With no clear trades, Seattle Kraken improvements must come from within
The Seattle Kraken have earned 12 points in the standings over their last 10 games yet are further out of playoff position than they were at the start of their recent four-game homestand.
They are 11 points out of the last playoff spot in the Western Conference with six teams between them and a wild card position. They have 55 games left on their schedule so there is time to get back into the race, but they’ll need to start banking points.
Seattle’s next three games are against Pacific Division opponents and now would be a good time to start taking points away from teams ahead of them. The Seattle Kraken will be in San Jose Tuesday night to face the Sharks before moving down the coast for a Wednesday matchup with the first-place Anaheim Ducks.
Anyone who has played fantasy sports knows that if your team gets off to a slow start, the obvious action is to fix things by making trades. Unfortunately for the Seattle Kraken, they’re playing real NHL hockey and not fantasy. The fixes they need are going to have come from within the current roster.
There isn’t a can’t miss farmhand to call up nor are there any realistic trade options available to improve the team.
The Kraken are going to have to work, grind, and find a way to make up for the inconsistency that has plagued them over the first 27 games of the season.
Lack of trade assets and partners
It’s easy to say that the Kraken should trade for a scorer or an upgrade in goal. Most teams are looking for those players and this early in the season, most teams believe they have a shot of sneaking in the postseason.
In the West, four teams are within four points of the wild card and aren’t looking to ship players out. Back East, four more clubs are within six points of a wild card.
That means the number of trade partners are limited.
Even if there was a player that the Kraken had their eye on, they don’t have a ton of attractive trade assets to offer up. Defenseman, and captain, Mark Giordano has the most trade value of all the roster players with Seattle.
He’s a veteran, offensive defenseman, who is a leader and is in the last year of his contract. Giordano would be an attractive addition to a contending team’s attack. However, if Seattle moved him now, they’d be weakening their own cause and create a hole on the back end.
If Seattle is out of contention come the NHL’s March 21 deadline then he could be moved, but it will be for future draft picks and not for immediate help.
The only other trade capital the Kraken have is draft picks.
Trading future draft picks at this time of the franchise’s development would be foolish. In terms of prospects, the Kraken have just the seven they drafted this past July. As much as the team likes those guys, reality and history tells us that not all seven will contribute at the NHL level. Seattle will need to draft more and giving away picks now puts future success in jeopardy.
Kraken will have to stay the course
With few trade options available, the Kraken are going to need improvement from the current roster.
In goal, they are still struggling. Philipp Grubauer has been more consistent of late but there are still issues with a lack of key and timely saves. Monday against the Penguins he got pulled after three goals on the game’s first four shots. Against Columbus, he allowed four in the second period.
As always, it’s easy to point to the goalie for every goal, and Saturday against the Blue Jackets we saw all the goaltending issues pop up and cost the Kraken a point in the standings.
The Blue Jackets fourth goal came when an Oliver Bjorstrand shot squeezed through Gubauer’s pads for an easy tap-in by Max Domi. Yes, the play started with a neutral zone turnover, but Grubauer must hold on to that save.
It hasn’t all been Grubauer’s fault, however.
In overtime, former Tri-City American Jake Bean ended the game in the first 55 seconds. It would be easy to again blame the goaltender but it’s hard to understand what the Kraken defenders were doing on this play.
Jakub Voracek carries the puck into the zone and hands it to Bean. Seattle’s Jamie Oleksiak follows Voracek as he moves to the center of the ice, and blocks Alex Wennberg’s chance to cover Bean. Meanwhile, Marcus Johansson slides back into the goal crease and bumps Grubauer before screening his own goalie from seeing Bean’s shot.
It’s those kinds of mistakes that are compounding the issue with the Kraken.
Seattle needs to get back to the tight-checking and organized defense they were playing during their recent 5-1-1 streak that got them momentum.
Chris Driedger returned from the injured reserve list Saturday and with back-to-back games on Tuesday and Wednesday, it figures he’ll get a start in one. Before his injuries, he had consecutive wins on the road in Florida and Buffalo.
If he can return to that form, it will not only give Grubauer a night off but offer some competition for ice time, which can only help.
The Kraken are going to have to grind it out – and will have to do it without Colin Blackwell, Yanni Gourde, and Riley Sheahan who are all in COVID-19 protocol – if they want to gain consistency and get into playoff contention.
They’ve shown they can find a way with players missing and they can do it again. It’s going to take playing to the standard they set on the road and lost track of at times during their homestand.
There is no trade or minor league call up that’s going to walk through the door and save them. They’re going to have to rally as a team and make it happen with the players they’ve got now.