The End Of A Season, The Start Of A New Chapter

At the beginning of this season, if you told a fan of the Seattle Kraken that they would make the playoffs, you probably would have gotten scoffed at. You probably would have been called crazy, or just straight-up stupid. During their inaugural season, the Seattle Kraken were anything but playoff material. Coming in at the bottom three during the 2022-23 season, they had a rather unimpressive record of 27 wins, 49 losses, and 6 OT losses, only narrowly beating out the Arizona Coyotes and the Montréal Canadiens by a few wins. The roster then had a few familiar faces, such as Jared McCann, Yanni Gourde, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Matty Beniers, Alex Wennberg, and Branden Tanev, just to name a few. This team was abysmal, however, as Jared McCann would be the only player during this season to put up more than 25 goals, with a total of 27, followed by Yanni Gourde and Jordan Eberle, who both put up 21 each. This lack of scoring depth caused the Kraken to be less than ideal on the ice, especially with some issues with inconsistent goaltending.

The following season, the Seattle Kraken added some talent to their roster, hiring assistant coach Dave Lowry, who was the interim coach for the Winnipeg Jets during the 2021-22 season. They also acquired Oliver Bjorkstrand, Eeli Tolvanen, Andre Burakovsky, and Shane Wright to their rosters, along with a few unmentioned, adding fresh talent to the team. Jordan Eberle mentioned that seeing the ownership make moves to genuinely help the team get better was an excellent source of morale, and ultimately helped the young franchise’s players find their chemistry. “I love the depth that we have up front with our forward group. We’re hopefully going to put the puck in the net a little bit more, so it’s gonna be a matter of putting the right pieces together and start meshing the team,” he said. The Kraken would gain confidence in their teammates and would see that before-mentioned increase of scoring depth among the players, with 5 players breaking that 20-goal mark and 17 players total scoring 5 or more goals during the season. Jared McCann would also make history during the 2022-23 season, as he became the first Seattle Kraken to reach 40 goals in a season. Martin Jones and Philipp Grubauer would also begin to show life, as both goaltenders would post a .887 and .895 SV%, respectively. Both goaltenders would also complete the regular season with under 3 goals against average, making the Kraken’s ability to keep pucks out of the net solidify. The combination of fresh talent, new confidence, and a renewed belief in their new franchise would lead their team to their first Stanley Cup Playoff run eight months after the start of the season.

The Kraken has a lot to be proud of. Nobody expected this team to make it to the playoffs, let alone to the conference semi-finals. Many in the hockey community were calling for the Kraken to be eliminated– and even swept by the Colorado Avalanche in the first round. However, they prevailed, and that scoring depth that developed itself so well during the regular season, made a reappearance and became the bloodline of the Kraken team against both the Avalanche, as well as the Stars. 17 different skaters for Seattle scored this offseason, giving them the deepest scoring depth of any team in the playoffs so far. This would prove valuable, as the Kraken defeated the Colorado Avalanche in 7 games, and forced Game 7 versus the Dallas Stars. While the Kraken were unable to go all the way in the playoffs, they did a load of damage and gave themselves not only an unforgettable historic season, but a historical playoff run as well.

Game 7 against the Stars was well played by both sides, unfortunately though, someone has to lose. Just as unfortunate, if not more so, that loser was the Seattle Kraken. As they’ve proven time and time before, they didn’t go down without a fight. The first half of the game saw characteristics that were unlike the other games of the series: It was a low-scoring affair. Games 1 through 6 saw both teams out up a combined score of 6 or more goals during each contest. However, Game 7 didn’t see its first goal until the final five minutes of the second period. This game was a showcase of defense and goaltending, rather than raw scoring ability. Jake Ottinger was returning to the ice after being pulled in Game 6, marking the shortest start of his career. Ottinger isn’t particularly known for his back-to-back losses and went into the series’ final game with an attitude of level-headedness and pure determination. He was not going to be replaced again, posting an impressive .957 SV%. The silence would be broken with 4 minutes left in the game, when Roope Hintz, a persistent thorn in the Kraken’s side, would score on a mini-breakaway after stealing the puck from the Kraken’s blueline and snapping it past Philipp Grubauer.

