’s what Andy would have wanted to see if he had clicked on it—but it feels important that we first touch on what Andy meant to us and to the Pacific Northwest hockey community.
The outpouring of love and support you’ve all shown for our pal has been heartwarming and unforgettable, and it is a testament to just how many lives Andy touched throughout his journey. He embodied hockey in the region and dedicated his life to a sport he loved more than anything. He helped it grow along the way simply by letting his passion and kindness shine through in his work and his relationships.
John Barr, Andy, and I have been doing the Sound Of Hockey Podcast together since 2018. In our latest episode, John and I did our best to verbalize how big of a loss this is, both for us as his friends and for the community, so we invite you to give that a listen. But I also wanted to share a memory that we didn’t mention on the episode.
At the 2019 NHL Entry Draft in Vancouver, I got to witness firsthand how much covering hockey meant to Andy. While John and I were there on “NHLtoSeattle” business, just hoping to get closer to the league in some way, Andy was there with a specific mission; to get the inside scoop on the Seattle Thunderbirds players that got selected by NHL teams.
From the AirBNB the three of us were sharing, Andy chatted on the phone with Henrik Rybinski, Matthew Wedman, and Roddy Ross, asking them about their big day for the story he was writing. He would ask a question, then feverishly scribble down their responses in his notebook. All the while, Andy was beaming with pride talking to the players, and we could hear in his voice that he had developed a real connection with these young men over the prior couple of seasons. He was overjoyed to see them achieve their dreams, and when you read the story he wrote that day, his deep understanding of their skillsets as players shines through.
That was the approach Andy always took to his writing, his podcasting, and his TV and radio broadcasting. He cared deeply about his craft and the players he was covering—no matter the level or league—and even when nobody else in the market was consistently talking about hockey, he found a way to do that.
Andy was a kind, gentle soul who always greeted you with a smile and a story about a Thunderbirds player of yore or something funny he overheard in a press scrum at Climate Pledge Arena.
We’re so thankful for the time we got to spend with Andy and the knowledge he shared with us. We will miss our friend.
Andy loved calling Kraken practice “Kraktice,” so we too will be calling it that moving forward, as a subtle tribute to our buddy.
Here is our Kraktice Report for Sunday.
Working on details
The atmosphere at Sunday’s Kraken practice—Kraktice, if you will—at Kraken Community Iceplex was quite different from that of Saturday’s on-ice session. That first skate of the weekend was jam packed with fans looking to catch a glimpse of their favorite players before the team jets off to Denver on Monday to start its first playoff adventure. On Sunday, the doors were closed to the public, and only a select few members of the local media were in attendance.
It made for a quieter, more focused approach to the practice, in which coach Dave Hakstol put his players through drills that seemed to center on activating defensemen off the rush and creating quick transitions.
“You can only do so much,” Hakstol said. “The biggest thing is to make sure we have pace. And then we’ve tried to pick a couple of different elements each day just to touch on.”
The team also walked through power play and penalty kill situations, but did so without Daniel Sprong, who missed both of the weekend’s practices. Hakstol said Sprong was day to day after Saturday’s skate.
Next up, the Kraken will have a morning skate at Ball Arena in Denver on Tuesday before taking on the Colorado Avalanche for Game 1 that evening.
“I think we’ve had a good couple days of practice here,” Jamie Oleksiak said. “I think everyone’s excited to get going and I think you feel energy around here.”
Drawing off past experience
While the Kraken have not made the playoffs before this season, it’s no secret there are plenty of players with deep postseason experience in the dressing room. Vince Dunn and Jaden Schwartz each won a Stanley Cup with St. Louis, Yanni Gourde won it twice with Tampa Bay, and Philipp Grubauer and Martin Jones have both been on Cup-winning teams as backup goalies.
Meanwhile, several other players have had extended playoff runs and have come close to winning hockey’s biggest prize.
