The Vegas-sized expansion expectations for the Seattle Kraken are gone.
There’s no pressure to reach the Stanley Cup playoffs in their first year of existence, as the Golden Knights did four years earlier in their amazing run all the way to the Finals.
Year 2 for the Kraken begins Wednesday night when they take on the host Anaheim Ducks.
The Kraken went 27-49-6 (60 points) last season, finishing last in the Pacific Division. Only the Arizona Coyotes and Montreal Canadiens were worse.
“I think each guy is hungry to prove to ourselves and prove to each other that we can be a lot better, more competitive and being in a lot better spot this year come March and April,” Kraken forward Jaden Schwartz said.
Seattle improved its offense in the offseason by adding Andre Burakovsky, a free agent who won a Stanley Cup with Colorado last season, and Oliver Bjorkstrand, acquired in a salary dump by Columbus.
They’ll have a full season of Matty Beniers, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 draft who had nine points in 10 games with the Kraken after his season at the University of Michigan was completed, and this year’s No. 4 overall pick Shane Wright, who many scouts had projected as going first overall.
“We need to find ways to be better offensively,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said. “Part of that is some of our personnel and the additions that we have, but also a big part of that is just being better at some of the areas in terms of getting inside and finding some of those scoring opportunities.”
Seattle hopes goaltender Philipp Grubauer returns to his 2020-21 form, when he was a Vezina Trophy finalist. His .889 save percentage last season was the worst among NHL starters.
“It didn’t work out for us last year. We didn’t have the year we wanted to have as a team and individual,” Grubauer said. “So it’s time to step up and make those changes.”
The Ducks went 31-37-14 (76 points), finishing just ahead of the Kraken in the eight-team division, to extend their playoff drought to four years.
Anaheim has plenty of young talent, with Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale making impacts as rookies last season.
“We hope they take their game to another level,” Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek said. “We’re going to need them to take it to another level. The hardest thing coming into your second year is teams start to know who you are. It’s not easier, it’s harder and I think they understand that. We’ll see. That’s the hardest thing.”
Longtime captain Ryan Getzlaf retired and veterans such as Hampus Lindholm, Rickard Rakell and Josh Manson were sent packing at last season’s trade deadline.
Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said he wasn’t worried about filling the leadership void after the team added veterans such as Ryan Strome, Frank Vatrano, John Klingberg and Dmitry Kulikov in the offseason.
“(Getzlaf) was an excellent captain, and he was a massive influence on everything our players did,” Eakins said. “I have full comfort, I have no questions, about our leadership in that room. We have guys who have been around who are just excellent human beings who think about their teammates. The last thing on my list of worries right now is leadership.”
–Field Level Media