A series of starting points: Where should the Kraken focus their offseason and why?

Since our dear sweet Kraken will not be participating in their first playoff series this year, it’s coming closer and closer to the time where Ron Francis and company can begin to take stock of what they have, and begin to properly build for the future. Let’s take a look at some of the options available to them and where they should consider focusing their efforts.

I will be using some visuals from HockeyViz.com and EvolvingHockey.com to explore these options, and while yes, there are still 10 games left on the schedule, I feel I can be reasonably confident in using them as they are a good indicator of the overall performance the team has put up, and they’re updated to the time of this writing…which is the 10th of April. Things can change quickly.

Build the Farm as hard as you can

The Kraken will no longer have to have a jet parked close to Bojangles Stadium in Charlotte next year in case of emergency, as Acrisure Arena down in the Palm Springs area seems to be going up at a smooth pace, and it looks like the Firebirds will be set for the AHL’s opening night for the 2022-23, which is good! I’m excited to see how they look, especially with how clean those jerseys are, and the fun of AHL promotional sweaters.

Thing is…they still need players to fill out the Firebirds roster. A lot of them.

Even with the Beniers signing, The Kraken have about 20 non-roster skaters, give or take, that will need to be bumped up slightly to both fill an AHL roster, and in order to compliment a their younger talent who will be coming into their pro careers, such as Ryker Evans and Tye Kartye, as well as any prospects they draft this summer.

I would not be surprised at all if a flurry of signings after the draft were announced to help build the Firebirds, and more importantly the Kraken’s not-NHL depth, be able to successfully deal with next man up scenarios and have a place for young hopefuls and AHL tweeners to both acclimate and grow their games…preferably in a place that isn’t a 5 and a half hour flight away.

Acquire Higher-End Offense

While the Kraken have a laundry list of problems, at the top of that list is that the Kraken need goals, and have needed goals badly. An all too familiar situation for Seattle this year has been getting down by one or two goals, pulling the goalie in the final five minutes, and then surrendering the empty-net dagger because try as they might, they just cant get the finish they need.

Just imagine where they’d be if they got even half of the goals they wanted to tie a game late after pulling the goalie.

The advanced numbers seem to suggest this is also the case. Their base totals in the shot metrics (Corsi, Fenwick, Expected Goals For %) are…Okay. Fine. Not great. Usually hovering somewhere between 18th and 20th depending on the stat. Where the real interesting and telling discussion is in the per-60 rates, which paint a much more desperate picture. Per Evolving-Hockey.com, the Kraken are:

…in the NHL. Both systematically and individually, the Kraken are having the worst time getting things going, and watching them struggle with the puck in the offensive zone…you can kind of tell.

Part of this can be alleviated from the Young Guns To Be coming into the system after the Draft and hopefully getting Brandon Tanev back from IR for next season, but this is an upcoming free agency where you could make major improvements overnight simply by adding a Filip Forsberg, a Nazem Kadri, or a Johnny Gaudreau to the lineup.

Improve the Defensive depth however you can.

Admittedly, this is a focus that would probably benefit from tweaking a system more than simply adding more talent, but it certainly feels like something that the Kraken could do.

Believe it or not the Kraken defense is actually pretty good at the “keeping pucks out of the middle of the ice“ and “pick it up around the boards” thing. Most of the time.

On one side of the ice. And critically not in front of their goaltender.

Left side Defense has been an up and down problem for Seattle in that it’s often the part of the ice the opposing team attacks in order to get their goals, seemingly aware that while yes, Carson Soucy and Vince Dunn are perfectly good blueliners, they have their limits. Criticially, they have a lot of trouble with transition which has led to some of the more unpleasant goals against.

Building a more proactive defense will require careful drafting of course, but in the short term, this defense could definitely use a player who can either slide in the depth chart between say…Dunn and Soucy, or Soucy and Oleksiak, particularly somebody who’s skating skill is emphasized above everything else.

They gotta do something about that goaltending, right?

It sure feels like it, doesn’t it?

For most of the year the Kraken were using their money to pay a combined $9.4 million AAV for some less than stellar goaltending from both Phillipp Grubauer and Chris Dreidger. Both are going to be finishing this season sporting a greasy 3 or so goals against average, a miserable High-Danger Unblocked Shot Attempt Save Percentage parked in down in the mid .600’s, and a very variable .890 SV% on the year…that’s not worth the money or the years owed to both. At all.

But then a funny thing happened after the trade deadline. They got better.

Not dramatically, mind you; the Kraken still are the Kraken, and shots-against that honestly looked pretty weak have still gone through both Grubauer and Dreidger’s glove, but the post-deadline goaltending play has at least improved to the point that you could convince yourself that the current tandem belongs in the NHL, which brings up a very weird and very risky question that could decide much of the Kraken’s future:

…What if this was all just one big anomaly?

Seriously, goaltending is often described as “Voodoo” for this reason. Sometimes, players just have bad years and then rebound big. Grubauer’s career SV% is a .915, and prior to joining the Deep Blue, the last time he was this bad was when he had just come to North America back in 2008, and then he proceeded to rebound and be a solid player through junior, minor league, and now pro-level play. Dreidger’s long winding path to the NHL has gone through ups and downs sure, but he’s shown that he can handle the rigors before with a team that honestly had more defensive breakdowns than a city wall made from straw. Dreidger right now has posted some incredible performances even in losses since his clunker against Ottawa. There’s something here. It’s just not making it to the surface with as much as it should.

So that begs the question…can you do anything? Their contracts are pretty hefty and their play over the first part of the season was so bad it bordered on historical. Do you try and find a way out of their deals? or do you take the gamble on this all just being one big bad string of luck?

It’s the one thing that obviously needs work…but could potentially be solved by doing nothing. Goalies are voodoo, after all.

These are just some of the major things I think could be a reasonable starting point for the 2022 offseason, but the Kraken can try building out from a myriad of places: they could start with aggressive trading of RFA players for yet more picks, they could acquire a couple more NCAA free agents, and they could even make a huge splash and get a number one center for the interim between now and guys like Beniers’ peak years.

There aren’t a lot of positives to being this bad, but one definite positive is that you can attack from any number of angles and always be doing the right thing.