Why haven’t Seattle Kraken started strong like last NHL expansion team?

Oct 23, 2021, 2:37 PM
Seattle Kraken Vegas...
Nolan Patrick of Vegas and Alex Wennberg of Seattle face off in the Kraken's inaugural NHL game on Oct. 12. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Expectations are usually pretty low for expansion teams in major pro sports, but the Seattle Kraken found themselves in a different position entering their inaugural season.

Why? Because the last NHL expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights, set the bar very high.

Is Seattle a great hockey city? Seattle Kraken fans get chance to prove it

When the Golden Knights joined the league for the 2017-18 season, they won eight of their first nine games. They didn’t stop there, either. They finished the regular season with a 51-24-7 record (109 points) to win the Pacific Division, then shocked the hockey world and reached the Stanley Cup Finals in their very first year of existence.

The Kraken, meanwhile, go into Saturday’s 7 p.m. home opener at Climate Pledge Arena with a 1-3-1 record (three points) after a tough five-game road trip to start the year.

Expecting Seattle to get off to a strong start like Vegas did four years ago is a tough ask, especially considering how different the Kraken’s expansion draft in July was to the Golden Knights’ as general managers around the league seemed to learn their lesson from the many side deals Vegas pulled off in 2017. But there are a few other easy explanations for why the Kraken are struggling to get going early on.

“I think (Kraken coach) Dave Hakstol said this, (captain) Mark Giordano said this, and it’s a simple thing but it’s an important thing – they need to practice,” NHL Network reporter Jon Morosi told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Wyman and Bob on Thursday.

Practice time was certainly hard to come by while Seattle played five road games in three different time zones in the span of eight days, and it only made the fact that the Kraken had minimal ice time together before the season started that much more obvious. But that’s just one reason why the team has had trouble developing chemistry.

“I think ‘Gio’ said it and it was very well said – this team has a lot of players that really want to do the right thing and care a lot, they’re all trying to make a great impression, they’re all trying to get to know their new teammates, (but) there were different interruptions,” Morosi said. “We know even the day of the first game in Vegas, the players who were out for the COVID protocol then they come on a private jet and show up.”

Then there’s the health factor. Seattle has had just one game with star Yanni Gourde, who was recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, while fellow forward Calle Jarnkrok wasn’t activated from the COVID-19 protocol list until Thursday and goaltender Chris Driedger landed on injured reserve earlier this week.

Morosi pointed out how different that is from what the Golden Knights experienced in their first season.

“I don’t think it’s really a fair standard to really hold the Kraken to, but one of the things that happened with that (Vegas) team is they were a very healthy team,” he said. “They had very few massive players out with significant injuries that missed a bunch of time. And already you’ve had a goaltender go out with an injury, Gourde just came back, Jarnkrok is just about to come back. They’ve had a lot of adversity early, and I think that is a much more of a normal hockey season than what the Golden Knights had in their inaugural year.”

Put together all the factors that have held the early portion of this first Seattle Kraken season back, however, and it paints an optimistic picture going forward.

“Getting back Yanni Gourde’s been really important, (forward Nathan) Bastian brings a physical element, (forward Brandon) Tanev has come on and he’s been able to score and he’s moving up the lineup, so there are individual soloists who are doing a great job,” Morosi said, “and now it’s time to put the band together. And for that to happen, you have to have practice. … Hopefully as they get a bit of a homestand going, they can really get those systems in harmony.

“I think that they need to have a bit more harmony day to day with just health and systems and practice time.”

You can hear the full interview with Morosi, who joins Wyman and Bob on 710 ESPN Seattle each Thursday afternoon, in the podcast at this link or in the player below.

More Seattle Kraken coverage from 710Sports.com

Andy Eide: Now healthy, Gourde will give Kraken a shot of lightning
Maura Dooley: What we learned from the Kraken’s first week
Eide: Don’t panic about Seattle’s offense yet
Seattle Kraken have had fights and a beef — are rivalries soon to follow?
Eide: Seattle Kraken have a breakout candidate in Morgan Geekie
Brandon Gustafson: Seattle Kraken look like they will win fans over

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Why haven’t Seattle Kraken started strong like last NHL expansion team?