Comments / New

2023-24 Seattle Kraken Preview: Shock the World Twice

Player Photography provided by @Jennthulhu_Photos on Instagram

After stunning the hockey world with a 40 point improvement on Seattle’s less-than-stellar first season, the Kraken now look to continue their good fortune in a difficult division by doubling down on what made them good in the first place; system play, found money, and impressive speed.

Let’s get into it.

Key Additions/Subtractions

Additions:

Kailer Yamamoto – Forward

The diminutive ex-Oiler didn’t exactly impress his old bosses much, getting traded for effectively nothing and then sent off to free agency. Yamamoto has returned home to Washington State on a one year deal as sort of a reclamation project. Yamamoto was previously quite the goal scorer as a member of the Spokane Chiefs, but became more of a depth player in Edmonton’s system. His analytics were never bad throughout his time there however, and thus there’s hope that he can find a little more of what made him so tantalizing back when he was a 1st round pick in 2017.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – Forward

This is the signing that’s had people scratching their heads a bit, and I kinda get why. Bellemare is the second of the two much older signings Ron Francis made for the Kraken this year, and previously had spent time as a member of the Vegas Golden Knights and the Tampa Bay Lightning; purely as a fourth liner. The French forward’s defensive metrics are exceptional, but unfortunately his ability to do anything on offense has cratered to the point it can counterbalance any gains he makes on the backcheck. The Kraken however really didn’t see a need for Shane Wright to play the limited minutes of a fourth liner, and decided that Bellemare would be a better fit for what their fourth line looks like. One would imagine that the Kraken believe that playing with Brandon Tanev and Yamamoto will re-energize his game.

Brian Dumoulin – Defenseman

Another shorter-term signing, and another reclamation project; the Penguins had a straight-up horrific season in 2022-23; with injuries galore, offense drying up, and Dumoulin was one of the more noteworthy examples; being extremely slow-starting, before finishing up his time there with a deeply underwhelming final tally, and was sent off to free agency. The Kraken scooped him up on a two year deal, and appear to be looking past the context of that start and looking at the bigger picture; where even at 32, he’s still capable of being a quality defender, just in a more limited role. Taking Soucy’s place in the lineup will likely allow that to be possible.

Subtractions:

Carson Soucy – Defenseman

The loss of Carson Soucy from this blueline is… decidedly mixed on the part of the Kraken fanbase. Soucy’s size and willingness to get physical was definitely a positive that earned him fans, but his complete inability to keep his head on straight and take just some of the most poorly-timed penalties in the game kept the entire fanbase at sort of an “arm’s length” sort of relationship. Soucy was a very solid defenseman analytically speaking, so it remains to be seen how the older Dumoulin handles his minutes.

Daniel Sprong – Forward

Sprong is one of the strangest forwards in the NHL. He had a bounce-back season from his time in Anaheim, was not given the option of continuing with the Kraken, and then did…whatever the hell it was he did to that IndyCar driver.

Still, that’s a 46 point player that is no longer on Seattle’s roster, and has either been replaced by a relative (but very promising) newcomer in Tye Kartye, or Kailer Yamamoto.

Strengths/Weaknesses

Strengths:

System Defense

The Kraken are a tough nut to crack. They were one of the best shot suppression teams at 5-on-5 last year at 25.69 shots against and 37.53 unblocked-shot-attempts-per-60 minutes of hockey played; good for 2nd and 3rd in the league in those categories respectively. This often results in the Deep Blue spending long, long shifts slowly breaking down opposing defenses simply because they have the puck forever and ever.

Transition Speed

The Kraken became a much more difficult team to play seemingly overnight by utilizing their strong team skating in order to make breakouts and transition offense a lethal part of their game, attacking the net with a grace and smoothness that almost makes you feel like they’re not moving as fast as they actually are, which becomes their greatest asset in throwing off opposing backchecks; they can, on a dime, absolutely burn defenders when they’re not expecting it.

Depth Strength

The Kraken may not have as high a ceiling as some other teams in their division, but few teams in the NHL have as high a floor as they do, with plenty of deeply underrated puck-possession wizards who have all bought in on keeping the overall “flow” of the game going in the right direction. The Kraken as a result have been one of the better teams at even strength over the past couple of years, which paid dividends in year two.

Weaknesses:

Goaltending

For as good as their defense is, one of the most frustrating elements of the Seattle Kraken is that they are tied at the hip to Phillipp Grubauer and his $5,900,000 AAV contract that expires in 2026-27. Grubauer since his time in Seattle has been extremely mercurial, having yet to post a Save-Percentage above .900 after the end of a season, and often splitting time with the various backups Seattle has had to call on. Even more obnoxious, is that the Kraken’s ability to provide goal support to their netminders often dries up between the two players in their net, and it’s caused a runaway effect where one goalie seems “lucky” for a significant period of time, and the other incapable of getting a win even if it was handed to him by the other team.

