Seattle Kraken, Hakstol and Beniers

NHL Awards; Will 1 Or 2 Kraken Win The Honors?

The Seattle Kraken will have two representatives in Nashville on June 26th as finalists for NHL Awards. That would be head coach Dave Hakstol for the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year and first year center Matty Beniers up for the Calder Trophy as the league’s most valuable rookie.

Both are very distinguished honors.

The Adams is named after the former long-time NHL player, coach, and (general) manager whose success with the Detroit Red Wings organization in the middle of the previous century was legendary. The award has been handed out since the 1973-’74 season and is given to the NHL head coach “adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success.”

The rookie-of-the-year runs even deeper. The Calder Memorial Trophy, named after the first president of the NHL Frank Calder, has been awarded since the 1932-’33 season and is given “to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League.”

The championship trophy of the American Hockey League, the Calder Cup, is named after the same man.

Kraken Qualifications

Beniers would be considered the favorite in his category. The 2nd-overall pick of the Kraken in the 2021 NHL Draft led all rookies in points with 57 and tied for the lead in goals, 24, with Wyatt Johnston of the Dallas Stars. Beniers centered the top line, tallied ten power play points, and was a pesky force on the forecheck.

Impact on overall team performance is what stands out for Beniers, as it does for one of the other finalists Owen Power, the young defenseman taken just ahead of him in the Draft two summers ago. The 1st-overall pick helped the Buffalo Sabres to their best record in a dozen years, while Beniers was a key contributor in helping the Kraken improve by 40 points compared to their inaugural season.

The third finalist, goalie Stuart Skinner of the Edmonton Oilers, played in 50 games and won 29 of them. He was top-five in rookie goals against average and save percentage.

Beniers should have the edge. The vote was conducted by the league’s writer’s association just prior to the end of the regular season.

“Even setting aside rookie season, he’s had a very impressive season,” Hakstol said after his top center was nominated. “He’s asked to do a lot for us as a young player in the League. He continually responds to those situations, and he’s very quickly become, as a young guy, a team leader for us.”

Speaking Of …

Hakstol would be in a much tighter 3-way competition and likely wouldn’t be considered the favorite for the Jack Adams Award, unless of course you consider the overall talent-base he had to work with. Star power was not the Kraken’s strong suit at this stage of their franchise development, it was all about buying in to the systems, depth, and execution.

Hakstol had the Kraken on the same page all season long and as mentioned, improved in the Pacific Division standings by 40 points, enough to earn a playoff berth in the club’s 2nd season.

Voters like those ‘rags to riches’ stories, which means they also would have liked New Jersey Devils head coach Lindy Ruff’s performance. His team improved by 49 points over the previous season and finished with the 3rd highest point total in the league.

If the NHL Broadcasters’ Association went with pure dominance, then Jim Montgomery would have been their man during voting at the end of the regular season.

“Monty’s” Boston Bruins finished with the most wins and points in a season in NHL history, 65 and 135, and went wire-to-wire in the Atlantic Division to win the President’s Trophy. The vote would have been conducted before the B’s were shockingly bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the Florida Panthers.

The hardware gets handed out in ten nights in Nashville and two Kraken participants will be front and center.

Rob Simpson

Rob Simpson has covered the NHL in five different decades. He’s authored 4 books on hockey and is a veteran TV and radio play-by-play man and reporter.