Before the start of the 2021-22 regular season, I offered three Seattle Kraken predictions for their inaugural NHL campaign. With the season nearing the halfway point, I thought that it would be a fun exercise to look back on my predictions and evaluate the accuracy of my prognostication skills. So, are the Seattle Krakenpainting me as a prophetic oracle or more like a misguided buffoon? Let’s dig in.
Prediction #1: Chris Driedger Takes Over the Kraken Net
Given that Driedger had supplanted Sergei Bobrovsky from the Florida Panthers’ net the year before, I figured that he could capitalize on any turbulence experienced by Philipp Grubauer.
Grubauer has held up his end of this Faustian bargain, sitting dead last in the NHL in terms of cumulative goals saved above expected (-25.2 GSAx). The German netminder has posted an equally porous save percentage (SV%) of .882, the third-worst mark among goalies with a minimum of five games played this season. With such abysmal numbers, it appears as though Driedger should have grabbed the mantle of his team’s goaltending duties for the second year running, but his season hasn’t gone much better in comparison.
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Driedger owns a record of 3-6-0 in 11 appearances, defined by an .896 SV% that is a far cry from his career mark of .922, albeit in a very limited sample of fewer than 50 total NHL games. He also suffered a lower-body injury at the beginning of December and was just placed in COVID protocol, denoting a season full of inconsistencies for the goaltender.
Grubauer’s freefall is giving Driedger a chance to claim the Kraken net as his own, but health issues and poor play have halted those plans for the time being. If Grubauer continues to fall short of expectations, Driedger will have another crack at the starting job, but time is running out on this lost season.
Verdict: Still to be determined
Prediction #2: The Kraken Finish Second in the Pacific Division
I’m starting to tug on my collar here, as it appears as though I’m 0 for 2 on predictions so far. Much of the hockey analytics community held up the Kraken as a strong defensive unit that could cover for their offensive deficiencies. Those assertions have proved correct in some respects; Seattle ranks within the NHL’s top ten in terms of shots and scoring chances conceded but have not been able to buy a goal (or a save) through the first half of the season.
Frankly, the Kraken have a significant hill to climb, finding themselves in the Pacific Division basement according to both total points (26) and points percentage (.342). The Los Angeles Kings currently occupy second place with 45 points, but the Kraken hold a pair of games in hand on their divisional brethren. The Calgary Flames are second by points percentage (.600) and have played fewer games than either the Kraken (three) or the Kings (five).
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It would take a complete about-face in the second half for the Kraken to make up a nearly 20-point gap, and their underlying numbers don’t suggest that the team is a slumbering giant. They control less than half of the 5v5 share of shots, scoring chances, and expected goals, ranking in the bottom half of the NHL in all three departments.
|On-Ice Metric||5-on-5 Share of Metric||NHL Rank|
|Scoring chances (SCF%)||49.3%||19|
|Expected goals (xGF%)||48.6%||20|
The Pacific Division looked to be in flux heading into 2021-22, and the Western Conference playoff picture is considerably muddied, but the Kraken have failed to capitalize on both counts.
Verdict: I think that it’s safe to say I missed the mark on this prediction
Prediction #3: Vince Dunn Leads the Kraken In Scoring
Look, I don’t know what to tell you, the reader. I figured that I could have hit on at least one of these three predictions, but the halfway mark of the season has left me empty-handed.
Among all Kraken skaters, the promising Vince Dunn ranks third in assists (11) and fifth in points (15), delivering on the offensive potential he’s flashed in his young NHL career. Seattle’s All-Star Game nominee Jordan Eberle leads the team in scoring (24 points in 36 games), giving him a nine-point cushion on the defenseman.
Dunn is enjoying a more prominent role on the Kraken blue line than he ever had with the St. Louis Blues. He ranks third in average ice-time in all situations (19:57 per game) and second in power-play minutes behind the team’s elder statesman in Mark Giordano (2:06).
Fortunately for both Dunn and my prediction, it seems as though Giordano is being floated as a trade candidate ahead of the March 21st deadline. This would open up greater opportunities for Dunn at 5-on-5 and virtually hand him the reins to the top power play unit. As a result, Dunn could make up some ground on the team scoring leaderboard while conducting the primary unit, but don’t count on it.
Verdict: Still possible, but unlikely
Can the Kraken Surprise in Second Half of the Season?
None of my three predictions look like strong bets at the midseason mark of the season, although the book isn’t fully closed on them coming to fruition.
The Kraken’s marquee free-agent acquisition in Grubauer has failed to deliver on his hefty price tag, which gives me a glimmer of hope that Driedger can feature more often in the second half of the season.
Even with more than 40 games remaining on the season, I have been forced to nearly concede defeat on the Kraken, claiming even a playoff spot, let alone second in the division. An insurmountable chasm between them and their main challengers for a place in the postseason tells the whole story. Consequently, the focus should be on locking in the best draft lottery odds possible for the Shane Wright sweepstakes.
Mark Giordano’s apparently imminent departure means that Vince Dunn should be handed greater playmaking responsibility on the Kraken blue line. Yet, it’s unlikely that he manages to pace the team in scoring, even with more favorable deployment.
There you have it, half of the season is in the books, and my predictions are nearly shot. Time to go shine my crystal ball; it clearly needs fine-tuning.
Data courtesy of Hockey Reference, MoneyPuck, Natural Stat Trick, and the NHL.