The Seattle Kraken managed to close out the second period without another goal against, as well as play over half of the third continuing to stave off the Dallas’ offensive effort. Grubauer himself played a phenomenal game, completing his time on ice with a .929 SV%, with MANY amazing glove saves. The puck has met Grubauer’s glove more than once, this game, and his skill as a goaltender was the best it has been all series. The Seattle Kraken also had stepped up their rebound game, doing a fantastic job of making sure that any rebounds that were unable to be covered up by Grubie were quickly swept out of the crease, and away from the sticks of Stars players.

The downfall of the Kraken would become evident, as the Dallas Stars outskated them. They were just a tad bit quicker, and despite Seattle’s seemingly brand-new defensive skill, the Stars were able to score a second time, this time with a backhand from Wyatt Johnson. This was admittedly a gorgeous backhand, as Johnson rushed Grubauer’s left side, making him believe that Johnson was going to try to come around the back of the net. At the last moment, however, Johnson would apply the brakes and send the puck right over the goaltender’s shoulder.

The Seattle Kraken appeared to be at the end of their rope. They were down 2-0, and the Dallas skaters were on absolute fire. Everything about the Stars was firing on all cylinders. Oliver Bjorkstrand would get an opportunity to cut the deficit late in the third, but would, unfortunately, ding the puck off of the post. Had Bjorkstrand adjusted ever so slightly, there would have been a chance for a tie game as Philipp Grubauer was pulled for the extra attacker, and Bjorkstrand scored with 17 seconds left in the final period, shattering the Dallas Stars’ hopes for a shutout. While the shutout was denied by the Kraken, it would take perfect hockey from the Kraken in order to be able to score again, but they just couldn’t pull it off. In the end, the Dallas Stars walked away with the 2-1 win, and their entry into the Western Conference Finals where they’ll go on to play the Vegas Golden Knights.

Despite the Seattle Kraken loss, I can’t say I’m disappointed. The Kraken began the season with everyone doubting their abilities as a team, as well as Dave Hakstol’s abilities as a coach. Heavy criticism game in light of player transactions, and not a lot of confidence was instilled in the Seattle franchise. The narrative quickly turned, as the Kraken began winning games left and right, and even set new franchise records for win streaks, and points streaks at 8 in a row for each. As a Wild Card team going into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a similar air of doubt arose, as many counted the Kraken out just in the first round, with many of those expecting a sweep. Against all odds (and biased commentators), the Seattle Kraken won their first playoff series in franchise history, defeating the Colorado Avalanche in Game 7, with the score being 2-1. Despite this historical win that dethroned the defending Stanley Cup champions. Many still doubted the Kraken’s ability to continue their rampage against the Dallas Stars, and while they never won the series, the Seattle Kraken still managed to go farther than anyone outside of their fanbase could ever imagine.

As someone who’s new to Kraken hockey, seeing the players and the fanbase interact amongst themselves and others have proven one thing to me that many hadn’t seen before: Seattle is a hockey town. There’s so much passion and joy for the players, and toward anyone else claiming to be a part of the 32 Krew. Even the skaters themselves show genuine care and love for each other. Moving forward, I will never be as adamant toward the Leafs as I am now toward the Seattle Kraken. It has been not only a pleasure, but a privilege to cover the first playoff run of Seattle’s franchise history. I’ve met a lot of people and made a lot of friends along the way who have made my experience that much more enjoyable, and with that, the Kraken have made a new lifelong fan. Not only have they made a new fan, but they will continue to make more with their skill, and the loving and accepting culture that surrounds them. That’s Kraken hockey, baby, and it’s here to stay. The future of hockey in the Puget Sound is not only promising, but it’s extremely bright, and maybe next season, we may be able to see our Kraken Krew lift the cup for not only all of Seattle to see, but for the world as well.

As we move into the offseason, let’s all take a moment to reflect, and be proud of the team that the Kraken has become. We as an organization deserve to hold our heads high, and we deserve all of the success that the future has in store. The offseason brings the promise of new players, new front office members, and a fresh slate to work with, all while having the support of Seattle, and fans across the nation. LET’S GO KRAKEN!

#SeaKraken #ReleaseTheKraken

Author: Sebastian Towles

Hello! I'm the newest writer covering the newest franchise in the NHL. Originally born in Oklahoma and raised in North Carolina, I moved to Spokane in July of 2021, and fell in love with the city that eventually introduced me to hockey through the WHL. A Leafs fan at heart, I'll be bringing you some great stories about the Seattle Kraken, and more.

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