Jordan Eberle went to the Eastern Conference Final with the Islanders in the bubble in 2020 and again in 2021, losing both times to Gourde’s Lightning. He said that team’s strength was its defensive structure and ability to frustrate opposing teams into making mistakes.
Eberle sees some similarities between the Kraken and his old team in New York, though their strengths are slightly different.
“The structure that we have and the way that we play [are similar],” Eberle said. “I wouldn’t say we’re as defensively minded, but I think we’re also a lot better probably offensively.”
During the 2020 bubble, Oleksiak was a key cog in the Dallas Stars defensive machine, helping them to a surprise appearance in the Stanley Cup Final. They too were defeated by Gourde and the Lightning.
That experience gave Oleksiak a good understand of the mindset Seattle needs as it enters the postseason.
“You have to accept the fact that you’re not gonna go 16-0,” Oleksiak said. “I mean, there’s going to be some ups and downs, there’s going to be times when somebody makes a mistake or you’re down a goal, and it’s really a matter of not losing that mentality and not losing that next-shift-up [approach] and having a really short memory.”
As a member of the Blue Jackets, Oliver Bjorkstrand never got “deep” into the playoffs, per se, but he was a part of the Columbus group that upset Tampa Bay with a four-game sweep in 2019. He said the biggest key to success for that team was the way it came together and didn’t waiver in its approach, even when it got behind.
“I think in Game 1, we got behind a few goals,” Bjorkstrand said. “And in the locker room, we stuck with it, kept going, and we got a goal. And we kind of fed off of it and never gave up.”
That led to four straight wins and an indelible series victory.
As Seattle heads off to face the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Kraken players know it is an uphill battle. Yet, Bjorkstrand and others in the room have proven on previous teams that even underdogs can win in the playoffs.
“We went in as underdogs,” Bjorkstrand said of that Tampa Bay series. “We knew that, but we didn’t really care. We just went out there and gave it our all, and that’s kind of what gave us success when I was there.”
A potential boost for Seattle hockey
Playoff hockey is unlike anything else in sports. Each series has a unique character and a level of intensity that starts with the drop of the puck in Game 1 and doesn’t subside until one team wins its fourth game and moves on. It’s the kind of thing that can really help the sport grow in popularity in a new market, especially if the team can have some success. Once fans start believing in their squad and hating the opposition, they will be hooked for life.
“You look at Seattle and the sports fans and how they support the Seahawks and Sounders and everything, I think they’re really invested in their teams,” Oleksiak said. “And we hope that we get the same atmosphere here. I think they’ve been great for us all year, and I think they definitely deserve a good playoff experience.”
Bjorkstrand recalls the fervor surrounding Columbus after the Blue Jackets took down the mighty Lightning in 2019.
“That was huge,” he said. “I mean, we never won one playoff series in Columbus, so I could feel the excitement, and it was the most fun I’ve had in the NHL, winning that series. I wish [our playoff run] could have gone longer. We gave it a good push in the next round, but I felt it in the city. So it was definitely a special moment.”
Will there be a “special moment” or two over these next few weeks? If so, the Kraken fanbase could grow astronomically.
Can the Kraken beat the Avalanche?
We know the odds are stacked high against Seattle in this series against the Avs. That said, there is a path to victory for this team in the opening round. This is an interesting matchup on paper, because Colorado boasts some elite, high-end players at the top of their lineup, both at forward and defense. Seattle, on the other hand, rolls four dangerous lines that come at you in waves and can produce goals from anywhere.
So how can Seattle win?
“We have to try and get to our four-line-rolling mentality and winning those matchups,” Eberle said. “I think obviously you want to try and shut down their big key players. They have a couple 100-point guys there that are pretty dangerous, so we have to try and limit the chances that they create and then create offense out of that.”
Added Oleksiak, “We’re obviously a team that has some good depth, and we play well when we play structured and we don’t give up too many chances. And I think we just have to focus on that, and I think the results will come.”
It will be a tough series against a great team. Can Seattle do the damn thing?