The Curse Of The Expansion Franchise – Can The Kraken Avoid The NHL’s Wooden Spoon?

It’s fair to say that Seattle Kraken are having a horrible season. After 56 games played, the Kraken sit bottom of the Pacific Division, well adrift of San Jose Sharks who, with 54 games played, are 15 points better off. All of which rather justifies the bookmakers giving them such short shrift in their markets.

The Seattle Kraken were well and truly written off by the sportsbooks in their first season as an NHL team. They were essentially tipped to finish bottom of the Western Conference, given that their Stanley Cup odds were the longest of any franchise, and even now midway through the 2021-22 season they are considered the unlikeliest of longshots at whopping odds of +600000.

Predicting how a season will pan out is never easy, so if you are ever unsure of how a season will unfold, it’s always worth checking the odds with the sportsbooks.

Sportsbooks employ some of the sharpest analytical minds around – we’re talking math whizz kids and the like – who get to play with some of the most advanced predictive algorithms that money can buy. And while they don’t always get it right, because elite-level sport can be unpredictable, more often than not they are bang on the money.

Kraken’s season has never really got going. Ron Francis can sack Dave Hakstol or trade away Mark Giordano, but the truth is that the Kraken were always swimming against the tide. Name any leading US sport, and the conclusion is that first-season expansion franchises have suffered failure after abject failure…

The First’s the Worst

There’s one obvious reason why expansion franchises fail – the pool of players that they can draft from simply isn’t good enough to sustain a winning season… after all, why would other teams not protect these individuals if they had something to offer?

Now, we know what you’re thinking – didn’t the Las Vegas Golden Knights reach the Stanley Cup Finals in their first season? You’re absolutely right that they did, and that came against the odds… literally, with the Knights priced at +50000 with the sportsbooks to lift the trophy at the start of the campaign.

But in doing so, the Sin City outfit became just the second expansion franchise in more than 60 years – and the first since the St. Louis Blues in 1968 – to reach the finals in their debut campaign.

Then you can take a look at other sports. In the NFL, the best record from an expansion team in their first season is that of the Carolina Panthers, and they only went 7-9… missing out on the playoffs altogether.

In the NBA, the history books make for only marginally better reading – the Chicago Bulls made the postseason way back in 1966-67, but were brushed aside by the St. Louis Hawks in three games. Since then, no expansion franchise has been able to even match that modest record.

The same theme plays out in the MLB too, and so the Kraken’s first season woes are nothing new. It’s likely that things will improve for the Kraken in the future, but perhaps, for now at least, expectations should be minimized accordingly in Seattle.