Nathan Mackinnon is right. The All-Star Game shouldn’t have equal representation from every team in the league. It should only have players from the teams that matter to me. That’s a short list folks, but the Seattle Kraken versus Edmonton Oilers All-Star game where Jeremy Lauzon and Zack Kassian aren’t invited would be epic.
While Jordan Eberle earned a spot based on his early season play, he might not be the unanimous choice if we were picking today. Every month we’ve seen different Kraken players elevate their game. Despite a couple tough stretches and virtually no chance of postseason hockey, it’s still worth celebrating the players who pushed the team through those dark days and continue to give the fans reasons to cheer each month of the year.
October: Brandon “Ghost” Tanev
No question on this one. Tanev wasn’t selected off the Pittsburgh Penguins’ roster for his elite puck skills. He is an “energy” player who may lack finish, but brings everything he has to every shift, makes opposing players hear footsteps because he’s always willing to make, or take, a hit to make a play. But in those early days, when the team had barely played or practiced together, Tanev produced on the score sheet as well.
Tanev’s early production allowed the Kraken’s offensive players time to settle in, gave coach Dave Hakstol a window to install his defensive system, and gave fans something to cheer about. He brings an air of likability to fan and media interactions and I expect his presence is truly missed on the players’ bench. We hope he heals up quickly, but in the meantime you can catch him in the broadcast booth!
November: Jordan Eberle
Jordan Eberle started slow in Seattle, a fairly common occurrence over his career. But when he got things going he really got things going. The first hat-trick in Seattle Kraken history was only a part of the barrage of goals (9) he scored that month. Singlehandedly winning the game against Buffalo showed Seattle fans a glimpse of the player Eberle has always been capable of being.
The thing about Ebs is he gets hot, and he gets cold. Nine goals in November was followed by only 1 in December, and none thus far in January (Covid interruptions reduced his recent opportunities of course). It can be frustrating, but at the end of the season, you are generally happy with his point totals, even if they tend to come in bunches. And let’s face it, if regular Jordan Eberle scored like “Hot Streak” Jordan Eberle, he wouldn’t have been available during the Expansion Draft.
December: Ryan Donato
Ryan Donato wasn’t the only candidate for January, but in a month where the Kraken broke out of a long losing streak, his five goals stood out over other worthy candidates such as Calle “point-per-game” Järnkrok. The 25-year-old Donato has bounced around the league over the first few years of his career, but he’s always managed to find the back of the net. As a pending RFA at year’s end, his 20 goal pace should line him up for a decent raise, and GM Ron Francis should be looking to keep him on the roster.
While it didn’t happen in December, there was a nice story about Donato the other day. A good friend of the recently deceased Colby Cave, Donato wore a tie gifted to him by Cave’s wife Emily for the Kraken’s recent game versus the Chicago Blackhawks. With Emily in attendance, the good luck charm worked, and Donato scored the game tying goal, as well as a shootout marker, as the Kraken secured the victory.
While I’m tempted to give Davy Jones, the new team dog, this month’s award, there’s someone else who has been noticeable in a good way in January. When Philip Grubauer signed with the Kraken as a free agent, there was a general feeling that the situation in net was settled. After a Vezina-caliber season with the Colorado Avalanche, the clear-cut number one goalie behind a respectable Seattle defensive core was meant to give the team a chance to win every night. Things haven’t been quite so settled this season, with questionable or “save-able” goals going in more nights than not.
As January has progressed, it is at last beginning to look like Grubauer is the goalie we were all hoping for back in October. Goaltending is voodoo, and it’s important to remember that there are five other players on the ice who share some blame for every goal against. His early struggles might have been related to a small detail like the lighting at Climate Pledge Arena being slightly different, affecting how a goaltender perceives the angle of a shot or save. Regardless, if Gruuuu can be a difference maker, the Kraken can win on any given night, as proven by their recent upset victories against the Florida Panthers and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Who will rise for the Kraken in the back half of the season? Will we see more production, big saves, or new records? Is there a chance, even a small one, of a late season playoff push, or will we all start watching the Entry Draft rankings and simulating the lottery results in the hope that Shane Wright can help the team find the post-season next year? Either way, I’ve enjoyed Seattle hockey this season. Let me know in the comments who your all-star(s) would be.