How close are Seattle Kraken to having the right ingredients in place?
Feb 23, 2022, 12:01 PM | Updated: 12:01 pm
(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
After a lackluster 5-2 loss at home to the New York Islanders Tuesday, the Seattle Kraken find themselves on another losing streak. This time it’s five games in a row with a good Boston Bruins team coming to town on Thursday.
Contending for a playoff spot was the hope coming into this season, but that idea has long been abandoned. Seattle did not play well out of the gates and has continued to lose games for a variety of reasons.
The glimmer of hope here is that the team has cap space, a number of expiring contracts, and prospects on the come. Kraken general manager Ron Francis has an opportunity to drastically improve the roster through free agency or trade this summer.
But what positions should he target? What do contending teams’ rosters look like and how close are the Seattle Kraken to looking like that on paper?
The ingredients for a contending roster have been studied. The Athletic looked at this question recently and found some interesting conclusions.
They looked at recent Stanley Cup winners to see if there were commonalities among the rosters. The study found some similarities which help us examine the Seattle Kraken to see how close they are or aren’t. The winning teams all had depth in their rosters which is obviously important but there were a few high-end roster pieces.
Overall, the most important player is an elite number one elite center who is amongst the best players in the league. Teams also needed another top center to play behind the top guy, providing much-needed depth.
After that, having a top-end offensive defenseman and a top-10 goaltender are important positions to have in place. As The Athletic study says, it’s not just those three players and you need a supporting cast.
It’s important to note that the study doesn’t suggest that a team needs all of these elements but only that they are the most common among winning teams. If you lack an elite defenseman, you still can contend if the other positions are strong enough.
It may be oversimplifying The Athletic study but those three top positions are a good starting point when looking at the Kraken. Are they close to having these ingredients in place?
Every team is looking for a top, elite center which reinforces the results of the study.
Jared McCann is the Kraken’s top center. He’s been playing on their first line, mostly with Jordan Eberle and Marcus Johansson. McCann is having a nice year and leads the team in goals (21) and points (33). But is he considered elite?
McCann is the 108th in the NHL in scoring. It’s hard to call that elite.
This isn’t to suggest that McCann isn’t a good player or can’t play a role in the future success of the Kraken. He is and can.
— Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) October 15, 2021
Out of necessity, he’s playing in the No. 1 center spot this year, which may not be the best placement for him. The Athletic study stresses the importance of having a second top center to play behind the number one guy. If the Kraken find that elite guy, McCann could become an important piece as the second-line center where he’ll get even more favorable matchups on a nightly basis.
Seattle’s top prospect, Matty Beniers, should be in the NHL this coming season and the Kraken are hopeful he could become an elite center, but that’s a lot to ask of a 20-year-old rookie. If the Kraken want an immediate upgrade, they’ll have to find him in free agency.
Mark Giordano once in his career qualified as an elite, offensive-minded defenseman. He won the Norris Trophy in 2019 and it doesn’t get more elite than that. He’s getting older now and does not appear to be in the long-term plans for the Kraken.
With the trade deadline less than a month away, Giordano is the top trade asset the team has and should be moved. If there is no trade, Giordano and his salary won’t be retained moving forward.
That leaves Vince Dunn as the top offensive defenseman on the Seattle roster. Dunn has had a good season with the Kraken and is still young. He’s playing over 20 minutes a game, has scored seven goals and is the quarterback of the team’s second power-play unit.
*spoiler alert* he's not DUNN yet 😏 pic.twitter.com/JwVxwAQMl8
— Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) October 6, 2021
He’s 54th among NHL defensemen in scoring with 20 points so while he may not be elite, he’s good and only 25 years old. He’s not as flashy as elite guys like Cale Makar or Vancouver’s Quinn Hughes, but Dunn has a good sense of jumping into the play, contributing offensively, and already has been a part of a championship team with the St. Louis Blues.
Outside of Dunn, Seattle’s second-round pick in last summer’s NHL Draft, Ryker Evans, is the closest to an elite defenseman in the Kraken system. Evans is elite in the WHL, but how that will translate has yet to be seen.
Top 10 goaltending
It might sound astonishing considering the way the season has played out, but goaltending is the closest position the Seattle Kraken have to a contending ingredient. Teams can contend without elite goaltending, but it must be above average and perform in the playoffs.
Philipp Grubauer has not had a good season for the Kraken for a variety of reasons, some his fault, some not. He’s on pace for the lowest save percentage (.887) of his career and well off his career mark of .915. Grubauer was a top-10 goalie just last year when he was a Vezina Trophy finalist.
With an improved roster around him, it’s within reason to think he can bounce back to that form again.
— Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) February 1, 2022
Chris Driedger has suffered some of the same fate as Grubauer this season and is looking at numbers below his career norms – albeit a shorter sample size than Grubauer. Again, Driedger is likely to improve with an enhanced roster which would give the Kraken the goaltending they need.