The NHL’s newest franchise takes the ice for the first time in a regular season game Tuesday night, when the expansion Seattle Kraken is released against the Vegas Golden Knights, until now the league’s newest team and one the Kraken would like to emulate: Vegas advanced to the Stanley Cup finals in its inaugural 2017-18 season and has made the playoffs in all four years of its existence.
Will the Kraken have similar success? Read on to find out.
How can I watch? The Kraken’s debut in Las Vegas starts at 10 p.m. Eastern and will be televised by ESPN and streamed on ESPN Plus.
Wait, ESPN? Yes, the NHL is back on the cable-sports giant for the first time since 2004 under the league’s new television contracts, in which ESPN and Turner Sports replace NBC as the league’s main television partners. The new deals run for seven years and are worth $635 million annually to the league.
So what is a Kraken? The Kraken is a mythical sea beast of Scandinavian folklore that combines the most menacing aspects of the octopus, giant squid and crab, and its use by Seattle’s NHL franchise is a tip of the hat to that area’s nautical culture.
The team’s logo is a callback to the Seattle Metropolitans, who became the first American team to win the Stanley Cup in 1917 before folding in 1924.
“Release the Kraken!” became a catchphrase thanks to the 2010 “Clash of the Titans” remake.
Where will the Kraken play? Climate Pledge Arena reopens later this month after a three-year renovation of the stadium formerly known as KeyArena, which previously was home to the NBA’s Seattle SuperSonics, the WNBA’s Seattle Storm and numerous minor league hockey teams. The stadium will seat 17,100 for hockey. The finishing touches still are being applied to the stadium, and Seattle opens the season with five road games before finally christening the refurbished stadium Oct. 23 against Vancouver.
Who is the Kraken’s coach? Dave Hakstol led the Philadelphia Flyers to playoff appearances in two of three seasons from 2015 to 2018 before being fired two months into his fourth season. He most recently was an assistant for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Who are the Kraken’s top players? In July, Seattle cobbled together its roster in an expansion draft involving every other NHL team except the Golden Knights, who were exempt from losing a player in exchange for forgoing a share of the expansion fee the Kraken paid to the league. Seattle also had a two-day window immediately preceding the draft to sign other teams’ pending free agents. The roster includes:
- Mark Giordano, defenseman: Named the Kraken’s first captain, the 38-year-old comes to Seattle after spending 15 seasons with the Calgary Flames, the past eight of them as their captain. He is only two seasons removed from winning the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman.
- Yanni Gourde, center: Gourde, a third-line stalwart of the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, had shoulder surgery just before the expansion draft and isn’t expected to suit up until next month. When he does, he is expected to give the Kraken a nice two-way presence. Gourde has scored 13 goals in the past two playoffs, including what would prove to be the game-winner in Game 7 of last season’s Eastern Conference finals.
- Philipp Grubauer, goaltender: A finalist for the Vezina Trophy last season, Grubauer became available in free agency after failing to agree to terms with the Colorado Avalanche. The Kraken signed him to a six-year, $35.4 million contract in July. Last season, Grubauer became the 10th goaltender in NHL history to record 10 or more consecutive postseason victories.
- Chris Driedger, goaltender: Driedger spent six-plus seasons in the minors before finally cracking an NHL lineup with the Florida Panthers in 2019-20. He went 14-6-3 last season with a 2.07 goals against average and a .927 save percentage, and the Kraken thought highly enough of him to sign him as a free agent ahead of the expansion draft and give him a three-year, $10.5 million contract.
- Jamie Oleksiak, defenseman: Standing 6-foot-7, Oleksiak has earned his “Big Rig” nickname thanks to his size and physical presence. But he also had nine points (five goals, four assists) in the Dallas Stars’ run to the 2020 Stanley Cup finals.
What about the Kraken’s coronavirus situation? Hakstol said Monday that five Kraken players — Oleksiak and forwards Jared McCann, Joonas Donskoi, Marcus Johansson and Calle Jarnkrok — are in the NHL’s covid protocol. None of the players practiced Monday before departing for Las Vegas, but the team hopes Johansson, Donskoi, Oleksiak and McCann will be able to play Tuesday night, according to the Seattle Times. (Jarnkrok will miss the game.)
Players enter the NHL’s covid protocol if they exhibit symptoms, test positive or are a close contact of someone else who tested positive. Vaccinated players can return after successive negative tests. At the start of training camp, General Manager Ron Francis said all of the Kraken players had been vaccinated.
What does the betting market think of the Kraken’s chances? DraftKings sportsbook has assigned the Kraken +4000 odds to win the Stanley Cup in its initial season — a 2.4 percent implied probability — which is the same or better odds than 11 other teams. DraftKings puts the odds of the Kraken making the playoffs at -130 — a 56.5 percent chance.
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