It is no secret that an area where the Seattle Kraken have an opportunity to improve this season is their power play. That’s not to say it was horrible all last season – Seattle ranked 21st in the league – but isolating just playoff teams, they ranked 14th out of the 16 teams that qualified for the postseason. We recently posted a breakdown on how the team looks to improve the power play by starting off with a different look this season.
To get a better understanding of how the power play performed last season, I spent some time digging into the numbers and wanted to share my findings.
There is a commonly cited theory that the Seattle Kraken power play took a huge hit when Andre Burakovsky went down with a season-ending groin injury in 2022-23. Let’s look at the numbers.
With a 0.9 percent drop in production after the injury, that theory might have merit. The fact of the matter, though, is that power play percentages drop later in the season.
At the time of the injury, Burakovsky led the team in power-play points with 14 and was second among forwards with 126:37 of power-play ice-time. Losing a weapon like Burakovsky was significant, but I do not think the team will improve drastically this season just because Burakovsky is back. The Kraken do need to make other tweaks, as Darren laid out in his article last week.
There were times last season where it felt the power play was spending a disproportionate amount of time on the power play outside of the offensive zone. Some of this sentiment was driven by low face-off percentages with the manpower advantage. A common scenario was that the Kraken would start a power play with an offensive-zone face-off. They would lose the draw and possession, and the opposing team would clear the puck out of the zone, killing 10 to 15 seconds of the Kraken power play.
Although not a perfect proxy for possession, the Kraken were second to last in power-play face-off percentage last season.
The other area where the Kraken appeared to struggle without Burakovsky was offensive-zone entries. I am unaware of publicly available (a.k.a. “free”) data on zone entries, but one thing we can evaluate is the rate of shot attempts on a power play. Again, it’s not perfect for analyzing offensive-zone possession time, but it is a very good proxy, since the more often you have the puck in the offensive zone, the more likely you will have a shot attempt.
To show my work, I counted all the shot attempts (shots, blocked shots, missed shots) on a power play then divided by a team’s total power play to get shot attempts per power-play second. To make the number more relatable, I multiplied the shot attempts per power play second by 120 seconds. That gets us a shot attempt rate per two minutes, the usual length of a power play.
Using the shot attempts rate by power play time, we can see that the Kraken did have an issue with possession on the power play last season. The Kraken ranked 25th and last amongst playoff teams in generating shots per two minutes of power play time. We do not know the root cause of this issue, but it is probably a combination of face-off percentage on the power play, zone entries, and maintaining possession in the offensive zone. This shot attempt rate is something we will keep an eye on in the coming season.
During training camp last week, coach Dave Hakstol called out droughts and a lack of consistency that hurt the power play last season.
I certainly remember the Kraken going through dry spells, but I have always thought that is part of the cyclical nature of a hockey season. This is another area to focus on this season. Are the dry spells shorter and less frequent? Let’s hope so.
Who is getting the PP time?
Finally, I wanted to look at who was getting the power-play ice time and identify any potential changes for the upcoming season. To do that, I wanted to look at how the power-play time changed over the season, particularly before and after the Burakovsky injury.
The table shows that Eeli Tolvanen and Yanni Gourde picked up the extra time when Burakovsky went down in early February. With Burakovsky starting this season healthy, you can anticipate his power-play time to come back, but Tolvanen should remain on the power play with the departure of Daniel Sprong in the offseason. Sprong was on the ice for 40 percent of the Kraken’s power play when he was in the lineup.
Power play outlook
Without any substantial personnel changes to the Seattle Kraken roster this offseason, the changes will need to come from within. Getting Burakovsky back to start the season will certainly help, but the team will need to create different looks and options if it expects improvement in production. The Kraken’s new approach has showed promise in preseason. Will it carry over to the regular season?