As NHL’s most recent expansion team, the 2022-23 season only represents the Seattle Kraken‘s second opportunity to qualify for the playoffs as a franchise.
After reviving their big-league existence with a pitiful inaugural effort that saw the Kraken finish 30th in the overall standings, Seattle’s strong sophomore effort has the team dreaming of an exciting playoff debut.
At the time of this writing, the Kraken own a record of 37-23-7 over 67 games (81 points). Their record is good for marginal leads over the Edmonton Oilers (80 points in 67 games), Winnipeg Jets (79 points in 67 games), and Nashville Predators (73 points in 64 games) in the divisional (Oilers) and wildcard races (Jets and Predators). The Predators are just outside of the second wildcard spot.
Related: NHL Expansion History Positive Sign for Seattle Kraken’s Second Season
The Kraken also sit four (Los Angeles Kings) and seven (Vegas Golden Knights) points back for second and first place in the Pacific, respectively. With a month to go, everything is up for grabs as far as the Kraken are concerned.
Although a playoff berth is well within reach, the Kraken still have their work cut out for them if they hope to secure a spot at some point in the near future. Let’s take a closer look at what stands in their way.
Kraken’s Have a Favorable Remaining Schedule
If there’s one thing that the Kraken have going for them leading up to April 14 (the final day of the regular season), it’s that their upcoming schedule isn’t terribly challenging.
Per Tankathon’s strength-of-schedule model, the Kraken have the sixth-easiest remaining schedule in the NHL, largely owing to the league’s emphasis on intra-divisional play to end the season.
Unfortunately, the teams chasing the Kraken for the final automatic divisional playoff spot are also scheduled to face a slate of weaker opponents to end the season.
The Kings (seventh-easiest), Oilers (third-easiest), and Flames (easiest) all have schedules that are easier than or of similar difficulty to that of the Kraken.
Related: 3 Seattle Kraken Storylines To Watch Post-Deadline
Assuming the Kraken take all of the available points against the division’s bottom-feeders, games against the Oilers (March 18), Predators (March 23 and 25), Kings (April 1), and the Golden Knights (April 11 and 13) all loom large.
Collect a majority of the points up for grabs in those matchups, and suddenly the Pacific Division crown looks attainable. Fail to do so, and a once-assured postseason berth could slip away. For what it’s worth, several professional prognosticators think the Kraken are in a good spot heading into April.
The Athletic’s numbers guru Dom Luszczyszyn projects the Kraken to finish the season with 99 points and gave them a 90% chance of making the playoffs after last night’s games.
MoneyPuck’s playoff projections are slightly more optimistic, logging in at a 93.5% likelihood. The Kraken can’t realistically be more of a lock than those odds suggest.
Of course, nothing is for certain until the playoffs are mathematically clinched, but that should give the Kraken faithful some sorely needed reassurance.
Kraken Succeeding Through Balanced Efforts at Both Ends
Making the playoffs is a team effort, and the Kraken have gotten contributions from every player on the roster in their qualifying efforts. Whether scoring goals, playing solid defense or contributing in other ways, every player has stepped up and done their part. Their ethos of collectiveness is best exemplified by their scoring leaders.
Jared McCann’s 33 goals are 14 more than the next-best skater (Matty Beniers), but one would hardly call McCann a true star in the league.
In posting 12 goals and 55 points in 67 games, defenseman Vince Dunn is one of the only blueliners to lead their team in scoring. As one of Dunn’s biggest supporters to date, I feel personally responsible for his long-overdue breakout campaign (just kidding – sort of).
The midseason pickup of Eeli Tolvanen gave the Kraken an unexpected shot in the arm, injecting more finishing skill and offensive creativity into the lineup. The young winger has repaid the team’s faith in him, scoring 12 goals and 22 points in 33 games since being placed on waivers by the Nashville Predators.
Daniel Sprong’s NHL tenure resembles that of a typical journeyman, with the second-round pick in 2015 already onto his fourth organization before the age of 26. Despite only making the minimum salary this season, he sits within the top 20 of qualified skaters (300 minutes played) in goals, primary assists, and points per 60 in all situations.
The success stories of Tolvanen and Sprong are a testament to the organization’s analytics departments, one of the very best in the NHL.
It also speaks to the Kraken’s depth that despite somewhat underwhelming campaigns from Oliver Bjorkstrand and Jaden Schwartz – two of the most expensive players on the roster – they haven’t missed a beat. Their 3.49 goals per game in all situations rank sixth in the league, which is impressive even if you assume their league-leading 11.6% shooting percentage is a tad over-inflated.
Kraken’s First NHL Playoff Appearance Within Reach
Even with a slight lead over their conference rivals in the playoff race, the Kraken can’t afford to coast for the rest of the regular season.
The teams chasing them are anticipating an equally as forgiving final stretch, and falling flat in any of the upcoming inter-divisional matchups could prove fatal.
The Kraken are, and have looked like, a much-improved squad in their second season of existence. Taking a solid first three-quarters of the season for granted and letting complacency creep in would be a massive disservice to their work to date.
Fortunately, the Kraken appear to have built up enough of a cushion to this point and should be able to scrounge up enough points the rest of the way. Look out, big things are brewing in the Pacific Northwest.
Data courtesy of Evolving Hockey, Hockey Reference, Natural Stat Trick, and the NHL.