3 factors that will decide if Seattle Kraken make playoffs this season

Aug 31, 2022, 10:29 AM | Updated: Sep 11, 2022, 1:58 pm

Seattle Kraken Philipp Grubauer...

Seatle Kraken goalie Philipp Grubauer reacts after giving up a goal to New Jersey on April 16, 2022. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

At the end of last season, Seattle Kraken general manager Ron Francis said his goal was to make the playoffs this coming year. That’s the mentality you want the guy in charge of your hockey club to have.

Three ways the Seattle Kraken have had a big summer that’s flown under radar

Every team, with maybe the exception of this year’s Chicago Blackhawks and Arizona Coyotes, want to make the playoffs. Actually making it is another story altogether.

Francis improved the Kraken this summer, but was it enough to make the Kraken a playoff contender? They hoped they had a playoff team last season but didn’t score enough and struggled to keep it out of their own net. With the free agent moves Francis made, the forward group is improved and the team will score goals. Andre Burkovsky and Oliver Bjorkstrad have been added to the top of the lineup, which will help the offense and the power play.

All that will help the Kraken pick up wins, but will it be enough? And what will determine if Seattle can get into the postseason?

Here is a look at three biggest factors that will determine if the Seattle Kraken make their playoffs debut at the end of the 2022-23 season.

Starts in the division

Seattle wasn’t close to playoff contention during its inaugural campaign. The Kraken finished with a 27-49-6 record for 60 points in the standings, 37 points behind the final playoff spot in the Western Conference – Nashville snuck in with 97 points.

That is a lot of ground to make up, and the improved Kraken will have to leapfrog six teams that were ahead of them in the standings to reach Nashville. Not impossible, and there are some teams who finished ahead of Seattle that the Kraken are now better than, on paper at least.

It all starts in the Pacific Division. The Kraken struggled against their division rivals last year, finishing with a 6-20-0 record against the Pacific.

They’ll have to improve that record and will get an early chance to. Seattle opens the season with three straight division games against the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, and Vegas Golden Knights.

The bad news is that the division will be solid this year. At the top, the Calgary Flames may have taken a step back but remain in contention to repeat as Pacific champs. The Edmonton Oilers will be stout again and the Kings, a playoff team last year, have improved with the acquisition of Kevin Fiala.

Seattle should finish ahead of the rebuilding San Jose Sharks, but the question becomes if Seattle is better than the rest of the pack. The Ducks are a franchise that is loaded with young talent, and if it all gels they will be a formidable club. Same goes for the Vancouver Canucks, who have what appears to be a playoff-type roster but lack a ton of depth, so determining how good they will be is hard to pin down.

It doesn’t feel like the Kraken can get into the top three of the division for the automatic playoff bids, so they’re most likely are looking at one of the two wild card spots.

That brings the rest of the Western Conference into play. Last season, Dallas and Nashville were the wild card teams out of the Central Division. The road is tough there was well, and Seattle was 8-16-0 against the Central last season.

The Shane Wright-Matty Beniers unknowns

Francis added to the Kraken’s wingers up front, and they have a good deal of depth. But at center, they appear to be comfortable starting the season with two rookie teenagers in the mix. Beniers will be 19 when the season starts, and Wright is an 18 year old with just two years of junior hockey under his belt.

While Francis has yet to explicitly say that Wright, Seattle’s 2022 first-round pick, will be with the Kraken this year, all signs point to him playing in the NHL now. If that is indeed how it plays out, the Kraken aren’t afraid to play the two young guys.

“I’m not worried about the youth aspect,” Francis said. “We’ve got some real solid veteran guys around those kids. I think they’re more than capable of handling themselves. I broke in at 18 and it was a long, long time ago. Kids still break in at 18 and we’re just excited that they can do that. That means that they’re pretty good players.”

Seattle Kraken Breakdown: Who will play center? It’s a good question now

The two centers are the future of the team, but it’s nearly impossible to predict how productive they’ll be out of the gates. Beniers impressed in his 10-game stint at the end of the season where he scored nine points for the Kraken. It will get harder on him this year, but he looked strong during development camp earlier in the summer and he could make a run for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in the NHL.

Wright is the bigger question mark as far as early production. Seattle will want to bring him along slowly, playing down the lineup to start. His numbers could be low as he continues to develop towards bigger seasons down the road, but anything he can add as a rookie will help the cause.

Goaltending and defense

The Kraken defensive effort last year was confusing. They were one of the best teams in the NHL at suppressing shots, averaging just over 28 shots against per 60 minutes in 5-on-5 play. That didn’t necessarily translate to fewer goals, however. Seattle averaged 2.81 goals allowed per 60 minutes at 5-on-5, ninth most in the NHL.

That becomes a problem when you only score an average of 2.25 goals under those same circumstances. The Kraken’s added goal scoring this season will help tilt the balance and should result in a few more wins.

While Seattle did a good job of suppressing shots against, the goaltending was subpar for most of the season. Some of the poor goaltending was thanks to bad turnovers which led to quality chances against. We don’t have a goals off turnovers statistic, but if the Kraken want to be in the playoff hunt, they’ll have to improve there.

This brings us to the elephant in the room: Philipp Grubauer has to play better.

It wasn’t all his fault, but the veteran goalie had by far his worst season of his career. He ended with a .889 save percentage, was well below his career .914 mark. If the Kraken are to make the playoffs, he must be better. His previous full-season low was .916. If could equal that, the lowest previous percentage, the team could sneak into the race.

In the end, the Seattle Kraken will be better. And if the scoring and Grubauer both improve, and a few bounces go their way, it’s possible they could stay in the race. That all means Seattle will be a better team, play exciting games, and win more. The hope is it’s all enough to get into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Seattle Kraken Breakdown: A look at top 3 adds in free agency

Seattle Kraken

Seattle Kraken Oliver Bjorkstrand...

Brent Stecker

Why Seattle Kraken could be in position for another big offseason trade

Seattle Kraken GM Ron Francis spoke to Seattle Sports about how the offseason could shape up for him to make a big deal for the second year in a row.

2 days ago

Seattle Kraken...

The Associated Press

Seattle Kraken sign GM Ron Francis to 3-year extension

The Seattle Kraken signed general manager Ron Francis to a three-year contract extension on Wednesday through the 2026-27 season.

3 days ago

Seattle Kraken Yanni Gourde...

Brandon Gustafson

Hakstol shares insight into Kraken players Gourde, Burakovsky and Wright

Seattle Kraken HC Dave Hakstol shared some thoughts on Yanni Gourde's postseason, Andre Burakovsky and prospect Shane Wright.

10 days ago

Seattle Kraken Dave Hakstol...

Brandon Gustafson

HC Dave Hakstol talks Year 2 growth, what’s next for Kraken

Seattle Kraken HC Dave Hakstol joined Bump & Stacy to discuss the team's growth and playoff run in Year 2 and what's next after this season.

11 days ago

Seattle Kraken Shane Wright...

Brandon Gustafson

Morosi: ‘The big question’ with the Kraken focuses on Shane Wright

The biggest question surrounding the Seattle Kraken right now has to do with center prospect Shane Wright, last year's No. 4 pick.

14 days ago

Seattle Kraken trade Auton Matthews...

Brandon Gustafson

Salk: Kraken should look to Maple Leafs for offseason upgrades

When looking at what the Seattle Kraken could do this offseason, Mike Salk thinks they should call the Maple Leafs about four players.

15 days ago

3 factors that will decide if Seattle Kraken make playoffs this season