Last offseason I did a series of articles that analyzed – at a high level – just how much the Kraken would need to improve to be contending for a playoff spot in their second season. At the time, the analysis was met with a bit of cynicism after such an abysmal inaugural season in 2021-22.
At the heart of that analysis was one simple metric, adjusted goal differential. Adjusted goal differential was essentially ‘goals for’ minus ‘goals against,’ excluding empty-net goals on both sides of the equation. The target I landed on for the Kraken to make the playoffs in 2022-23 was an adjusted goal differential of minus four or better because historically, teams that had a minus-four adjusted goal differential have had a roughly 40 percent chance of qualifying for the playoffs.
Based on Seattle’s results in its first season, I would have taken those odds any day of the week.
The Kraken had a brutal minus-59 adjusted goal differential in their inaugural season, good for sixth worst in the league. To get to that minus-four adjusted goal target, they needed to do some combination of scoring or allowing a 55-goal improvement in 2022-23. Fast forwarding, the Kraken blew that minus-four target out of the water by scoring 75 more goals in 2022-23 and allowing 16 fewer goals. Lo and behold, they clinched their first playoff berth with two weeks remaining in the season.
It would be easy to just rinse and repeat for the upcoming season, but even though Seattle’s top three forward lines and top two defensive pairs remained intact, the Kraken saw a significant number of goals leave their roster this offseason. Restricted free agents Daniel Sprong and Morgan Geekie were not tendered qualifying offers and signed with Detroit and Boston respectively. Unrestricted free agents Ryan Donato and Carson Soucy signed with Chicago and Vancouver. That means 47 adjusted goals for walked out the door via free agency.
For you scoring at home, the Kraken had an adjusted goal differential of plus 32 last season. With 47 goals departing from the roster, that would put them at minus-15 for 2023-24, assuming no change at the defensive end of the ice. But they did make a few additions in the offseason that will partially offset their offensive losses. Enter Kailer Yamamoto, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and Brian Dumoulin. Here is a look at their numbers from last season:
It’s not exactly an even swap if we are only looking at goal scoring. If all other metrics stay the same (which they won’t), the players subtracted and added to the roster put the Kraken at exactly zero in adjusted goal differential. According to the chart at the top of the post, that would put them at about a 50-percent chance of making the playoffs.
Astute Kraken fans will quickly point out some of the missing names from this exercise. Shane Wright and Tye Kartye are highly likely to contribute in some capacity this coming season and are not accounted for in the tables. Other fans will point out that a full year of Andrei Burakovsky will certainly add to the goal totals for next season. Those are reasonable points to make, but goal projections will be part of a future post where I go a little deeper and project player-by-player game totals.
A quick note about adjusted goals against
To this point we have only really walked through adjusted goals for, but obviously there is another side of the equation: adjusted goals against. This is much harder of a number to forecast. The additions of Dumoulin and Bellemare could be seen as defensive improvements, but it is a challenge to determine how that would translate to goals against numbers.
Goaltending will also come into play when determining adjusted goals against. Goals against average (GAA) would seemingly be a perfect stat to analyze a team’s adjusted goals against forecast, but as it turns out, it is a horrible stat. The challenge is there are so many variables for goalies, such as quantity and quality of shots, not to mention the team’s overall defensive ability, which would also impact quantity and quality. We will save some goalie analysis for a future post.
Just a starting point
This might not give Kraken fans a lot of optimism headed into season three. Think of this more as round one of analysis when sizing up this upcoming season. We have noted the offseason changes and identified areas to explore in future analysis. Over the coming weeks we will dig into these areas to get you properly prepared for season three. If you have any thoughts or questions about the Seattle Kraken’s playoff chances heading into this season, leave a note in the comments below.