The Kraken aren’t good in the shootout — why it’s not a concern

Feb 16, 2023, 11:33 AM | Updated: 10:22 pm
Kraken shootout Daniel Sprong...
The Kraken's Daniel Sprong reacts after a shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Jan. 21, 2023. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Seattle Kraken are not good in the shootout. This fact was reinforced Tuesday during a 3-2 shootout loss in Winnipeg against the Jets.

Who can step up for the Kraken with Andre Burakovsky out of action?

Seattle’s two shooters, Ryan Donato and Jordan Eberle, didn’t come close to scoring while two of the Jets three shooters did, earning them the win.

Technically a loss, Seattle did come away with a big point on the road for going into overtime against a tough team, a point that improved the Kraken’s spot in the Western Conference playoff standings.

One of the weird things about the shootout is that a team can play a good game yet walk away feeling they were losers that night. Seattle has been in three shootouts this year and lost all three of them.

Is this cause for concern? Is it a problem that needs to be fixed right away?


No more ties

The NHL went to shootouts to decide outcomes of regular season games prior to the 2005-06 season. The league didn’t just jump into it – the ultimate decision came after most minor leagues had experimented with it.

Attempting to eliminate ties, the NHL decided it would go to a shootout if a game is still tied after a five-minute sudden-death overtime period, becoming the norm that we know today. Before that change, teams would get a standings point in a tie; if you lost in overtime, you got nothing.

Not wanting to lose out on a point, teams began playing very defensive and conservatively in overtime, which was rather dull.

An argument could be made that ties were not the horrible outcome many believed them to be. The NFL has an overtime system that allows for ties, and it seems every season there are a couple of games that end even. If the most popular sport in the country – so popular that it sucks the air out of the room during its season – can live with ties, it doesn’t make sense that the NHL had to eliminate them. That’s an argument for another day, however.

Regardless, there are mixed feelings about the shootout.

In the arenas when they are occurring, the fans are either on their feet cheering for the home team or booing when the opponent is shooting. That is a positive.

Detractors will argue that games are being decided by not playing actual hockey and that the shootout is merely a skills competition. For now, the shootout is here to stay, but lately there has been a movement of players who want to see it phased out in favor of a longer overtime period.

As often is the case, the minor leagues have experimented with longer overtime periods and have shown some success. Prior to the 2019-20 season, the ECHL extended its overtime periods from five to seven minutes of 3-on-3 play, and it saw 25 games end between five and seven minutes, resulting in shootouts dropping from 39% of overtime games to 22%.

There is no reason to think extra time wouldn’t result in similar drops in the NHL.

What about the Kraken?

So, why is being a bad shootout team not a concern for the Kraken?

First of all, they don’t happen all that often. Tuesday was just their third all season in 54 games, so it is not a regular occurrence. Tuesday was the first of the year for Winnipeg.

Secondly, there are no shootouts in the playoffs. If Seattle ends up making it’s first postseason appearance this spring, they won’t have to worry about having to navigate it.

The Kraken are 0-3 this year in shootouts, but that means they are three games in which they earned a point. It’s a much better outcome than losing in regulation and getting nothing. Seattle enters Thursday’s game at Climate Pledge Arena against Philadelphia with 66 points, good for third place in the Pacific Division  Without those three points from the Kraken’s shootout losses, and with the race in the Western Conference as tight as it is, the Kraken would be on the edge of falling out of playoff contention if they only had 63 points.

Of course, the pessimists out there would be right to point out that if the Kraken had won those three shootouts, they’d be just ahead of the Vegas Golden Knights (68 points) for first in the Pacific. While that’s true, the struggles on the shootout are still not worth worrying about. Getting points anyway and anyhow should be the Seattle mantra at this point of the season.

Why are the Kraken bad at the shootout?

The shootout is an odd creature at times, and being a goal scorer during regulation doesn’t necessarily mean that a player will be a shootout wiz. It’s not a transferable skill.

Perhaps one of the best examples of this is former Vancouver Canucks star Daniel Sedin. He played 1,306 games, alongside his twin brother Henrik, and scored 393 goals, but he was terrible in shootouts to the point that the Canucks stopped throwing him out there.

The shootout isn’t hockey, it’s just one player versus one goalie. The goalie has the advantage, knowing that you aren’t passing and the shot is not going to be deflected at the last second. All eyes are on you and it’s led to many embarrassing moments for even the best of players.

Seattle’s struggles stem from a lack of shootout experience on the roster and players who have that unique skill set. Coaches choose their three shooters on several factors including shootout track records and excelling in breakaways, and they sometimes will ride the hot hand on a hunch.

Kraken coach Dave Hakstol doesn’t have a ton to choose from.

Jordan Eberle has the most experience with 81 career shootout attempts. He’s had some success, converting on 33% of those attempts. If you’re wondering why he’s been chosen and was the second shooter on Tuesday, that’s your answer.

Ryan Donato has also had some success, including going 2 for 4 last season with Seattle. Overall, he’s 9 for 22 over his NHL career. He was also tapped on Tuesday and is one of the best bets in a shootout on the roster.

We don’t know who the Kraken’s third shooter would have been on Tuesday because Winnipeg wrapped it up beforehand, but it might have been Alex Wennberg. That name would have been a surprise to some but Wennberg is 6 for 22 in his career.

Other options would be Oliver Bjorkstrand, who is 4 for 16, and leading goal scorer Jared McCann, who is 3 for 9 all-time.

Surprisingly, Yanni Gourde has only had two career attempts and missed on both. Rookie Matty Beniers had one attempt last season and missed, but he is in a bit of a slump so it’s hard to imagine him getting the call.

These numbers help show how rare a shootout is and how little experience is at Hakstol’s disposal.

Seattle may very well continue to struggle with the shootout for the rest of this season. It’s not the end of the world, however, and adds to the importance of winning in regulation. If the Kraken do lose again in the shootout, remember that the point they get is important in its own right, and during the playoff push, gaining points is the name of the game.

Get in the playoffs and the shootout is no longer a worry, so sit back and enjoy them when they come.

More from Kraken insider Andy Eide: Scoreboard-watching guide for Kraken fans

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