There has been a lot of reflection on the Seattle Kraken’s great season, with plenty of praise and accolades for the massive improvement between the first and second years of the franchise. The team deserves credit for the 40-point improvement, but with Seattle’s playoff push in the rearview mirror, we are at the point where it’s time to look toward next season. With that in mind, we call out four opportunities for the Kraken to improve before next season.
Improve the power play
Overall, the Kraken power play was fine during the regular season. They were ranked 21st across the league but 14th out the 16 teams that made the playoffs. The Kraken power play was challenged when Andre Burakovsky went down with injury on Feb. 7. At the time of his injury, Burakovsky was leading the Kraken in power-play points and was third in power-play ice time.
The need to improve the power play next season might be exasperated by the potential departure of Daniel Sprong. Sprong was second on the Kraken in goals scored with the manpower advantage. Sprong is a restricted free agent (RFA) with arbitration rights, which might mean he has priced himself out of playing with Seattle next season, as early projections have him finding close to $3 million in annual salary, should he hit the free-agent market.
The Kraken might not need a personnel change to see an improvement on the power play, though. It was only 36 days, but when Eeli Tolvanen and Burakovsky were in the lineup together and getting time on the power play, the Kraken were ranked 13th in the league over that stretch. In addition to a healthy Burakovsky, Matty Beniers should see an improvement in his power-play contributions as he continues to evolve his game in the NHL.
It was no secret that the Kraken struggled in the face-off dot this season. They were ranked 31st out of 32 teams in face-off win percentage over the 2022-23 regular season. We do acknowledge that winning face-offs is not strongly correlated to winning hockey games, so we would like to expand this improvement area to include play around face-offs. It is not so much about winning the face-off itself but obtaining possession immediately after the face-off. To understand the difference, here is an example where the Kraken officially won the face-off and one where they lost the face-off.
Measuring possession after face-offs is challenging using publicly tracked and shared data, but one thing that was particularly noticeable was the goals against that came immediately after face-offs in the playoffs.
Better and more consistent goaltending
One bright spot for the Kraken this season was that goaltending improved year over year. Early on, they got good goaltending from Martin Jones, and Philipp Grubauer hit his stride toward the second half of the season, and that carried into the playoffs. Jones will most likely be hitting the free agency market this summer, and the Kraken will welcome back Chris Driedger who suffered a torn ACL last year. Driedger did not play in the NHL this season, but he did play a bit in the AHL as part of his rehabilitation.
As good as Grubauer was in the second half of the season and in the playoffs, we still think there is room for improvement for him to be more consistent throughout the year.
Be better at home
This one seemed to puzzle us all season. The Kraken were particularly worse at home compared to on the road over the 2022-23 season.
We are at a loss for what they can do here, but Climate Pledge Arena—with its raucous atmosphere—should provide a true home-ice advantage.
We understand that some of these areas to improve are stating the obvious and might take more than a season or two to turn around.
Are there areas you think we missed? If so, leave them in the comments section.
There’s likely a stat for most penalized team for too many men on the ice, no? I’d like to understand where the Kraken ranked, and whether that’s another area for improvement? And also, of course, most scored on team within one minute of scoring. Same.
I can get the too many men on the ice one but it will take some time. I looked at the response goals already. When you look at within a minute, Seattle is 25th in number of goals allowed after scoring a goal but when you expand to two minutes they allowed the 11th most response goals. (they were brutal in the playoffs and at the time of their exit, they allowed 11 response goals within two minutes of scoring….league leading.)
I believe that for the regular season the Kraken had 11 TMM penalties, tied with Anaheim and Calgary for third in the league. Arizona and Ottawa tied for first with 15. League average was around 7, and LA was last with 2 (both, amusingly, against the Kraken, including the one in overtime of the 9-8 game that led to Burakovsky’s game winner).
This year the Kraken were 1-1 in the final games of playoff series. Next year I’d like to see them go 4-0.
10/10. No notes.
If Daccord is getting the starts in Coachella in the playoffs is there a chance Seattle buys out Driedger and hands over the back up job?
I completely agree, $3.5m for a backup is too much. Sign JD for 2-3 years as the backup and buy out CD. I think there is a $3m first year savings from the CD buyout.
Along with Donskoi, Soucy, and Jones and maybe Donato walking away as UFAs, that should open funds to deal with the RFAs and some left over to pick up the most glaring missing skillset, whatever that might identified as.
Do you think they could have pushed past Dallas with a healthy Burakovsky in the lineup? Given how close it was in the end, he could have been the difference maker in that series.
I feel they need more “big man toughness”. They carried themselves well by remaining resilient and not taking silly penalties but they seriously lacked a tough guy that opponents were scared of. This was especially clear in the playoffs.
Agree 100% on this. They played tough and gritty but need another physical presence other than Oleksiak to carry the load.
If they can add a couple of power forwards, they would be even harder to play against. They never really had a net front presence all season, and having a power forward would also help the power play.
No brainer! Teams with no one on the squad to police chippy opponents is just setting themselves up for abuse that would not be tolerated with tough player that can deliver the lumber to a cheap shot artist whether it be a clean but devastating body check or a warning that he will clean his clock if he does it again!
I think you’ve nailed it with the top 2 items here, PP and possession following faceoffs. Other areas for improvement are far less pressing and/or influential, and some may actually resolve/reduce if the big pair of concerns see a marked uptick in performance.
Anectodally, I don’t see many players truly comfortable skating with the puck on their stick, Bura really stands out, along with Wenny and Beniers, and to me it seems to provide them with extra options and forces defences to make more (wrong) choices. It buys them time; to make plays, lines to change, passing and shooting lanes to open. I’m all for the success that the forecheck has brought us, but developing a secondary possession game will make us a more threatening team as we become less one-dimensional. I believe it could be key to unlocking the PP too, more controlled entries and more dynamic play once in the zone. I’m not sure if that’s a facet that can be coached at this point or you need to go out and acquire players to improve the skill-level in the team. And it may all just be a moot point, unless others are seeing similar and numbers bear it out (if it’s something that can be measured, possibly look at zone exits/entries by skating?).
Great stuff as always, thank you John! Definitely nailed it on these, and hoping that Burakovsky/Tolvy combo shows out again on the PP.
As one other commenter noted above, I’d really be curious how our controlled zone entry numbers look compared to other teams. Time and time again we just didn’t seem (no numbers, just observations) to be able to get the puck in to the OZ with any type of consistency, and improving that rather than depending on the forecheck so so much to create OZ chances seems like a good step forward (while also benefiting the PP). Thoughts?