Could The Seattle Kraken Make The NHL Playoffs In Their First Season?

The Seattle Kraken of the NHL. (ESPN image licensed under CC BY 3.0)

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Sept. 3, 2021: After months of speculation, Wednesday, the day finally arrived to release the Kraken. The expansion draft was held to stock the roster of the incoming Seattle Kraken, the NHL’s 32nd franchise. Once the dealing was done, the projections began. Some hockey pundits were ready to boldly predict that the Kraken will make the Stanley Cup playoffs during their inaugural NHL campaign.

Seattle’s bounty included defenseman Mark Giordano, captain of the Calgary Flames and the 2018-19 winner of the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman. The Kraken rapidly assembled a solid NHL defense. Impending free agents Adam Larsson (Edmonton Oilers) and Jamie Oleksiak (Dallas Stars) were scoped up in the draft and quickly signed to long-term contracts.

Seattle’s talent pool also impacts the Stanley Cup odds. The Kraken are listed at NHL betting sites at odds of 51.00 to win the Cup during their inaugural season. Those are the same odds being offered on the Vancouver Canucks and are shorter than the betting lines for the Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings and Detroit Red Wings, among other teams.

Vegas Set High Standard

The Kraken are the first NHL expansion team to enter the league since the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017-18. Vegas set the bar high for first-year clubs. The Golden Knights established NHL records for wins (51) and points (109) recorded by a first-year franchise. Vegas opened the season with three straight wins and were 8-1 through nine games. The Golden Knights finished in first place in the Pacific Division.

They were the first NHL first-year team to finish in top spot in their division since the 1967-68 Philadelphia Flyers won the West Division. Vegas was the first new NHL team to make the playoffs in their first season since the Hartford Whalers and Edmonton Oilers in 1979-80.

In the playoffs, the Golden Knights rolled all the way to the Stanley Cup final before falling to the Washington Capitals in five games.

Vegas GM George McPhee was able to work the system to help stock his team. He convinced other NHL GMs to deal him multiple players in exchange for not taking a specific player that they wanted to keep.

NHL teams didn’t encounter the same mishaps with the Kraken.

“This was going to be so much different than what Vegas went through,” Kraken general manager Ron Francis told Sports Illustrated. “There hadn’t been an expansion draft in 17 years. Vegas did a good job taking advantage of the rules and everyone’s lack of experience in that environment. But the minute that one was done, they knew we were coming in, and they had a lot more time to prepare for us.

“The last time, GMs were more willing to overpay to protect certain assets. This time they learned from that, and they weren’t willing to make mistakes that they made last time.”

Building A Playoff Team

The last two clubs to win the Stanley Cup did so while icing big, mobile defenders and that’s where the Kraken put the emphasis in their drafting. Larsson and Oleksiak are hulking blueliners.

Oleksiak and defenceman Vince Dunn, along with forwards Joonas Donskoi, Yanni Gourde and Calle Jarnkrok have all played in the Stanley Cup final. Forward Jordan Eberle skated on the top line with the New York Islanders, a team that reached the semifinals, and scored 16 goals.