ESPN’s Buccigross: Kraken are a playoff team, but they have one big issue

Jan 27, 2023, 10:50 AM

Seattle Kraken Martin Jones...

Martin Jones of the Seattle Kraken in action against the Nashville Predators at Climate Pledge Arena on November 08, 2022. (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

(Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

The Seattle Kraken enter Friday’s matchup with the Calgary Flames in first place in the Pacific Division and they already have more wins and standings points than they had all of last year.

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Seattle has 35 games to go, and the Kraken are certainly putting together a nice season so far. But are they really a playoff team in Year 2 after such a disappointing inaugural campaign? John Buccigross, who cals NHL games for ESPN, joined Seattle Sports 710 AM’s Bump and Stacy on Thursday to talk all things Kraken.

First off, Buccigross’ thoughts on whether Seattle is a playoff team.

“Absolutely. I mean, we’re past the halfway mark, you’re in first place in the Pacific Division,” he said. “You’ve got games in hand on everybody behind you (in the standings) …  There’s 35 games left, a goal differential of plus-27 – that’s always a good number to look at. So yeah, absolutely. This team, they have cap space, they’re going to add at the deadline, they’ll bring in another player.

While the Kraken may be in just their second season, Buccigross said they have a mostly-veteran roster that’s ready to win now.

“They’re ready to go,” he said.

The veteran roster — along with star rookie center Matty Beniers — has Buccigross bullish on the Kraken overall. But he does have one big concern with Seattle’s roster.

“It just comes down to the goaltending. When you look at their numbers and look at who they have in net, it’s like, man, what happens if they really (struggle) here in the finish and they lose eight out of 10 at some point, and then suddenly they’re a bubble team again?” he said. “So that’s the thing I’m kind of curious (about) … The great mystery is will they have enough (talent on the roster) to offset what’s going on in net?”

The concerns with goaltending are magnified when looking ahead to the playoffs.

“I’m just a little concerned about goaltending, especially come time in the playoffs. You don’t win with good goaltending, you win with great goaltending,” Buccigross said. “Right now, you look at the save percentage of Martin Jones, it’s .895. I mean, it’s under .900, you know? That’s not usually the number of a first-place team. And (Phillip) Grubauer is at .893. Like, I don’t know how they’re doing it, to tell you the truth.”

While Buccigross ultimately thinks the Kraken will stick with Jones and Grubauer as their goalie tandem, he did mention a name Seattle could potentially target at the NHL trade deadline.

“I wonder if they might take a flyer on somebody like (Joonis) Korpisalo in Columbus, who is a free agent to be. He won’t be expensive, not an expensive guy who’s had back-to-back really good games against Calgary and Edmonton, two high-caliber teams,” he said. “… Do you throw a third- or fourth-round pick their way? I think that’s all it’s going to cost to get him probably, and you bring him in just in case, give him a couple starts. Like I said, you don’t win playoff games with a save percentage under .900 because you’re only playing good teams and now you’re playing them over a series where they can learn about you. So that’s my only concern about the Kraken.

“Everything else – veterans, on a good momentum, a couple of young guys, guys playing for big contracts like Vince Dunn and things like that. Everything’s just kind of working this year, and they’re in a good place. The final frontier, the big mystery, is goaltending.”

Listen to the full conversation with Buccigross at this link or in the player below.

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ESPN’s Buccigross: Kraken are a playoff team, but they have one big issue