Where has the time gone? It feels as though the holiday season of yesteryear was just upon us, and the 2021 edition crept up without warning. In keeping with the familiar childhood activity of writing the perfect checklist of gifts for jolly old Saint Nick to peruse, I’ve taken it upon myself to do the Seattle Kraken a favor. Enclosed below is a meticulously crafted document bursting with demands as the big day approaches. As is tradition, several of the items on this list are slightly more far-fetched than others, but why not dream big? We could all use a sprinkle of magic in our lives these days.
Wish #1: Grubauer Returns to Vezina Trophy Form
From whichever angle you approach the Seattle season, the goaltending has slipped well below the lofty heights of pre-season expectations. Former Colorado Avalanche netminder Philipp Grubauer waltzed into the Pacific North West and created a wave of momentum, with the German-born goalie fresh off of being nominated as a finalist for the Vezina Trophy last season.
Despite implementing a disciplined defensive scheme (the Kraken concede the second-fewest scoring chances per-60-minutes at 5v5), head coach Dave Hakstol has likely suffered through many sleepless nights due to the fallout related to Grubauer’s unexpected collapse this season. Of the goaltenders to have made at least ten appearances this season, Grubauer has allowed the most goals above his expected total, and ranks second-worst when adjusted for playtime.
If Seattle aspires to claim a playoff spot in the near future, Grubauer must perform at the level expected of an individual in his wage bracket as the 10th-most expensive goalie this season. No pressure Santa.
Wish #2: Draft Lottery Luck
They may not announce it outright, but the Kraken’s executive circle has likely thrown in the towel on the season. At this point, investing time and effort into developing and calibrating their prospect rankings is a more fruitful use of their organizational resources. Although Seattle’s ownership contingent may have started the season envisioning dancing sugar plum fairies and emulating the Vegas Golden Knights’ dream inaugural campaign, the honeymoon period has taken an abrupt detour.
Their hopes are pinned on the whims of the lottery gods, and it bears reminding that although a team may enter the lottery betting on the numerous outcomes which hand them the first-overall pick, it’s all but assured in the lottery era. Since the NHL dramatically overhauled the lottery process ahead of the 2014-15 season, the odds-on favorites have only won the lottery twice in a seven-year span – the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2016 and the Buffalo Sabres in 2018.
According to Tankathon.com (everyone’s favorite draft lottery simulator), the Kraken currently possess a 19.6% chance of winning one of the first two selections in the 2022 Entry Draft but simultaneously have a 66.7% chance of falling out of their current place in the top-four. The quality of any given draft class doesn’t follow a consistent pattern either – one year, the draft lottery might drop Nail Yakupov in your lap. At the same time, another ends up being the hotly-contested Connor McDavid sweepstakes. Two very similar players, I reckon!
Luckily, the 2022 Entry Draft serves up a much more appetizing platter of raw young talent such as presumed number one pick Shane Wright, but adding any one of the projected top-five prospects considerably accelerates their long-term fortunes. Boy, Santa really has his work cut out for him this year.
Wish #3: Vince Dunn (Really) Breaks Out Offensively
This wish is like those gifts you tack onto the end of your list to not seem too greedy, almost as if to say those bigger gifts would be spectacular, but I’d be content with this one as well. The Kraken’s promising offensive defenseman Vince Dunn has been the focus of several of my articles here at OSN, and it’s no surprise he features once more.
Mark Giordano’s recent COVID quarantine has prodded the Kraken to entrust Dunn with a greater breadth of offensive and transitory responsibilities, especially on the power play. Over the team’s last ten games, Dunn has seen the most power-play time of any Kraken skater while tallying a team-leading three points on the man-advantage during that time.
An array of multiplying factors, including Giordano’s uncertain contract status (expires this offseason), his advanced age (38 as of this past October), and diminished offensive production (lowest point-per-game pace since 2012-13), has expedited Dunn’s graduation to the primary attacking unit. For an offensively challenged roster, mining a skilled diamond-in-the-rough could go a long way in restructuring their outlook and refilling their coffers beyond this season.
A (Kraken) Christmas Carol
After reviewing the completed list, I don’t believe I made any overly extravagant demands of the man in red. Still, if any of these wishes come to fruition, the Kraken might just wholeheartedly toast Santa, and his elves with a mug of hot cocoa come Christmas Eve. Although, I’ve heard through the grapevine that what he’s really hoping for are season tickets for front-row, bench-side seats. Get on it, Leiweke.