I admit that as a Seattle sports fan, it is hard accustoming to fall becoming “hockey season,” but it is. The Kraken have come out swinging in their first week plus, posting a 3-3-2 record in their first eight games, giving them eight points (two per win, one per overtime loss), which lands them surprisingly in a tentative playoff spot. Admittedly, it’s a long season, but they’re playing competitive hockey against an arguably top-five-toughest schedule so far.
Of course, the game scores belie the big issue. The Kraken have allowed fewer than three goals in each of their wins, but they have allowed four or five goals in all five of their losses. When it rains, it pours in Seattle, and the Kraken are often on the receiving end of some serious offensive firepower.
That’s the story to watch, as it’s easy to attribute the criticism to goalie Philipp Grubauer. An amazing goalie in Colorado earlier in his career, he is in his second season with Seattle where he simply hasn’t produced at all. His .860 save percentage ties him at 58th of 65 qualified goalies in the NHL. However, the injury he suffered on Oct. 21 got him off the ice and gave a chance to the 33-year-old Martin Jones who posted an .870 save percentage over six games. While slightly better, this still only places him at number 55 on the leaderboard. The 16 goals Jones allowed rank 7th worst in the league, while the 123 shots against him rank 26th. The goaltending in Seattle is abysmal and will lose games.
With that said, the sun shines upon how the rest of the team operates. The entire offensive approach has proved very balanced over the young season. They are above average in goals and power play goals, scoring on a whopping 29 percent of their power play opportunities. Sixteen of 20 non-goalies on the roster have scored at least one goal. With assists factored in, every non-goalie on the team has at least one point.
Left wing Andre Burakovsky and right wing Oliver Bjorkstrand, both acquired in the offseason, have 11 points combined between them. The underlying numbers on Bjorkstrand’s shot percentage would imply that his contribution could continue to climb. Furthermore, Burakovsky is replicating the impressive performance he put up with the Colorado Avalanche, meaning the lack of star power around him hasn’t stifled his efficiency. They are both fantastic as individual players and gel well as a duo, quickly becoming the forward pair to watch on this team.
The major question mark currently surrounding this team is rookie Shane Wright, who was drafted fourth overall by the Kraken and hasn’t been given substantive time yet this season. In five games, he’s seen the ice for just under seven minutes on average each game. His box score remains largely empty save his singular shot and assist. What makes this particularly curious is how the Kraken didn’t come into this season with any championship expectations, so keeping such a highly touted pick out of consistent playtime implies a variety of interesting reasons.
Could the Kraken want Wright as healthy as he can be for a multi-year stretch? This is occasionally seen in basketball, but it rarely seems to factor into hockey. Could his personality conflict with his surrounding peers? No news has come out to support that. The only real obvious conclusion I can come to is that they don’t trust his ability to produce, which seems absurd. Regardless of the answer, him not seeing the ice on a team that isn’t truly contending is malpractice and should be fixed. With any luck, he will help make the Kraken a fun team to watch to get more Seattle fans into the sport.