3 Seattle Kraken Storylines To Watch Post-Deadline

With an engrossing trade deadline now firmly in the rearview, the Seattle Kraken look towards the final 19 games and a potential playoff berth on the horizon.

Apart from acquiring defenseman Jaycob Megna at the beginning of February, the Kraken were quiet throughout the busiest part of the deadline. Given the surrounding context, standing pat may have been a smart move.

The arms race taking place in the Eastern Conference, coupled with Seattle’s own stature in the Western Conference, likely discouraged Kraken management from making any significant moves. Instead, the organization has decided to play with house money for the final month-and-a-half of the regular season.

With the rosters set and the playoffs in sight, let’s dive into three intriguing storylines to watch involving the Kraken in the business end of the season.

Can the Kraken Qualify for the Playoffs?

The Kraken find themselves well-situated in the playoff picture after the trade deadline and ready to push to secure a postseason berth in their third season of existence. 

At the time of this writing, the Kraken own a record of 36-21-6 and sit third in the Pacific Division by both points (78) and points percentage (.619). Although a rough stretch of results could see the wildcard race quickly rearranged, the Kraken have the upper hand over its nearest competitors. 

The Kraken sit four points behind the Los Angeles Kings for second in the division but can leap over them by winning both of their games in hand as they hold the regulation and overtime wins tiebreaker.

Elsewhere, the Edmonton Oilers (tied on points), Colorado Avalanche (four behind), Nashville Predators (nine), and Calgary Flames (nine) are all within striking distance of the Kraken. Seattle holds games in hand on the Oilers (two) and Flames (one) but have played two more games than both the Avalanche and Predators.

Fortunately for the Kraken, their recent slate of results bodes well for their short-term outlook. They’ve won four in a row, six of their last 10, and have the fourth-easiest remaining schedule, according to Tankathon. Of their previous 19 games, eight come against the NHL’s bottom-eight teams in the overall standings, including two against the Anaheim Ducks and three against the Arizona Coyotes. 

Considering that lenient stretch of matchups, missing the playoffs would constitute a full-blown crisis. Still, the Flames (second-easiest), Kings (sixth-easiest), and Oilers (ninth-easiest) all have just as accommodating schedules.

Although it’s unlikely, given the wider NHL landscape, the Kraken could potentially become the first expansion team to win the Stanley Cup in their first five years. It can’t hurt to dream big, right?

Which Kraken Goaltender Will Claim the Starting Job?

In Philipp Grubauer and Martin Jones, the Kraken have two goaltenders who have battled for the starting role in the crease. Following the trade deadline, seeing how the team manages the workload between these two goalies could provide a glimpse into which has the inside track to be named the potential playoff starter. 

For reference, here are their results in a number of key goaltending metrics (all situations) of both the traditional and modern variety:

27Games Played41
.895Save Percentage (SV%).890
.798High-Danger Save Percentage (HDSV%).762
6.2Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx)-5.9

Jones took hold of the starting job after Grubauer suffered an early-season injury and held the fort to keep the Kraken in a playoff spot until their $5.9 million man returned to the lineup.

Jones’ steady play continued to earn him consistent starts even after Grubauer’s return in mid-November, although the hierarchy has gotten increasingly clearer in recent weeks.

Since January 1st, Jones has made 17 appearances to Grubauer’s 14, but Grubauer has bested his counterpart in every meaningful netminding metric over that time. He’s posted a higher SV% (.908 to .892), a higher HDSV% (.804 to .762), and saved nearly eight more goals above expected (plus-7.7 to minus-0.2).

The difference has been just as stark when considering games since February 1st, with Grubauer making 10 appearances to Jones’ six. That’s not to say the German has played up to anywhere near his cap hit (10th among all goalies this season), but he’s been better than Jones. Heading into the most important time of year, that’s all that matters.

Coincidence or not, Grubauer owns a record of 6-3-1 since the start of February, with Jones victorious in only one of his five starts. The team has rewarded him with greater goal support, which may have all but cemented Grubauer’s place in the crease.

Still, the question stands: will one emerge as the clear starter, or will they continue to split time in the Kraken net? How Hakstol deploys his goalies over the next month and change should tell the story.

Can the Kraken Fix their Struggling Special Teams Before the Playoffs? 

The Kraken have struggled on the penalty kill in their first two seasons, ranking near the bottom of the league at 30th out of 32 teams with a 74.6% kill rate. That trend has continued this season, with the Kraken eliminating 74.2% of opponent power play opportunities, ranking 26th in the NHL.

To be fair, subpar goaltending is largely to blame for those awful success rates, as Grubauer and Jones rank 44th and 47th out of 49 goalies in SV% to have played 100 minutes while shorthanded this season.

As a team, the Kraken rank 15th in terms of shots conceded, 12th in expected goals against, and 19th in high-danger chances allowed per 60 minutes on the penalty kill. Allowing shots and chances at a league-average rate while receiving poor play in the crease is an unappetizing combination, to say the least.

On the other side of the puck, the Kraken sit 22nd by powerplay conversion (19.9%), a slight improvement on their 29th overall ranking last season (14.6%). Adding offensive talent such as Andre Burakovsky and an entire season of Matty Beniers has helped, but it won’t be enough to prevail at crunch time against stronger opponents.

The Kraken haven’t created anything of substance on the power play this season, ranking 25th or lower in the league by their rate of shots, expected goals, scoring chances, and high-danger opportunities created per 60 minutes. Having Jordan Eberle and his 50 points – 80th among all skaters in scoring – leading the team shows that recruiting elite talent should be a key priority going forward. 

Given how crucial special teams’ success can be in small sample sizes such as a single, four- to seven-game playoff series, being in that tier of teams is less than ideal.

The Kraken didn’t do anything to help shore up either of their special teams at the trade deadline, so unless their goaltending tandem steps up or their hot finishing translates to the man advantage, expect the Kraken to maintain their spot as a bottom-10 team in both regards.

Kraken Set for Exciting End to 2022-23 Regular Season

Regardless of if the Kraken manage to cement their playoff positioning or fall flat at the final hurdle, the end of the 2022-23 promises to be filled with numerous twists and turns.

After a miserable inaugural campaign, simply remaining competitive deep into this season is an impressive accomplishment and heartening development for both fans and the organization alike.

An unexpected postseason run in the same vein as the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017-18 may not be in the cards, but everyone involved is in for an entertaining conclusion to Year Two of the Kraken experience.

Data courtesy of Evolving HockeyHockey ReferenceNatural Stat Trick, and the NHL. Statistics are accurate as of March 7th.

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About Marko Zlomislic 82 Articles
Marko is an aspiring sportswriter with a passion for crafting stories while using a combination of the eye-test and (shudder) analytics, which is complemented by an academic background in criminology and political science. When not covering the Seattle Kraken for Oregon Sports News, Marko can also be found pouring countless hours into various sports video games franchises, indulging in science fiction novels, and taking long runs around his neighbourhood. You can yell at him by following him on Twitter or via email at mzlomislic97@gmail.com. He also regularly produces content for The Hockey Writers.