Kraken on fire: Broadcaster Ed Olczyk breaks down why they’re for real
Sometime in the last two weeks, the Seattle Kraken went from pretty good to something entirely different.
“This team is playing as well as anybody in the entire National Hockey League,” said Ed Olczyk, a longtime NHL fixture who now serves as color commentator for ROOT Sports broadcasts of Kraken games, when he joined Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy on Friday.
The Kraken have put their disappointing expansion season behind them, and in fact they’ve made 2022 as a whole a distant memory. Since the calendar turned to 2023, the Kraken haven’t lost. They just finished off a perfect 7-0 road trip, making history as it’s the only undefeated road trip of that length ever in NHL history, and are currently on a franchise-record eight-game winning streak.
— Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) January 15, 2023
“It’s just amazing,” Olczyk said after the seventh of those eight wins in a row, a 3-0 shutout of the league-leading Bruins that marked their first loss in Boston in regulation all season. “And I do want to emphasize that last year in 82 games this team finished with 60 points. This team now is sitting at the halfway point of the season and is only six points shy of that number. So you look at the turnaround and you look at the progression, this was all a part of the plan for (general manager) Ron Francis and his staff, and I hope everybody in Seattle is taking notice.”
The Kraken have inched even closer to last season’s finishing mark, as their record-setting 8-5 win at Chicago on Saturday gives them 56 points in the 2022-23 campaign. More importantly, it pushed their winning percentage to .667, ahead of Pacific Division-leading Vegas (.659, 58 points). Seattle is sitting pretty as it has played two less games so far than the Golden Knights and four less than the Los Angeles Kings, who they are tied with for second in the division at 56 points.
There are a few questions Olczyk, who also does national broadcasts for TNT, said he’s hearing more than others about the Kraken from those around the league.
“It’s, you know, are they legit? Can they sustain this?” he said.
Based on what he’s seeing, the answer is yes. Here’s a look at what Olczyk had to say to host Stacy Rost and producer Curtis Rogers about some specific things about the team.
• The record-setting road trip
“(When) you go on a seven-game road trip and you look at the teams you’re playing, you’re going to Edmonton, you’re going to Toronto, you’re going Ottawa, Montreal, Buffalo, Boston and ending up in Chicago. And coaches and players, they look at their games and… you want to get 14 out of 14, but the reality is, look, if you can be plus-one on the road trip – meaning a point over .500 – you’d be pretty darn happy. And you see where they are right now (on Friday) and they got a chance to go a clean sweep. So yeah, I think everybody was living and dying with every shift (during the win at Boston) and realizing that this team was on the verge of something really special.”
• The defensive combination
“Adam Larsson, I’ve touted him as an All-Star this year (for) the way that he has played. He’s been paired up with Vince Dunn and they get all the tough matchups for coach Dave Hakstol. He just had another unbelievable game (Thursday) along with 17 other skaters in front of (goaltender) Martin Jones. But I really think (Thursday) night was a combination. Jones has had an incredible start to the season and has given Hak (head coach Dave Hakstol) an opportunity to make decisions in goal, and Jones has stepped up in a big, big way.”
• What makes the Kraken a legit playoff contender
Part I: “I think the one thing that maybe has gone under the radar and we try to talk about it on our ROOT broadcast… is the depth scoring that this team has been able to get. … More times than not, especially come playoff time, the big guys, the guys that are expected to score are going to get their chances and they’re probably going to cancel themselves out… When you have depth and you have guys that can chip in, that ends up being the difference between the teams that make the playoffs and the teams that make a run in the playoffs. And that was something that Ronnie Francis and his staff really tried to add on to.”
Part 2: “In the game of hockey – I’ve always said this as a broadcaster – if you get goaltending, you got a shot. And the goaltending has given them a shot to win each and every night. … (Another) thing I will say, and I’ve told everybody this, is that – and it’s needed in the National Hockey League in 2023 – they can outscore their problems. They can outscore any issues they may have.”
• Not the same team
“The narrative of that, you know, ‘How are the Kraken doing it? This is pretty much the same team as last year’ – that is dead wrong. Everybody remembers the team last year lost Jaden Schwartz and Brandon Tanev (to injury) for the majority of the season. They added Matty Beniers the last 10 games of the regular season. Let’s not underestimate bringing him in then, giving him a taste of it, being able to get him under the umbrella of the Seattle Kraken and in the training part over the summer, and Matty’s on the verge of winning Rookie of the Year, he’s going to his first many All-Star games. But then also the additions of Justin Schultz on the back end, Oliver Bjorkstrand, who I think has played really well here the last 10 games, and also Andre Burakovsky, who’s had a terrific year. … I think they know how they have to play, and when they are checking and they play really well between the two blue lines, they’ve proven with their quickness that they can play with anybody in the league, and it’s awfully fun to watch on a nightly basis.”
• Credit to Hakstol
“The big picture of this team is getting them to understand how high of a ceiling that they have and why his expectations are through the roof, and I’d say to this point I think the guys have have answered the bell in a big, big way.”
Listen to the full conversation with Olczyk in the podcast below.