At the time of writing, the Seattle Kraken are last in the Pacific Division (10-19-4).
This alone isn’t surprising for a first-year team. The Vegas Golden Knights’ rookie-season run to the Stanley Cup finals should be seen as a once-in-a-lifetime occurence rather than the standard for expansion franchises.
At the expansion draft, SEA picked a so-so roster focused on defensive ablities, and then built their team from the net-out by signing Vezina trophy finalist Philipp Grubauer to a long-term deal, which hasn’t panned out.
But what if it isn’t just Grubauer’s fault?
Do SEA’s tactics cause their goalies to be more exposed than usual?
Here are three areas of concern.
In the Offensive Zone
Goal-scoring talent is hard to come by at the expansion draft, especially when one is not gifted with top-line finishers Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith (FLA → VGK).
To compensate for its lack of high-end skill, SEA creates in-zone offense from behind the net.
The triangle formed by the three SEA players allows them to funnel the puck to the net quickly. This creates mismatches, especially if opposing Ds and G are not frequently shoulder-checking to identify threats.
However, a behind-the-net play also forces SEA to invest three skaters below the hashmarks. By not keeping their third man high in the OZ, the Kraken are vulnerable to a turnover leading to a 3v2 against.
In the Neutral Zone
Transitional drivers are hard to come by at the expansion draft.
SEA’s solution to its lack of elite puck carriers is to have Fs stretching to the far blue line and Ds firing long-range passes, as to spend as little time in the NZ as possible.
By shooting the puck north, SEA can catch opponents off-guard and create a rush chance. However, by not using the space underneath to create passing sequences in transition, SEA has trouble controlling the tempo and often finds itself losing rush battles against more talented teams.
In the Defensive Zone
There are two schools of thought when it comes to a defenseman’s job in DZ coverage.
When protecting the front of the net, NHL Ds are either taught to box out (stay between your man and the net, and then crosscheck the sh*t out of him) or to front their man (as to be first on loose pucks).
In the heat of the action, SEA D’s oscillate between both approaches.
Sometimes they wind up interfering with their own goalies.
These clips don’t tell the entire story, as every NHL D occasionally make mistakes in DZC. However, SEA’s overall inability to sustain possession time and their cardio-hockey style of play certainly puts more stress on their Ds and G.
However, it’s not all bad news for Seattle, at least in the medium to long term.
SEA’s overall way of playing is pretty standard. With a more talented roster built through high draft picks, the team can become quite dangerous offensively, organically leading to less DZ time and fewer breakdowns.
Time will tell.