NHL Notebook: Where the Kraken’s roster composition compares to other struggling teams in the league
The struggling Seattle Kraken in its first season is not as bad as some other clubs.
The Kraken have certainly been disappointing with just 12 wins as of mid-January. No one expected a first season in Vegas, but hopes were higher than that.
That said, Seattle isn’t in a terrible place. What the Montreal Canadiens are dealing with, or the Arizona Coyotes, or the Buffalo Sabers, or even the Philadelphia Flyers, is very different.
The Canadiens or Coyotes will likely finish with the fewest points in the league and have the best chance of winning the lottery for Shane Wright, the almost sure first overall pick. The battle for third place will come down to the Kraken or the Sabers or the Ottawa Senators.
There is a path for the Kraken; they have pieces to build around, Yanni Gourde and Jamie Oleksiak in place, Carson Soucy solidifying in the lineup, and can re-sign Jared McCann and Ryan Donato with Matty Beniers on the way, and possibly Ryker Evans and Ryan Winterton Also. At the trade deadline, they have a lot of stuff they could use to strengthen the organization, adding more prospects or draft picks.
The Canadiens, who have just won their first Stanley Cup race since 1994, are having a disastrous season. They were expected to be competitive this season and might end up with the worst record instead. They appointed a new general manager, Kent Hughes, earlier this week.
Their journey is a little more obscure. Unlike the Kraken with nearly $14 million in cap space – potentially more in the offseason if they trade — Montreal still has work to do to be able to recover. They have choices to make; they can move on from Brendan Gallagher, Jeff Petry or Tyler Toffoli or keep one of them if they want to make another playoff anytime soon.
Then there are the Coyotes, who feel furthest from the divisive. We don’t even know where they will play next season. Aside from Dylan Guenther, they don’t have an elite prospect on the way. Their fourth scorer is defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere.
The Sabers have already traded their most dynamic player in decades, Jack Eichel, for draft picks and prospects and Alex Tuch. They have basic elements, like Rasmus Dahlin and future stars Casey Mittelstadt and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, but they are also excessively young and development could take a few years.
Outside of Montreal, the Flyers may be in the toughest position. Alain Vigneault was relieved of his duties and Philadelphia did not see the bump in the Canucks standings without Travis Green. They are 0-8-2 in their last 10 games. They’ve had two different 10-game losing streaks in 40 games.
Ranking the Kraken’s future among struggling teams this year could be determined by the trade deadline. Last season was a buyer’s market. Between the posture in the East and the teams trying to gain ground in the West, this year’s could be too.
If the Kraken get some sort of decent comeback and have an offseason plan to build around whatever they identify as their core, they could catapult themselves past some of those clubs.
Only Jordan Eberle, Joonas Donskoi, Jaden Schwartz, Brandon Tanev and Gourde are under contract beyond the next offseason as far as forwards go. Oleksiak and Adam Larsson are the only defenders signed beyond next season; Will Borgen, Vince Dunn and Soucy still have a year left on their deals.
They have more flexibility than any team in the league and arguably the most difficult task of any team in the league as an expansion club during COVID. As disappointing as this season has been, between the deadline and the offseason, they have a bit of an overhaul button that other clubs don’t have due to the cap and organizational depth. It’s a position a team like the Sabers or Coyotes would surely love to be in instead of the league purgatory they’ve ventured into.
Oilers in a rut
The Oilers have been at the center of the hockey world this week, and not in a good way.
Going 2-11-2 in their last 15 games, earning just six points in that streak, nothing is looking good. Dave Tippett is almost certainly in the hot seat, winless with him behind the bench since November (he missed time in COVID protocol). Fans throw jerseys on the ice. The media and the players argue publicly.
What’s the answer up there? Goalkeeper Mikko Koskinen has taken a lot of heat, but the problems extend far beyond him. They’ve scored two goals or less in 10 games of this epic 15-game slump.
The Oilers entered their Alberta battle with the Calgary Flames on Saturday night a long way from a playoff berth, and it’s starting to look like they’re not going to turn back the clock.
On the same night the Oilers hit their current low, the Panthers showed why they might be the scariest team in the league.
Sergei Bobrovsky, once thought to have an albatross contract in Florida, ruled out the Oilers for a 6-0 win Thursday. It was a good response to a 5-1 loss to Calgary the previous game, a hit on the radar of a dominating streak.
The Panthers have been building their momentum for quite some time. Their first-round streak with eventual Cup-winning Lightning last season was a glimpse of a team poised to be a force, only with the misfortune of being in the league’s toughest division.
Heading into Sunday’s game in Seattle, Bobrovsky is 20-3-3 with a 2.38 goals-against average and .925 save percentage. He is in the conversation for his third Vézina.
It’s a stark contrast to the team they last played in Edmonton, and considering all the video game scoring numbers Florida continues to post, it’s easy to lose Bobrovsky in the conversation. But if the Panthers continue that run this year, it will be why.