Simply put, if you can crack their defense…there’s a very good chance you can also crack their goaltender on the same play.

Deeply Uneven Special Teams

The Kraken’s special teams are weird. Their Penalty Kill last year was 12th overall, and their power play success rate was 21st. For a team this good at 5v5, it’s a little weird that it cannot translate into being one of the better examples of either, and that doesn’t appear to have significantly changed here in 2023-24’s preseason. The Kraken will have to find another gear for this season in order to compete with a tightly packed Pacific Division.

Finish

For all their defensive might and strong puck possession, the Kraken have lacked a true goalscorer’s goalscorer; that role falling largely to Jared McCann and five other players to carry the overwhelming majority of goals. This however didn’t always carry to the rest of the team, and as such their quality shots, or Expected Goals per 60, ended up at 2.65; 21st in the league. Since they didn’t have much need for goalscorers in their offseason acquisitions, Seattle will need both their vets and rookies to help McCann and Beniers pick up the slack once again.

Biggest Questions

Can Depth keep the Kraken afloat?

Last year, the Kraken lacked what you might call “pure” goalscorers, preferring to get their wins from a combined team effort; finishing the year with eight players with over 40 points, and six with 20 goals. That’s impressive on it’s face, and the good news is that most of the players who did that are returning.

The biggest question that faces them is “Can they do that again?”

The Kraken had one of the highest shooting-percentages in the league last year, and most if not all models that are out in the world seem to indicate that those incredible shooting numbers will inevitably crash back to earth, which will leave Seattle in a bit of a sticky situation. They will obviously be looking for Matty Beniers and Jared McCann to be

Can the Kraken overcome their goaltending again?

A dirty secret of Seattle’s impressive sophomore season is that they often had to win their games by hilarious margins because in spite of their defense…it was often their goaltending that either came close to or outright sinking a big winning streak. Grubauer isn’t going anywhere, and while Joey Daccord has been a revelation in Coachella, they may need him to bring that energy from his AHL postseason run and the NHL preseason more than a couple dozen nights this year. They were able to survive with Martin Jones for a not-insignificant period of time thanks to injury and inefficient work on Grubauer’s part, but he was a stopgap to a larger issue in net that the team seems to just be trying to ride out.

If they can answer this question with “Yes”, they’re probably going to the playoffs.

HEY WHATS THE DEAL WITH SHANE WRIGHT

Yes, 2022 first round pick Shane Wright is still not a full-time member of the team, having been sent down to the Coachella Valley Firebirds just this weekend. This is not the worst thing in the world in spite of his extremely unusual first season with the organization; where the Kraken did everything they could to get him the most possible professional level ice time under an extremely stupid NHL/CHL agreement.

He’s more than likely the first man called up if the Kraken go down a center. He’s fine, he’s not a bust yet, it looks like they’re planning on taking the long game with him in order to get him into the top six. That is not a bad thing.

Chill.

Star Players

  • Matty Beniers – Center
  • Jared McCann – Winger
  • Andre Burakovsky – Winger
  • Vince Dunn – Defenseman
  • Adam Larsson – Defenseman

Under-the-Radar Player who could have an impact

Joey Daccord – Goaltender

Daccord has had an extremely strange career up to this point; being one of the three goaltenders Seattle has tried to stem the tide when Grubauer needs to either re-find his mojo or needs a night off, most had assumed he was just going to spend his time in Coachella for the forseeable future…then Chris Driedger got hurt, and he ended up propelling the Firebirds into the Calder Cup Finals, all the way to Game 7, and finished preseason with a nearly perfect SV%; far and away better than Stezka, Driedger, and even Grubauer.

While yes, he’s mostly seen very limited action and not quite against real NHLers yet, there’s plenty of momentum behind this guy to be potentially the goalie of the future for Seattle if his play translates.

Key Rookie/Young Player

Tye Kartye – Winger

Tye Kartye made the team out of camp this year, and it’s not hard to see why. From the moment he turned heads by coming into the NHL playoffs and scoring his first ever NHL goal, he’s been a force of nature rocketing up the proverbial board of important prospects for the Kraken, and preseason was just on fire; being a massive net-positive in possession and shooting, and a scoring threat wherever he was on the ice. Getting him to realize his potential at the NHL level will make a seemingly formidable team just that much more difficult to play against.


For all Seattle Kraken content, visit Davy Jones Locker Room!