Can the Kraken learn from Vegas’ immediate success? Is Dave Hakstol the key?
The Vegas Golden Knights pulled off, what seemed to be, the impossible in their inaugural season, making it to the Stanley Cup Final. Can the Seattle Kraken follow in the footsteps of their new division rivals? If the expansion draft is any indication, surprisingly Seattle is on the right track. Like Seattle, Vegas didn’t have an incredible draft either, however the expectation wasn’t set as high. When comparing rosters on opening night of each team’s inaugural season, the impossible may be at their fingertips.
Perhaps the most important piece for the Golden Knights in their first season in the league was goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Fortunately for Seattle, his on ice skill-level can be argued to be equal to Seattle’s starting netminder Phillip Grubauer. MAF may be the most unique goalie in the league due to his insane athleticism, but it doesn’t matter because whatever they are doing is working, as both of them ended the 2021 season as Vezina finalists. Another thing they have in common, putting together is knowing how to look great on the ice with some nice set ups.
Another roster similarity comes from the backend. With both teams drafting guys in the twenties, the standout of age came from one particular guy on the defense. Mark Giordano can provide the same type of role that Deryk Englland took on with his veteran presence and shutdown defense. It may mean an adjustment period is in store for Big G, as he is no longer in Calgary and won’t be relied on as much to be the best defensemen. That shouldn’t be a problem at age 37 with 13 pro seasons under your belt. Guys the ultimate team guy. Great leader.
The final similarity is having established respected players in the league, but not one true star. Vegas brought in guys like James Neal, David Perron, Jonathan Marchessault, etc. upfront to lead by committee. Seattle appeared to have done the same in bringing in players such as Jordan Eberle, Yanni Gourde, and Joonas Donskoi. Both teams appeared to have used this core to originally build the forward group around until they found out what they truly had.
All this being said, it’s good news for this Kraken team. However, one question still remains. You can’t just rely on the roster for immediate success. We learned with Vegas in its inaugural year and the Montreal Canadians this year, talent isn’t everything. The real questions become: Can the team buy into the system? How will the chemistry be? Who will be relied on to start the season with injuries? All of these answers will be answered quickly into the season. The key to answer all of these questions comes from Dave Hakstol.
In my opinion, this was the first shock of many in the short time that Seattle has been an organization, the hiring of Dave Hakstol. Hakstol doesn’t have an impressive resume to show for in his career as a coach in the National League. I think this is something that Flyers fans and the rest of the hockey world could actually agree on. Hakstol either missed the playoffs or couldn’t make it out of the first round in his 3 and a half year stint. Hopefully, he will be able to resurrect his coaching career in Seattle. Maybe it’ll be better starting new with a whole team of players hitting reset and figuring out a way to win some hockey games. I certainly hope so!
What Gerard Gallant was able to do in Vegas was special. Dave Hakstol must find his own way to create something special and it needs to happen fast. Gallant knew exactly which players complimented each other and who had the chemistry to succeed. That may come with coaching experience or it may just come with trial and error. Time will tell if Hakstol can be the guy who can have a legitimate coaching career.
Hakstol for me remains the biggest question, however I have a good feeling about the team. They continue to impress during Free Agency with the recent signings of Riley Sheahan and Ryan Donato. I think the team as a whole will surprise a lot of people. If we’ve learned anything lately from watching hockey it’s that defense wins games. This team’s Defense is absolutely stacked. With proper coaching, the team can be a playoff contender right away. Dave Hakstol, it’s all up to you.