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Seattle Kraken Season 21/22

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Five questions facing Seattle Kraken

Grubauer's impact, center production with Gourde out among unknowns

by Nicholas J. Cotsonikast 



1. How good will they be?

The Vegas Golden Knights set the bar high in 2017-18, when they won the Pacific Division, finished fifth in the NHL, and made the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season.

Comparisons are inevitable. In some ways, that's good. The Golden Knights serve as inspiration. After the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft on July 21, defenseman Jamie Oleksiak said, "You look at the success Vegas had, right? I think we can kind of follow the same mold."

But this is a different situation, a different team. The Kraken must set their own course.

"I think there's an opportunity for success, and I think it's important for us to achieve success as we're growing as a team," coach Dave Hakstol said. "That's not easy. It's not going to be an easy task. That's not a comparison to anybody that's done it before us. That's just what our standard is going to be."


2. How does Dave Hakstol turn this roster into a team?

When the players take the ice for the first time in training camp Sept. 23, they will not have played together before. They won't know the system. Roles will not be defined.

Hakstol must bring them together as a team before the regular-season opener at Vegas on Oct. 12, teaching the system and figuring out combinations. Along the way, the leadership group must emerge and the players must bond.

One reason the Kraken hired Hakstol is that he had a strong plan leading up to camp. He planned to reach out to players and build relationships as quickly as possible ahead of time.

"We have to grow and become comfortable with the details of the system all together," Hakstol said. "That's from the ground up. Everybody's starting from the same spot on Day One."


3. Can Philipp Grubauer be another Marc-Andre Fleury?

Not only was Fleury the face of the franchise for Vegas after the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft, he put up what was at the time the best goals-against average (2.24) and save percentage (.927) of his NHL career in their inaugural season, a big reason why the Golden Knights accomplished so much.

Grubauer was Seattle's prize in free agency, signing a six-year contract July 28. He went 30-9-1 with a 1.95 GAA, a .922 save percentage and seven shutouts in 40 games (39 starts) for the Colorado Avalanche last season and was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, which is awarded to the best goalie as voted by NHL general managers.

"I think it's incredible to be part of something new and make history in terms of playing the first-ever game and being part of that group and doing the same thing Vegas did," Grubauer said. "That's the goal."


4. What will the defense pairs be?

The top four defensemen seem to be Vince Dunn, Mark Giordano, Adam Larsson and Oleksiak. Does Hakstol pair Dunn with Larsson and Giordano with Oleksiak? Does he put Dunn with Oleksiak and Giordano with Larsson?

Then it gets interesting with Will Borgen, Dennis Cholowski, Haydn Fleury, Jeremy Lauzon and Carson Soucy on the roster. Do Fleury and Soucy become the third pair? Who is the seventh defenseman? Do the Kraken keep eight defensemen? Do they use their surplus to make a trade?


5. Do they have enough firepower up front, especially at center?

The Kraken selected center Yanni Gourde from the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning in the expansion draft, but he is expected to miss the first two months of the season after having shoulder surgery.

Seattle's other options at center include Nathan Bastian, Morgan Geekie, Calle Jarnkrok, Marcus Johansson and Alex Wennberg.

No one on the roster scored more than 17 goals last season, though eight forwards hit double digits: Gourde (17), Wennberg (17), Joonas Donskoi (17), Jordan Eberle (16), Jared McCann (14), Jarnkrok (13), Mason Appleton (12) and Colin Blackwell (12).

Jaden Schwartz scored eight goals for the St. Louis Blues last season but has scored at least 19 goals in a season five times.

Edited by Brewin Flames
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  • Brewin Flames changed the title to Seattle Kraken Season 21/22
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Seattle Kraken open with 5-3 preseason win over Vancouver Canucks



SPOKANE, Wash. -- The concourses of the Spokane Arena were jammed. The merchandise lines snaked through the crowds, causing bottlenecks as fans filed in for their first glimpse of the Seattle Kraken.


There seems to be little doubt about the popularity and reach of the NHL's newest franchise, even when playing 300 miles away from home.


"It was unbelievable to be honest. I mean, I'm from the East Coast so I've never been out here. It just goes to show how exciting hockey is, how much it's growing," Seattle's Ryan Donato said. "Coming in here and seeing all the Kraken jerseys and how everything's growing so fast, it's truly awesome to be a part of."


Seattle made its debut on Sunday night with a 5-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks in the preseason opener for both teams.


With Seattle's home arena putting the finishing touches on its construction, the Kraken have taken their first preseason on the road to three junior hockey venues in the state.


Spokane was first up, and the 10,208 fans were treated to the Kraken rallying from a 2-0 deficit thanks to three goals in the second period and Morgan Geekie's two goals in the third period.


Riley Sheahan scored the first preseason goal in Kraken history at 2:32 of the second period off an assist from Nathan Bastian. Jared McCann and Donato added power-play goals in the second period for Seattle.


It wasn't quite like the preseason debut Vegas had in 2017, when it scored nine goals against Vancouver. But the "home" fans went home happy.



"It's great to be back in a full building," Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said. "We've all missed that for a long time. To be able to do it here was great."


There was necessity related to Seattle's decision to trek across the state for its first game. The home arena for the Kraken -- Climate Pledge Arena -- is still a couple of weeks from completion and Seattle's first home game is Oct. 23 against the Canucks.


But there was also a specific outreach behind the decision to play in Spokane rather than keeping all the Kraken's preseason games in the Puget Sound region. The Kraken envision themselves a brand for the entire Pacific Northwest and their regional broadcasts will have games being shown throughout Washington, but also into slivers of Northern Idaho and Western Montana.


Playing in Spokane was a way to acknowledge that segment of the fan base, and a way to help establish a connection with the area.


"Tonight is validation that our market isn't just the Seattle DMA. The amount of people wearing Kraken merchandise, the sincere enthusiasm, there couldn't be a better place to start," Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke said shortly before puck drop. "This is just magnificent. It's heartwarming. It's stirring and I feel emotional just walking that concourse."


While the Kraken will play their final two home preseason games in the Puget Sound area, there could be opportunities in the future for Seattle to take its product on the road in the preseason.


Alaska has been a market the Kraken have specifically focused on -- including promoting donations to help reinstate the men's hockey program at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Kraken games will be broadcast throughout Alaska, and landing that territory as part of their broadcasting rights was a big win for the franchise.


"We hope that through these three games that our partners and us raise, targeting the half a million dollars, that's how you build relationships. Going up to Alaska and supporting the effort to save the Seahawks hockey program, that's how you build support," Leiweke said. "Easiest way to do it is winning, but there's other things that are also fundamental to the mission."


For the first night, the focus was on Spokane and giving a jolt to a normally sleepy Sunday night in the Lilac City. At Lord Stanley's, a recently opened hockey bar downtown, fans packed every table of the restaurant several hours before the game.


While there were NFL games on the TVs and a handful of fans in Seahawks jerseys, Kraken logos and gear dominated -- with the exception of two fans in Red Wings jerseys. And even in the midst of a Sunday afternoon filled with NFL games, TVs were also tuned to the Boston-Washington NHL preseason game.


"Just kind of crazy seeing people for the first time again," McCann said. "Some of us haven't seen them in a long time. So it's great."

Edited by Brewin Flames
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