NHL: Seattle Kraken must emerge from Golden Knights shadow
July 22, 2021; Seattle, Washington, United States; Seattle Kraken defenseman Mark Giordano (5) walks up the mound to throw the first pitch before a game between the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics at T-Mobile Park. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Upon handing over the puck in its inaugural season, the Seattle Kraken will be caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.
When the Kraken hits the ice on October 12 against the Vegas Golden Knights, it will be more than their first game. This clash in Las Vegas will be against what comes closest to an expansion cousin, and a team whose first season exploits will be – unfairly or not – the standard by which the Kraken will be judged.
Kraken to handle Golden Knights comparison all season
The Kraken had better close the hatches in anticipation of the endless comparisons and expectations that will be nearly impossible to replicate.
After all, the Golden Knights had the best first season for an expansion team in North American sports history.
On their way to reaching the 2018 Stanley Cup Final, which they lost to Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals, the Golden Knights recorded the most wins by an NHL expansion team, claiming the title of Pacific Division and became the first team to reach the playoffs in their inaugural season since the Edmonton Oilers and Hartford Whalers joined the league in 1979-80 from the former World Hockey Association .
Seattle will have a blast climbing these heights.
That said, for a myriad of reasons, it would be just as crazy to expect a march to the Finals as it would to eliminate the Kraken as the second coming of the hapless Capitals when they first joined the league in 1974. -75.
Seattle Kraken has a strong team
While the Seattle roster doesn’t look like a legitimate contender for the crown, the Kraken can’t be written off completely as a non-playoff team. The first reason has to do with the horror of the rest of the Pacific Division.
Vegas appears to be the class of the eight-team division, but after the Golden Knights there is a trio of mediocre and deeply flawed teams based in western Canada (the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and the Vancouver Canucks), then three rebuilding Californian clubs (Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks).
As at least three teams in the division will qualify for the Stanley Cup tournament, the Kraken should not be considered dead in the water. The Flames, Oilers and Canucks will likely end up ahead of Seattle when the regular season is over, but the Kraken team formed by general manager Ron Francis has many of the same attributes that made Vegas an overnight success.
The boldest move was to sign free goaltender Philipp Grubauer from the Colorado Avalanche, which gives Seattle a solid brace at the net with Chris Driedger as a likely replacement.
Who will stand up for the Kraken?
On the surface it would appear that the Kraken lack star power, but that was the belief of the Golden Knights before William Karlsson posted a 43-goal campaign while several others – including forwards Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, Erik Haula and Alex Tuch and defensemen Nate Schmidt and Shea Theodore – have had breakout seasons and veterans David Perron and James Neal have lived up to expectations.
Can Seattle duplicate this feat? It’s not far-fetched. In fact, the Kraken can pack even more offensive punch. Forwards Jordan Eberle, Jaden Schwartz, Yanni Gourde and Marcus Johansson all have several seasons of over 20 goals in their careers, while Joonas Donskoi, Alexander Wennberg, Jared McCann and Calle Jarnkrok are in their early years and are looking forward to it. greater opportunities.
In defense, the Kraken can boast of having even more proven players than Vegas. Mark Giordano will be 38 a few weeks before the season and can’t expect to replicate his 2018-19 Norris Trophy season, but a 45-point campaign isn’t out of the question if he’s there all season .
While none of the defenders under contract for Seattle appear to have the ascension potential Theodore had before joining Vegas, the Kraken roster also includes Adam Larsson, Jamie Oleksiak and Vince Dunn. They are all capable of transforming a game.
Plus, there’s always a chance an unexpected recruit will surprise when given the chance, with potential expansion candidates Morgan Geekie and Alexander True.
As likely as the Kraken will be out of the playoff picture when the Stanley Cup chase kicks off, the team is showing evidence that they are on track to be a factor quickly. Plus, with a solid selection – an area the Golden Knights have struggled to play in – Seattle could be as much of a Cup contender as established teams in their division in their first three seasons.
-By Randy Sportak, Field Media