Seattle Kraken in Playoffs: Olczyk breaks down historic turnaround

Apr 6, 2023, 10:18 PM | Updated: 10:26 pm

Seattle Kraken Vince Dunn...

Vince Dunn of the Seattle Kraken celebrates his goal with teammates on April 6, 2023. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

When the Seattle Kraken were announced as the 32nd franchise in the NHL, there were hopes that they could follow in the footsteps of the Vegas Golden Knights, the league’s previous expansion team that shocked the hockey world by reaching the Stanley Cup Finals in their first season of existence.

Well, that didn’t happen in Seattle’s inaugural 2021-22 season. Instead, the Kraken have gone a different route to make some history.

Not only have the Kraken clinched their first-ever postseason berth after beating the Arizona Coyotes 4-2 on Thursday night, but they’ve reached the playoffs by executing the biggest second-season turnaround by an expansion team that the NHL has ever seen.

The Kraken went 27-49-6 for just 60 points in the standings during the 2021-22 campaign, and with Thursday’s win they are 44-26-8 for 96 points this season. That 36-point turnaround is 10 points more than the previous record held by both the 1973-74 New York Islanders and 1925-26 Boston Bruins, who both saw 20-point turnarounds in their sophomore campaigns.

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How did the Seattle Kraken make such a big jump in the span of a year? Eddie Olczyck, a longtime presence in the NHL first as a player and now as an analyst, gives a lot of credit to improvements made both by Seattle general manager Ron Francis and the players themselves.

“It’s not the same team,” Olczyck told Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy on Thursday. “Ronnie addressed the skill level, Ronnie addressed the depth. They’ve gotten healthy – which they were not last year – and the emergence on the back end of of Adam Larsson and Vince Dunn being a incredible shutdown pair not only defensively, but when you look at the year that Vince Dunn has had, he’s had a career year. So there’s a lot there.”

Olczyck, who calls Kraken games on ROOT Sports as well national NHL on TNT broadcasts, hopes the team gets its full due for what it has been able to accomplish this season, especially while star Andre Burakovsky, who signed with Seattle last offseason following a Stanley Cup championship run with the Colorado Avalanche, has been out of action due to injury.

“I just think for the franchise, they’ve earned this opportunity, let’s make no mistake about it,” Olczyck said. “People nationally can talk about teams that have struggled and had injuries. Well, this team hasn’t had Andre Burakovsky for the last (few months) and they’ve put themselves in an unbelievable spot to go to the playoffs.”

History-making Seattle Kraken

Olczyck doesn’t get caught up in what the Golden Knights did in their first year when looking at what the Kraken have been able to accomplish.

“I think it was unfair to compare (the Kraken) to what Vegas did a couple of years ago… where their first year in the National Hockey League, they go to the Stanley Cup Finals. I don’t care what sport it is, (and) never is a long time, but I don’t think we’re ever going to see that ever again. So I think the expectations last year were a little bit too high (for the Kraken in 2021-22). Obviously, the team had a bunch of injuries (last season), and Ronnie Francis, the tremendous general manager and Hockey Hall of Famer, and his staff had a plan over the course of the summer and they addressed it. This is a much different team.”

Now comes the fun part: playoff hockey for the first time in Seattle.

“I think it is just an unbelievable opportunity for this franchise and for (head coach) Dave Hakstol and his coaching staff and these players, obviously the tremendous fan base there in Seattle,” Olczyck said. “… Kraken Nation, as my great partner John Forslund (on ROOT Sports broadcasts) likes to say, they are on the brink of seeing something that they’ve never seen before, and that’s playoff hockey. And it is a way different animal than the regular season, and I think everybody’s pretty jacked up for it.”

Listen to the full Bump and Stacy conversation with Olczyck in the podcast below.

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