Seattle Kraken will get impact from Brandon Tanev, Jaden Schwartz returns
It’s been a couple of weeks since Seattle Kraken players cleaned out their lockers prior to heading home for the offseason. Before leaving town, the players met with the media to talk about the season and the future to come for the team, and there was a common theme of optimism.
That optimism is understandable. Players pointed to the way the Kraken finished the season and familiarity with each other as reasons to feel good about next season, as well as upcoming free agency. There will be roster additions, and general manager Ron Francis has spoken a few times about his plan to be aggressive this summer.
While new players will be added, two guys that may be off the radar will be returning. The team fully expects Jaden Schwartz and Brandon Tanev to be back and healthy.
“That’s gonna be huge,” Kraken forward Yanni Gourde said. “Tanev’s energy helps our team a lot, the way he plays the game fast… his energy, his physicality. Jaden is just such a great leader, super smart, and goes in the dirty areas. All those things that you notice, and it’s gonna be great having him back.”
Schwartz and Tanev were expected to be key pieces to the Kraken when they were brought in, Tanev via the NHL Expansion Draft and Schwartz via free agency. They both contributed early on but ended up playing less than half the season due to injury.
Francis says both players are on track to return for training camp in September at 100%. Getting them back next season won’t solve every problem the Kraken had in 2021-22, but their returns will be a big positive.
So, what impact will the pair have on the Kraken roster and ultimate success? And what did Seattle miss from them while they were out?
Jaden Schwartz’s grit
The Kraken signed the 29-year-old Schwartz as a free agent from the St. Louis Blues in July to a five-year contract worth $5.5 million a year. He had spent the previous nine full seasons with the Blues and had been a consistent producer. Five times he surpassed the 20-goal mark, and during the Blues’ 2019 run to the Stanley Cup championship, he scored 12 goals in 26 playoff games.
In Seattle, he suffered a wrist injury during a Dec. 29 game against the Philadelphia Flyers. That kept him out until March when he returned for eight games. He would miss the remainder of the season with an injury he says is not related to the wrist.
All in all, Schwartz played 37 games, scoring eight goals and 15 assists for 23 points. While he was on the ice at 5-on-5, the Kraken had 51.7% of all shot attempts, which makes him a positive puck possession player.
Jaden Schwartz adds ANOTHER 🤯
— ROOT SPORTS™ | NW (@ROOTSPORTS_NW) November 30, 2021
Schwartz’s shooting percentage in those 37 games was 7.9, which is below his career average of 12.1. If he’s able to get back closer to that number, the goal totals will improve.
Beyond goal-scoring, Schwartz provides a great deal of leadership, is one of Seattle’s strongest players working the puck down low behind the net, and is a fierce forechecker – all things that the Kraken rely on to generate offense.
Schwartz was briefly part of the team’s second-half improvement and was hopeful about what he saw.
“We were in a lot of games and there was no quit in guys,” Schwartz said. “The competitive level was very high with guys battling for one another and I thought that was very important, especially at the end when you’re not playing for a playoff spot. Obviously, it’s different getting up for those games, but I thought the guys did a good job of playing for one another and sticking together good.”
With Schwartz back on the ice, the Kraken will have more depth, more of a scoring punch, and more grit down low in the offensive zone.
Tanev’s nickname is one of the aptest in the NHL. “Turbo” busted out of the games for the Kraken this past season and quickly became a fan favorite.
He plays with speed, passion, and outright tenacity, and that usually sits well with hockey fans. His long hair, bug-eyed team photo, and goofy personality also help. Early on, Tanev was the face of the franchise.
On top of his intangibles, he was producing.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 17, 2021
Unfortunately, Tanev was sidelined after 30 games with a lower-body injury that required surgery, and he would not return to the lineup. With nine goals in those 30 games, he was on his way to breaking his career-high of 14 that he scored for the Winnipeg Jets during the 2018-19 season.
“I found my confidence early, and I think the more years and more games you play in this league, the better you become,” Tanev said. “But I think at the end of the day, you know how you prepare and how to train and how you get ready for a season. I put a lot of work in and worked hard in wanting to come in and make an impact right away, and that’s the opportunity I had, and I felt that was able to achieve that. Unfortunately, with the injury, it ended my season, but a little adversity and a little hard work over the year and the summer and you come back and plan to be in the same position if not better next year.”
Tanev was a Swiss army knife for the Kraken. He provided energy, played on the penalty kill, disrupted with the forecheck and chipped in offensively. That was all missed for the final 52 games of the season, and you wonder how better the second-half improvements of the Seattle Kraken would have been with Tanev on the ice.
Neither Tanev nor Schwartz alone will turn the Kraken into a playoff team alone, but having them back will help the Kraken core be stronger this coming season. If the roster’s skill is upgraded as expected, the two will become valuable pieces of the team’s depth and only strengthen their attack.