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Pacific Preview: Sizing up the Battle of Alberta

How do the Kraken stack up against the top two Pacific teams from 2021-22?

Calgary Flames v Edmonton Oilers Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

It’s been a great summer. Few would argue the statement that the Seattle Kraken team hitting the ice this fall will look different than the inaugural roster did, but the question is will they be better? An injection of talented youth, adjustments to the coaching staff, and a couple key trades and signings lead most folks to predict a better standings result than 2021/22, but do the Kraken have a shot at their first post-season berth?

Toronto Blue Jays v Seattle Mariners Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

They’ll need to overtake a couple teams, either finishing top eight in the Western Conference, or top three in the Pacific Division. Neither achievement is a given, but the Kraken aren’t the only NHL team with a different look for the upcoming season. Over the next few weeks, we will examine the competition and take our best guess at Seattle’s chances for success.

  • Seattle Kraken Goals per game 2021-22: 2.6
  • Seattle Kraken Goals against per game 2021-22: 3.46

Edmonton Oilers

It’s not going to be easy. Edmonton boasts the league’s top two point producers over the past few seasons. They re-signed Evander Kane to a decently team-friendly deal, and his chemistry with Connor McDavid doesn’t look like something that will lose its potency over an 82 game season. If he can stay out of trouble off the ice, Edmonton may roll to a division title.

Colorado Avalanche v Edmonton Oilers - Game Four Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

The Oilers got a clear upgrade in net when Jack Campbell came over from the Toronto Maple Leafs to replace the geriatric Mike Smith, and they will be hungry to return to the post-season.

Will the Kraken overtake the Oilers? It’s unlikely, but Edmonton’s story arc with #97 on the roster has hardly been a straight line. The defense, past the top pairing, is offensively talented but could leak goals against as they once again rely on elite scoring to get them past their mistakes. In addition, Campbell has only started more than 50% of the games in a season one time (last year). Edmonton is likely a favorite to win the division, but they didn’t defend well last season and did little to upgrade the defense in front of their new netminder. In a single game match up, that’s what makes them beatable.

  • Edmonton Oilers goals per game 2021-22: 3.48
  • Edmonton Oilers goals against per game 2021-22: 3.06

Calgary Flames

Flames general manager Brad Treliving deserves a little credit. A few weeks ago it certainly looked like he’d be icing an inferior year-over-year squad in October. Johnny Gaudreau left in free agency and Matthew Tkachuk wanted a trade. The Flames had suffered a pretty thorough playoff beating at the hands of their provincial rivals and the team’s top two point producers would not be returning. Fast forward to today, and a very different Flames roster looks set to compete for the division.

NHL: MAR 16 Devils at Flames Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Flames absolutely fleeced the Florida Panthers, getting an arguably better, if older, Jonathan Huberdeau in return for Tkachuk, as well as a competent defender in Mackenzie Weegar, AND a prospect AND a first round pick. Having seen a fair amount of Tkachuk, I see this as a massive overpay. Younger than Huberdeau, he may outproduce the former #3 overall pick over the next few years, but Tkachuk has never been able to balance the pest portion of his persona with the point-producing one, and I have difficulty seeing him as the player to push the Panthers past the Eastern Conference competition.

2022 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Six Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Adding to their new depth is the recent signing of Nazim Kadri. At 31 years old, and paid $7 million for the next seven years, his will be a contract they regret before it expires, but this season it should be a great value. The Flames also have a solid goalie in Jakob Markstrom, and an established defensive core. They are well set up for 2022-23, and while things look to get rockier for them as their roster’s average age creeps up in the coming seasons, they’ll be a tough nut to crack this year.

  • Calgary Flames goals per game 2021-22: 3.55
  • Calgary Flames goals against per game 2021-22: 2.51

Final Thoughts

The Kraken will need to take a major leap forward in terms scoring and defensive execution in order to unseat either of the top two teams in the Pacific. Edmonton made the Western Conference Final for a reason, and Calgary, albeit with a different look, was only stopped short because they ran into Edmonton. The young players joining Seattle’s roster will have a major impact on whether or not the team climbs past either of these two clubs.

2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Portraits Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

I wouldn’t bet on it personally, because the gap is so significant between where the Kraken were last year and where the Oilers and Flames can be expected to be once again. Seattle needs to increase its scoring by something close to a goal per game while at the same time decreasing goals against by a sizeable amount. It’s a lot to ask of head coach Dave Hakstol, and not generally the speed at which lesser franchises become contenders. But worry not dear fans, the good news is we don’t need to beat the Alberta teams to make the playoffs.