Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Ten ways I was wrong about the surprising Seattle Kraken

Occasionally, I am wrong.

No, it’s OK, I get that you’re shocked. My takes are usually air-tight, my reasoning impeccable. If you’ve ever scrolled down to the comment section of one of my pieces, you know that it’s typically just hundreds of readers posting identical replies of “Yep, nailed it completely”. Call me Tage Thompson, because they thought my success rate was unsustainable, and then I got better.

Except, not always. And that means that every now and then, I need to eat some crow. I had an appetizer last week, when my podcast pals dug up a September clip of me saying that the only hope the Devils had was if they responded well to Andrew Brunette after the inevitable early firing of Lindy Ruff. That, uh, has not happened yet. It’s still early, and the Devils could lose their next 55 games to drop back down to .500, but I’m going to go ahead and pencil that one in as a missed call.

But it may not be my biggest whiff of the season, because I was also completely wrong about the Seattle Kraken. That would be the team that just had a seven-game win streak and currently sits at 15-6-3, good for second in the West. All that in just their second year in the league, despite being just one season removed from an abysmal 30th-place showing.

I did not see this coming. I’m guessing you didn’t either; I’m not sure I can remember seeing any preseason picks that had the Kraken making the playoffs, let alone pushing for the division lead. In my annual prediction contest, 669 of you named Seattle as a team that had no chance of making the playoffs, which was more picks than the Sabres, Senators and Blue Jackets combined. Three times as many of you thought the Kraken missing the playoffs was a sure thing as picked the Ducks, and they’re dead last right now.

So I know I’m not alone. But I can only be accountable for myself, so let’s do this. Ten ways I was wrong about the Kraken, at least so far.

1. I thought they’d be bad. Like, really bad.

We’ll start with the most obvious miss, which is also the most important. When I made my preseason picks, dropping each team into a division based on my expectations for the 2022-23 season, I had the Kraken in with the bottom-feeders, meaning they’d be among the eight worst teams in the league. Honestly, if I’d had to get more specific, I probably would have said bottom five.

I did acknowledge that they’d added a few talented pieces like Andre Burakovsky and Oliver Bjorkstrand, and that they’d be better than they had in year one. But then I cut to the chase, writing that “this is still an expansion team in the traditional sense, which is to say they’re bad”. It’s fair to say that hasn’t held up so far.

2. I figured their only path to major improvement was Philipp Grubauer

My one hedge when it came to writing off the Kraken was that the starting goaltending could be significantly better. In fairness, that’s my hedge on pretty much every team, but in this case it felt plausible. Grubauer had been very good in Washington and Colorado, including being a Vezina finalist in 2021. He’d stunk in Seattle in year one, but stuff happens, especially when you have a completely new team trying to gel in front of you. I held out the possibility that the old Grubauer could reappear, and that would save the Kraken.

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