Ah the new year. A chance for a fresh start. It’s time to toss out the errors we made in the past year because this time we’re going to do better.
The Seattle Kraken have only truly been a part of the National Hockey League for 3 months. They’re still essentially on their first fresh start, but it hasn’t exactly gone as well as we’d hoped. They’re last in the Pacific division, a full 9 points behind the 7th-place Vancouver Canucks, with a win percentage better than only the Coyotes, Canadiens, and Senators. Thankfully, as 2022 dawns on us all, we can put those early struggles behind us and look towards the future. It’s time to set some New Year’s resolutions for the Seattle Kraken.
Use both of your goaltenders to your advantage
In the week between the Expansion Draft and the NHL Entry Draft, the presumptive starter for the Kraken was Chris Driedger. It was assumed to be a tandem approach, with Driedger being the 1A to Vitek Vanecek’s 1B, but that all changed on the first day of the free agency signing period. General manager Ron Francis found Vezina finalist Philipp Grubauer unexpectedly available for a price he was comfortable with, so he locked him down to be the starting goaltender for the first six years of this franchise.
Well, so far this year, head coach Dave Hakstol has given Grubauer the workload of a top-end goaltender, but has received...not the production of a top-end goaltender. I have no doubt that Grubauer will bounce back to somewhere nearer the player we’ve seen him be his entire career, but right now, there’s no reason to continue giving him 72% of the starts for Seattle. Driedger struggled a bit in preseason but at the very least hasn’t been any worse than Grubauer, and there was a thought at one time that he could be a legitimate starting goalie in the NHL. This split doesn’t have to be 50/50, but maybe the second half of this season we could shoot for something like a 60/40 split.
Keep the energy up
Brandon Tanev broke into the NHL as an undrafted rookie and played in 51 games in his first full season in 2016-17. He played in at least that many for the next three years, then 32 in the shortened season last year, but his first year in Seattle has ended after just 30 games. He went down with an ACL injury in a game against the Oilers just before the holiday break and he’ll be out for the year.
The Kraken, as a team, will sorely miss him. He’s their leading hitter (and still probably will be for the rest of the week), he leads all forwards in shot blocks, and he’s one of their top penalty killers. And more importantly, he brings such a tremendous amount of energy and fun to the ice and to the locker room.
half-naked brandon tanev sneaking past jack rathbone's post-game interview is the highlight of the day pic.twitter.com/L2KZBZPdEg— clarissa! (@quinnsedgework) September 27, 2021
Tanev is still under contract with Seattle for three more years, so there should be plenty of blessed content coming our way for quite some time. But coming back from a prolonged injury is difficult on both the body and the mind. Let’s toast to keeping Tanev’s spirits up throughout his rehab process so he can get back on the ice and in our hearts right off the bat next season.
Use your size to your advantage
Morgan Geekie has a wicked shot. He scored on the first two shots of his career, and on his third shot as a Kraken. But the reality is he doesn’t have the elite skill or speed that you might see from a lot of top-line forwards in the league. What he does have, though, is size.
Getting him the puck in space is great in theory, and leaving him at the top of the circles on the power play is a strategy the Kraken should continue to employ. But he has still managed just 3 goals this season, and it might be time to realize that he’s not going to have the time and space at 5-on-5 to utilize that heavy shot. Instead, Geekie might be better suited to play to his size and skate the puck to the front of the net and start looking for some of those greasier goals.
Let’s resolve to get Geekie crashing the net a la Brandon Tanev or Nathan Bastian and see if that unlocks another level to his game and increases his scoring output.
Score a goal, any goal
I’m sure he doesn’t need reminding, but man it would be nice to get this monkey off his back. Donskoi isn’t a bad offensive player, I swear! Just break the seal! Maybe he can just stand in front of the net and make himself look as big as possible, as though he were trying to chase away a bear. That should increase the odds a puck bounces off of him on its way into the net at some point.
Stop taking penalties
Jeremy Lauzon doesn’t exactly have the highest regard among Kraken fans, at least not relative to the regard the coaching staff seems to have for him. He’s a promising young defender who isn’t afraid to throw his body around, but he’s a little rough around the edges right now. He’s had a few sloppy turnovers in bad spots on the ice, and he’s also had some trouble with penalties. As of this writing, Lauzon is tied for the 4th-most penalty minutes among defensemen in the entire NHL. To be fair, a good few of those have come from fighting majors, but even discarding those it’s still not great. Per Evolving Hockey, among the 155 defensemen with at least 400 minutes this season, Lauzon has the 12th-most minor penalties taken per 60 minutes of ice time in the league.
Hockey is a physical game, and it’s understandable that Lauzon would have a place as a lineup regular with his physicality. But maybe it’s time to dial it back just a smidge if it’s going to keep putting the team on the penalty kill.
Dave Hakstol, again
Let Will Borgen play
I know we already did Dave Hakstol, but the head coach should be able to handle two resolutions. Coach, can we get a little more Will Borgen out there this year?
Borgen has appeared in 7 games so far this year and shown plenty of promise at both ends of the ice already. He’s blocking over 8 shots per 60 minutes of ice time, more than any other defender on the roster. In fact, that’s the third best shot block rate of anyone with at least 7 games played in the NHL. That’s some good hard working defensive play coaches should love. And aside from that, there is an underlying offensive ability beginning to rear its head with his recent ice time, specifically with this pass from behind his own net on Thursday night.
Look at this pass! pic.twitter.com/JtslzWwX06— Davy Jones' Locker Room (@DavyJonesLR) December 31, 2021
Honestly, the Covid outbreaks have already jump-started this resolution a bit early, with half the defensive corps going down for a stretch around the holidays. But when all healthy, it’s past time to see a more regular dose of Borgen in the lineup than we saw in 2021.
While 2021 wasn’t the best start to this franchise, there are some improvements that are in sight that might help 2022 kick off a bit better. Got any more resolutions for someone on the Kraken? Let us know in the comments!