Things for the Kraken are kind of dire at the moment.
They are last in the Pacific by an increasingly wide margin, they are on their fourth straight loss, their goaltending is collectively sub-.850 in save percentage, their team save percentage and high danger save percentage is worst in the league by an increasingly wide margin, and yeah, they’re just generally pretty bad.
The thing is...they’re not doing everything wrong, is what’s getting me.
They’re 9th in the league in shot attempt percentage, 8th in unblocked shot attempt percentage, 11th in shots for, and 10th in expected goals percentage. Hell, they’re actually first in the league with the fewest shots allowed. By the numbers, the Kraken just should not be as bad as they are, even with the goaltending cratering. There’s plenty of precedent in that! They may not be great, but the Kraken shouldn’t be this bad. It just don’t add up.
The difference between understanding it, and getting it.
Now, I admit I have only my disgusting ocular jelly to describe what I mean by this, and the eye test is a great way to make yourself look like a giant idiot if/when things turn around and it all clicks, but I’m looking at the way the Kraken have lost (the majority) of their games and something came to me.
The Kraken, at least at a systemic level, understand what they’re supposed to be doing as a team...but don’t get it.
We all seem to have an idea of the difference between understanding something and getting it. It’s small in theory, but in practice it can make all the difference in life. Understanding how painting works is one thing, sitting there with primer, a brush and sixty layer paints and getting what you’re supposed to do with it is something entirely different. Understanding the controls of a video game and what each button does is completely different from getting the flow of how the game works using those controls.
The Kraken are kind of like that when it comes to NHL hockey; They absolutely do the things you’re supposed to do: they get a lot of shots, they limit the other team’s shots against, they get shots in the slot (for the most part), and when they get rolling they get rolling, dominating at 5-on-5 more often than not. That’s understanding the assignment.
But getting it means you have to score power play goals. And get some basic saves in opening minutes of games, let alone timely ones. And defend in transition. And hell, just defend a lead with some confidence. Teams that dominate can do that. But if you dominate and still give up these “never going in for anybody else in the world” kind of goals...that’s not getting it.
And that, more than anything else, is what’s killing them.
Part of this is the goaltending just collapsing in on itself, and part of it is the defense failing that goaltending
Of all the many problems the Kraken face, it’s kind of difficult to say anyone saw this coming.
The goalies for the Kraken have not performed at a level befitting NHL talent. Simply put. Whatever Philipp Grubauer, Chris Dreidger, and Joey Daccord have been doing in practice or doing in games simply isn’t enough. Too many pucks are getting past them. Too many easy pucks.
But they haven’t all been pretty easy.
Plenty of games have gone by where opposing forwards have been able to walk in basically unopposed to the slot. Almost every game so far has featured an offensive zone breakdown that led to a goal in transition for the other team. The defense, simply put, has been careless with the puck, and it’s made the already struggling goaltending’s job that much harder.
...but lots of front office people share blame on this, too.
We haven’t brought up Ron Francis’ name much on this site because prior to...well, having played 14 games, we didn’t really know what Ronnie’s work would look like. There’s only so much you can actually look at until it’s in front of a live NHL crowd and game.
Having said that, I do have some concerns:
- Depth defensemen acquired have largely been interchangeable and struggling.
- While the team’s forwards definitely can control a game, the lack of any form of pure, NHL-ready finishing skill has had deleterious effects on getting back into games.
- That $7 mil in cap space really just sitting there until trade deadline day, huh?
- Why did you give Vanecek back to the Caps, Ronnie.
But he’s not the only one responsible. Oh no, for you see...somebody has to put them together.
And Dave Hakstol. Oh Dear David Hakstol, coach of the Kraken. You share a part of this too, mon frère. Your coaching staff has control of who does what on the power play. Your coaching style has created the team in front us. You were given a chance to show us that the Flyers tenure was just a terrible fluke. That your work was the victim of circumstance. You got a lot of talented players here, too! They’ve been good on good teams and good on bad teams. A couple were some bright spots on some cold, cold days for some teams.
And it’s starting to look like this is just how Dave Hakstol teams are. And that means if that’s the case, you’re going to be a big part of what might change in the near future.
Even then, there’s still a chance for change
The Kraken are looking very, very, very doubtful of a playoff spot at the moment, but still have 60+ games to finally, finally get it. It doesn’t look like it’s happening now, and more often than not the place you’re in by New Year’s day is often where you’re gonna sit for the rest of the year...but there’s still hope.
For one thing, the trade deadline could produce some real opportunity for the Kraken, and having plenty of stars (many of whom will be heading to the Olympics) will be more than likely quite tired after being in China for two weeks, and the scrunched up schedule will only exacerbate that.
The Kraken have a real chance to surprise some teams in the second half of the season. But they have to start getting it first.