How close is Seattle Kraken to having the right ingredients in place?
After a lackluster 5-2 loss at home to the New York Islanders on Tuesday, the Seattle Kraken find themselves on another losing streak. This time, it’s five straight games with a good Boston Bruins team that will come to town on Thursday.
‘It suited me really well’: Vince Dunn thrives with Seattle Kraken
Competing for a playoff spot was the hope of this season, but that idea has long been shelved. Seattle didn’t play well on the road and continued to lose games for various reasons.
The silver lining here is that the team has cap space, a number of expiring contracts and future prospects. Kraken general manager Ron Francis has the opportunity to significantly improve the roster through free agency or trade this summer.
But what positions should he aim for? What do the rosters of the contending teams look like and how close does the Seattle Kraken look to that on paper?
The ingredients of a contending list have been studied. The Athletic recently looked into this question and found some interesting findings.
They looked at recent Stanley Cup winners to see if there were any commonalities between the rosters. The study found similarities that help us examine the Seattle Kraken to see how close or not they are. The winning teams all had depth in their rosters, which is obviously important, but there were a few high-end roster items.
Overall, the most important player is an elite center number one among the best players in the league. Teams also needed another top center to play behind the best player, providing much-needed depth.
After that, having a top offensive defender and a top-10 goalie are important positions to have in place. As The Athletic review says, it’s not just these three players and you need a supporting cast.
It is important to note that the study does not suggest that a team needs all of these items, only that they are the most common among winning teams. If you lack an elite defender, you can still struggle if the other positions are strong enough.
This may be an oversimplification of The Athletic study, but these top three positions are a good starting point for the Kraken. How close are they to having these ingredients in place?
Each team is looking for a high-level elite center that reinforces the results of the study.
Jared McCann is the best center in the Kraken. He played on their first line, mainly with Jordan Eberle and Marcus Johansson. McCann is having a great year and leads the team in goals (21) and points (33). But is he considered an elite?
McCann is the 108th NHL scorer. It’s hard to call this elite.
That’s not to say McCann isn’t a good player or can’t play a part in the Kraken’s future success. He is and can.
—Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) October 15, 2021
Out of necessity, he’s playing at No. 1 center this year, which might not be the best placement for him. The Athletic study stresses the importance of having a top second center to play behind number one. If the Kraken find this elite guy, McCann could become an important piece as a second-line center where he gets even more favorable matchups every night.
Seattle’s top prospect Matty Beniers is expected to be in the NHL this season and the Kraken are hoping he could become an elite center, but that’s a lot to ask of a 20-year-old rookie. If the Kraken wants an immediate upgrade, they’ll have to find him in free agency.
Mark Giordano qualified once in his career as an elite, attacking-minded defender. He won the Norris Trophy in 2019 and it doesn’t get more elite than that. He’s getting old now and doesn’t seem to be part of the long term plans for the Kraken.
With the trade deadline less than a month away, Giordano is the team’s main trading asset and is expected to be moved. If there is no trade, Giordano and his salary will not carry over to the future.
That leaves Vince Dunn as Seattle’s best offensive defenseman. Dunn had a good season with the Kraken and is still young. He plays more than 20 minutes per game, has scored seven goals and is the team’s second power-play quarterback.
*spoiler alert* he’s not DUNN yet 😏 pic.twitter.com/JwVxwAQMl8
—Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) October 6, 2021
He’s 54th among NHL defensemen in scoring with 20 points, so while he may not be in the top flight, he’s good and is only 25 years old. He’s not as bright as elite guys like Cale Makar or Vancouver’s Quinn Hughes, but Dunn has a good sense of jumping into the game, contributing offensively and was once part of a championship team with the St. Louis Blues.
Outside of Dunn, Seattle’s second-round pick in last summer’s NHL Draft, Ryker Evans, is the closest thing to an elite defenseman in the Kraken system. Evans is the elite of the WHL, but it remains to be seen how that will translate.
Top 10 Goalkeepers
It might seem surprising given how the season has gone, but goalie is the Seattle Kraken’s closest position to a contending ingredient. Teams can struggle without an elite goalie, but they have to be above average and perform in the playoffs.
Philipp Grubauer hasn’t had a great season for the Kraken for various reasons, some his fault, some not. He’s on course to record a career-low save percentage (.887) and a far cry from his career mark of .915. Grubauer was among the top 10 goaltenders last year when he was a Vezina Trophy finalist.
With an improved roster around him, it’s reasonable to think he can find that form again.
—Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) February 1, 2022
Chris Driedger has suffered the same fate as Grubauer this season and is looking at numbers below his career standards – albeit a smaller sample size than Grubauer. Again, Driedger is likely to improve with an improved roster that would give the Kraken the goalie they need.
When the Seattle Kraken’s top prospects could make their NHL debut