Can the Seattle Kraken repeat last year’s performance and even improve on it? That’s the huge question on day-1 of the 2023-’24 NHL season.
The Kraken visit the Vegas Golden Knights Tuesday night in the finale of an NHL opening day triple-header.
Gone are Ryan Donato, Morgan Geekie, and Daniel Sprong, off to the Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings respectively. Call it an “Original Six” trifecta.
As Kraken TV man John Forslund points out in our season opening discussion (below), the new forward line will bring energy and some other key elements, but likely less scoring.
Center Pierre Edouard Bellemare is an excellent leader, the team’s best face-off guy, and a proven penalty killer. Brandon Tanev on his left is a bundle of energy. An option presents itself on the right side, whether to go with Kailer Yamamoto or the more physical Tye Kartye. It’s a decision that will be opponent and performance based on a game-to-game basis.
For the opener, based on the look of the morning skate in Las Vegas, Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol is giving the recent signee and more veteran winger Yamamoto the nod.
Jared McCann – Matty Beniers – Jordan Eberle
Jaden Schwartz – Alex Wennberg – Andre Burakovsky
Eeli Tolvanen – Yanni Gourde – Oliver Bjorkstrand
Brandon Tanev – Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – Kailer Yamamoto
Vince Dunn – Adam Larsson
Jamie Oleksiak – Will Borgen
Brian Dumoulin – Justin Schultz
Aside from the obvious special teams and goaltending factors, there are other keys to repeating a successful season.
First of all, keep that bottom-6 scoring with the new 4th line in mind. The aforementioned threesome last season accounted for 44 goals. That number will be tough to reach this time around, unless Kartye breaks out in his rookie season or his fellow right winger and Spokane native Yamamoto lights it up with his change of scenery.
Bellemare possesses some great qualities, but lighting the lamp often isn’t one of them.
Health is another big factor. Aside from losing leading scorer Burakovsky in February, yes, a big deal at the time, the Kraken remained remarkably healthy for most of the season, particularly along the blueline.
In the 82 game schedule last season, the six regulars played 81, 73, 82, 82, 75 and 78 games. Three of those games missed were a suspension to Jamie Oleksiak. Those numbers make life easy for a head coach.
The “sophomore slump” factor hopefully isn’t one for 1st-line center Matty Beniers. In a perfect world he’s somewhere between a top line and 2nd line center anyway, so will the added notoriety from being rookie-of-the-year and the weight of the ongoing responsibility become a burden?
There is upside with this player. Will filling his ultimate potential allow him to become a true-blue 1st-line pivot for years to come? Will he head more in that direction, or will there be a drop-off as opponents deliver the hits and expectations get heavy.
Circling back to the most important position on the ice, a key will involve whether or not Daccord can fill in as admirably as Martin Jones did last season when Grubauer was hurt or not performing at his best. Grooby was not sharp in training camp.
Another short term key is how Vince Dunn is feeling coming into the regular season, and long term, now with a new contract in his pocket, can he come close to duplicating a 64-point season from the blueline.
The Kraken start with three games on the road, following up Vegas with stops at the St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators. They need to nail down at least three of a possible six points and come home for a three game homestand with a positive mindset.
Not looking too far ahead, just through the ten games in the month of October, seven of which are on the road … the Kraken will want to go the equivalent of 5-and-5, in other words, come away with ten points during the stretch. Do so and they’re off and running. Don’t, and they’ll be chasing the season.
— Final Roster Wrapped; Kraken Taking Time With Prospects
— Simmer’s Sunday 9; Kraken, Canucks, Building A Pacific North Rivalry
Kraken positional breakdown via the podcast …