Seattle Kraken set to start NHL inaugural season in October
SEATTLE (AP) – The issue will hang over the Seattle Kraken throughout its inaugural season, although it’s likely unfair.
Can they come close to what Vegas did in its first season in 2017-18?
It seems absurd to think that Seattle is going to find the same combination of talent, skill, luck and a little bit of magic to do the kind of run the Golden Knights did four years ago, making it to the finals of the Stanley Cup in their first year.
“Yes, everyone wants to make it. So that’s obviously everyone’s goal at the start of the season, ”said Seattle defender Mark Giordano. “Obviously, they set the bar high, high. “
Whatever Seattle accomplishes in its first season, the release of the Kraken has sparked real excitement and craze. From the ominous red-eyed tentacle logo to the all-new arena, the Kraken is set to give the NHL a winner off the ice with the groundwork that was laid for Seattle’s game opener on October 12.
Seattle’s first season is extremely unlikely to end with a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, and it shouldn’t be the wait. What the Golden Knights accomplished in the first year may never be matched by an expansion team in any professional sport.
But Seattle has big aspirations and a belief that the Kraken can be a playoff contender in their first season.
“If you look at the makeup of our squad, I mean, I think we’re going to be a hard working blue collar team,” said forward Jordan Eberle. “A lot of guys are going to play well on both sides of the puck, and then we want to play with some speed and play with courage.”
When Seattle brought Chris Driedger on stage in the expansion draft, he believed he was showing off his No.1 goalie.
A week later Colorado star Philipp Grubauer was hired in free agency and suddenly the Kraken went from being a good goalie to being one of the league’s best duos.
Grubauer is number 1, but openly recognizes that it is untenable to play 70% of the games like he did last season with the Avalanche. Even playing so much, Grubauer recorded a 1.95 goals against average and seven shutouts.
Driedger played 23 games for Florida and scored 2.07 goals against last season.
“You can’t have a single guy who plays 80 games and be ready for the playoffs,” Grubauer said.
The biggest unknown is where Seattle’s score will come from. With Yanni Gourde out at the start of the season following shoulder surgery, Seattle’s roster won’t include a forward who scored more than 33 points last season. Alexander Wennberg and Joonas Donskoi both scored 17 goals last season, but Seattle lacks a player who has proven he can carry the goal load.
MAKE A NAME
What made Vegas so successful initially were the players who had breakout seasons after being underrated or underused with their previous teams.
Seattle will need a few of these players to emerge if it is to be competitive, and two candidates could be center Jared McCann and defenseman Vince Dunn.
McCann has never had more than 35 points in a season, but it seems likely he will land on the front row with Jordan Eberle and Jaden Schwartz, at least until Gourde returns. While Gourde likely fits into the front row when in good health, McCann is clearly a top six forward and will see plenty of ice time.
Dunn played a career-high 19 minutes per game last season with St. Louis, but the offensive punch he provided in the Blues’ 2019 Stanley Cup run was fleeting in the regular season.
“Ron Francis and the coaching staff gave me a great opportunity to somehow show that I can be that guy for them and I’m going to take full advantage of it,” McCann said.
WELCOME TO THE WEST
Seattle will receive an immediate introduction to the Pacific Division when they visit Vegas on opening night and face Vancouver in the home opener on October 23. Seattle’s first visit to its closest rival, Vancouver, will take place on December 27.