I do my best to be objective and avoid being swayed too much by the emotional roller coaster that is the NHL season. When I evaluate the question of whether it is time to panic about the Seattle Kraken season to date, the logical part of me says it is not time to panic. Plenty of teams have stumbled out of the blocks, only to finish the season in a playoff spot.
But … My emotional side is freaking out right now.
We knew the first 10 games of the season represented a big challenge for Seattle, and if you would have told me coming in that the Kraken would be 1-4-1 through the first six games, I would have believed you based on the quality of opponents on the schedule. None of that really matters, though, because for as high as I was feeling after Thursday night’s game, it all came crashing down Saturday.
The Kraken looked out of sync against the Rangers, and it just felt like they could not get any sustained pressure or quality chances. Adding more fuel to the angst was the nature of how Andre Burakovsky left the ice after being boarded by Jacob Trouba. Sure enough, the Kraken announced Monday that Burakovsky had undergone a procedure to address the injury and would be out 6-8 weeks. That is a massive blow; the hockey gods seem to be kicking the team when it is already down.
Scoring and the Kraken’s low shooting percentage is the theme of the season so far. In 2022-23, they finished second in the NHL behind only the Edmonton Oilers by shooting 11.8 percent. This season they are currently sitting 30th in the league with a shooting percentage of 6.1 percent. I thought Thursday night’s explosion of seven goals against the Carolina Hurricanes might have been the catalyst for getting out of this scoring funk, but the Kraken scored just one goal on 19 shots to land at 5.3 percent Saturday, which is only slightly better than the sub-3 percent they were averaging in the first four games of the season.
Before I go any farther, let me call out that Saturday night might not be the best proxy for the season. The shot quality was extremely low in that game; according to NaturalStatTrick.com, the Kraken had only one high-danger shot on net the entire game. The previous low was five against Colorado.
There was a lot of chatter entering the season that the Seattle Kraken were due for a regression in scoring this season. That might be true, but this team has shooters, so we should not expect it to stay near the bottom of the league all season. Consider that Matty Beniers, Jordan Eberle, Eeli Tolvanen, and (before his injury) Burakovsky have not scored. All four of them have averaged over 10 percent in shooting their last five seasons. There is too much to go into on this, but I promise to do a deeper dive into the topic later this week.
It is still early. Let’s not panic… yet.
Early improvement in the face-off dot
We identified face-offs as an opportunity for improvement this offseason, and when Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was signed, we thought he should help the team improve in this area. While his own performance is bringing up the team’s statistics, Bellemare seems to be helping other players improve their face-off percentages as well.
Apart from Jordan Eberle, all players have improved their face-off percentages this season to date compared to all last season. Being that Eberle has only taken six draws, I would not worry too much about his 33 percent.
An area I was particularly concerned about coming into the season was the lack of right-shot centermen that could be deployed in the right face-off dot in the defensive zone. This dot is considered the strong side for a right-shot forward and the weak side for a left-shot forward. The Kraken’s four centers are all left shots, which would put the Kraken at a strategic disadvantage when taking face-offs in the right defensive-zone circle. (If you want to read more on this topic, check out this post from over the summer).
The data shows that the Kraken are weaker on the right defensive-zone circle, but even though they are missing the right-shot option (filled last season by Morgan Geekie) to take the right-side face-offs, they are still stronger on that right face-off dot.
It is early in the season, and some of the teams the Kraken have played this season were weaker face-off teams from last season. But even with the limited sample size, this is positive progress in this area.
Other Kraken thoughts
- The Burakovsky injury is significant. I was counting on him to play a majority of the season to improve the Kraken offensively and replace the goals of Daniel Sprong.
- The injury to Burakovsky, this will provide an opportunity Tye Kartye and Kailer YamamotoI I expect both of them to work up and down the lines and get more scoring opportunities with more skilled linemates. In my opinion, Yamamoto can create more offensive opportunities on the fourth line than Kartye, so I would bet Kartye starts most of the games up the lineup with Yamamoto getting occasional extra shifts outside of the fourth line.
- It was fun to see Kartye score his first regular-season goal Thursday against the Hurricanes. It was equally fun was to see how excited he was after he scored.
- I’ve often felt Alexander Wennberg is the most underappreciated Kraken player to ever wear the jersey, but I also put Jaden Schwartz in that same boat. Schwartz has two of the three power-play goals scored by the Kraken this season and is often moved around the lines to get other players going.
- As a team, I believe the Kraken have played better than their record shows so far (although, maybe not so much against the Rangers). They’ve allowed 3.33 goals against per game, but three of the goals against were on an empty net.
- Former 2022-23 Seattle Kraken fourth-liners Morgan Geekie, Daniel Sprong, and Ryan Donato have a total of four goals for their 2023-24 teams. The Kraken’s 2023-24 fourth line of Tye Kartye, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and Kailer Yamamoto have three goals through the first six games.
- It’s way too early to start looking at the standings, but it is calming to see that the third-place Los Angeles Kings have just two more points than the Kraken.
Player performance /Stick taps
Jagger Firkus (Moose Jaw Warriors, WHL) – Firkus has five goals in his last two games, bringing his season goal total to 10 in 10 games. That’s not bad.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (Kraken) – Bellemare has a face-off win percentage of 56.5 percent, and he scored his first goal as a Kraken, netting a short-handed goal against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday.
Vince Dunn (Kraken) – Dunn had a goal and three assists in the three Kraken games last week. I’ve mentioned several times this season that he has looked off, but I figured it was just a matter of time before he would be back to 2022-23 form. He looked back against Carolina.
Chart of the week
The points pace compared to the previous season was something I highlighted a lot last season, so I felt it only fair to share it this season.
Goal of the week
Everyone loves a good Ty-bomb
I spent most of my Sunday doing data gymnastics to fix my location data from the Saturday game, since it was thrown off by the lighting issue that had the teams trading sides halfway through each period. You see, a defensive-zone face-off varies depending on the period (and arena) of the game. When the teams switch sides in the middle of a period, that logic gets screwed up. I realized this when my wife leaned over to me at the game and said, “This is going to screw up your data.”
As always, let me know if you have any questions, feedback, or suggestions on other areas to investigate by leaving a note in the comments section.