Considering you build an NHL team from the goal line out and up the middle, that’s where one must start when evaluating the Seattle Kraken and their needs.
Even with a slight correction in the Pacific Division standings, the Kraken definitely put themselves in the playoff conversation with their strong start, so general manager Ron Francis should be looking at options to bolster that effort without sacrificing the future. Always a delicate walk.
Kraken Goal line and Blue line
The Kraken are in good shape in net with veteran goaltenders Philipp Grubauer and Martin Jones. They’re older than most, 31 and 32 respectively, but they’re not old. In fact, at times it seems the combination could be considered elite.
Two problems exist. One, Jones needs a new contract. Two, determining who’s hot and who’s not and making the starting decision on a nightly basis can be difficult. Does it matter that one guy is making $4-million more per season on a multi-year deal? Ultimately it shouldn’t, the goal is to win as much as possible, but it probably does.
The biggest question mark lies on the blue line. The starting six were very fortunate the first two months of the season to stay healthy and intact as pairs. Aside from four games missed by Jamie Oleksiak for injury and then three more due to suspension, the blue line corps was remarkably consistent until Justin Schultz missed a couple of games this past week.
Building that chemistry and consistency helps win hockey games.
However, that said, an upgrade is needed. While there is perfect left-right balance among the group and size and physicality isn’t an issue, the Kraken could use more of a waterbug puck mover. A Quinn Hughes type that’s not going to cost you the price of Quinn Hughes. Easy for me to say.
How about try to pluck Jack Rathbone out of that Vancouver Canucks system. He seems unhappy with his recent demotion to the American Hockey League where he dominated last season, and it seems there’s little room or interest in having him with the big club. For what he’s getting paid for this season and next, it might worth a shot.
Is he not good enough to play in the NHL or has he simply not been given a consistent enough opportunity? That’s what pro scouts are for.
That’s just one suggestion. Moving ahead, regardless of what second-pair calibre D-man the Kraken add, they need to add him. Whether it’s the eye-test or analytics, the Kraken could use another talent.
Should Seattle actually make the playoffs, the club won’t want to be heading into the postseason without another solid NHL D-man, no offense to Cale Fleury and Gustav Olofsson. They’d be better as 8th and 9th D-men rather than 7th and 8th at this stage.
We’re not gonna go there now. It’s a whole ‘nother story. With Shane Wright still in development, a little punch up the middle would be welcome, as would any type of added depth on the wing. This of course could apply to half the NHL rosters. GM’s are always looking “to improve their hockey clubs”. The Kraken will get serious with this when we enter the new year.
Let’s see if Francis can bolster the D first.