Sink or Swim? Kraken Underperform in Inaugural Season

Photo Courtesy Seattle Kraken

Photo Courtesy Seattle Kraken

Jordan Balousek, Staff Writer

It’s no secret that the Kraken didn’t have the season that everyone hoped they would have. However, even though the Kraken’s overall record on the year was an abysmal 27-49-6 (win, loss, overtime loss), the record was only a small portion of the inaugural year’s ultimate impact.

News that Seattle would be getting the NHL’s 32nd hockey team broke in December of 2018, and the team name and logo were unveiled in July of 2020. Fan support was almost immediate— when season-ticket deposits went on sale in March of 2018, before the team was officially even in existence (applications for a Seattle hockey team were only received in December of 2018,) roughly 35,000 deposits were made within a few hours of release. 

The team announced in July of 2019 that Ron Francis would serve as the Kraken’s inaugural general manager, and in July of 2021 that Dave Hakstol would serve as head coach. The expansion draft took place on July 21, 2021. (An expansion draft allows a new team to pick a player from each existing team, although teams are allowed to protect certain players from their own team.) 

The general consensus among fans is that while Francis did his best, he did not achieve the same level of success with the draft that George McPhee had with the Vegas Golden Knights (the most recent new team before the Kraken). The Knights have become the poster child for excellent drafts going forward. 

It was reported that Francis likely attempted to make deals for ‘draft considerations,’ (future bargains, draft picks and deals in the future), as did McPhee in 2017, but Francis’ hard bargain of a first-round pick minimum did not allow him to find many willing to take the deal. 

Francis took mainly young players, with the exception of NHL veteran Mark Giordano, who would proceed to serve as the Kraken’s first captain before getting traded mid-season. Francis also passed on many of the big-name players that were available, and left lots of cap space. (Cap space is the total amount of money a GM is allowed to spend on salaries for their team.) 

The Kraken kicked off their season with an away game versus the Vegas Golden Knights on October 12, and lost 4-3. The Kraken took their first win in a 4-3 victory versus the Nashville Predators, during their second game on October 14th. The first goal in franchise history came from Ryan Donato. The home opener took place in Climate Pledge Arena on October 21. 

The Kraken proceeded to struggle through the winter and spring, and eventually ended up 8th of 8 in the Pacific Division, and the third-fewest points in the league. The Kraken also had near league-worst numbers in both the penalty kill and power play.

Overall, the Kraken had an exceedingly underwhelming season. Since the Kraken were such a large question mark, many people had hopes of them advancing to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, due to the assumed weakness of this year’s Pacific Division teams. 

However, the fans are still turning out, despite being one of the worst teams in the league. The attendance at Climate Pledge Arena, which itself boasts advanced technology (due to Amazon owning Climate Pledge) and diverse food options, still hovers around 17,000 in attendance on average, which puts Seattle at 14th in league attendance averages. 

While the team may not have had as prolific an inaugural season as fans have hoped, the team has still provided a unifying presence for the entirety of the city.