Seattle Kraken Push for Playoffs Begins after Quiet Deadline

Now on the other side of the NHL trade deadline, the final push for the playoffs begins around the league. With rosters now finalized aside from injury of minor league promotions/demotions, franchises have what they have and don’t what they don’t. For the Seattle Kraken, the squad they enter the post-deadline world with today looks identical to the team it was before. With only one minor trade all season long (that took place back in early February), the Kraken stuck to their guns on the ice. Even without trade activity, Seattle sits very much in the mix for their first playoff berth. Only 20 games remain for the Kraken to push for the playoffs, their lack of deadline activity tells us a lot.

Kraken Push for Playoffs Begins after Quiet Deadline

Each team’s behaviour at the deadline signals a lot about a franchise’s opinion of itself. Those acquiring prospects and picks gear up for their future, not seeing as much opportunity in the present. Usually they bring those future assets in by sacrificing roster players today, too. On the other end, the teams acquiring impact players wind up mortgaging their future to do so.

For teams somewhere in the middle, deadline decisions get way more interesting. Some bubble teams become “buyers” by acquiring pieces to try and push them over-the-hump and into the postseason. Others choose to continue rebuilding, and focus more on selling older players and acquiring prospects.

For these silent teams, the lack of action represents plenty, too. With a playoff push in their sights, the Kraken fall into this category. They didn’t buy a player and “go all-in” as fans say. But, they also didn’t sell their veterans and pile up on draft picks. Instead, they doubled-down on their current group, telling everyone they already have confidence with exactly what they possess.

Seattle Kraken Display Confidence in their Players and Assets

One year ago, the Kraken sat near the bottom of the standings and sold plenty at the 2022 trade deadline. In the week leading up to it, Seattle moved out six roster players, including captain Mark Giordano, Calle Jarnkrok and Marcus Johansson. In return, they picked up ten draft picks and one player that remains with the franchise today (Daniel Sprong).

This season, Seattle held on to everyone and added nothing. General Manager Ron Francis said “we like our team” over and over again in the days up to the deadline. It’s easy to see why, as they collected 76 points through their first 62 games and sit in the third spot of the Pacific Division. With a nine-point buffer between themselves and the playoff cut-line, they stand lightyears ahead of the team that finished 30th in the entire league, with just 60 points, last season.

Fans expected different activity this year as opposed to last, when they sat in obvious “seller” territory. But with a Kraken playoff push on the way, expectations of a “buyer” role swirled the air. In the aftermath, Seattle ended up as the only team in the top nine of the Western Conference not to add something at the deadline. Everyone else bought at least something, while the Kraken did literally nothing.

Why the Kraken Didn’t Buy at Deadline

Buying isn’t a requirement to make a playoff push, and the Kraken know it. At the end of the day, Francis only had a small amount of money to work with at the deadline anyways.

But more importantly, he chose not to meddle with the locker room or on-ice chemistry. They consider Andre Burakovsky a sort of “deadline acquisition”, as he should return from injury soon. He ranks third in points-per-game on the team, behind only Jared McCann and Jordan Eberle.

Maintaining Chemistry for a Kraken Playoff Push

Chemistry means a lot for Seattle. After all, they bring a “win by committee” approach and receive contributions from everywhere in the lineup. They don’t rely on a few players to produce, they need everyone to pull the rope. Everyone with at least 15 games played to-date owns double-digit point totals. Ice time gets spread evenly too, with all forwards averaging between ten and 18 minutes per night. That recipe for success must be maintained for this Kraken playoff push.

So, adding or removing a player feels a bit like the end of a Jenga game for the Kraken. Sure, pulling out one more brick sounds easy. But each brick looks as important as the next. Once a brick gets picked, there’s no turning back. Removing the brick just might topple the whole tower down. Or maybe it’s the brick added that winds up ruining the game. Either way, Francis decided to pass and leave the tower alone entirely.

Kraken Ready for Playoff Push

Despite a difficult month of February (4-6-1), Seattle didn’t panic at the deadline. With a win Friday night, they now ride a three-game win streak into the last quarter of the year. Only nine of their last 20 games come against teams sitting in playoff spots, so they expect to pick up plenty of wins down the stretch.

Besides Burakovsky, Seattle netminder Chris Driedger resumed playing for the first time since a major offseason knee injury. He remains in the AHL for conditioning, and went 1-1-0 in his first two games there with a .911 save percentage and 2.51 goals against average. Hopefully he continues trending in the right direction, because any goaltending boost this team gets would do more than anything else.

Optimistism in Net with Driedger Recovering

Remember, despite a great record, the Kraken still possess the worst team percentage in the entire NHL (.880%). Out of the 74 goalies with enough games played this year to be ranked, Jones ranks 70th and Grubauer 50th in goals saved above average. They combined to surrender 24.4 goals more than the NHL average for the Kraken. Jones’ .888 save percentage ranks as the worst in his career; Grubauer’s .895 percentage is good for second-worst in his career, only marginally better than his abysmal 2022-23 season.

Imagine Seattle with even just average goaltending. They manage to only sit 18th in goals against, even though their goalies allowed 24.4 more than average based on the shot volume they’ve seen. If they gave up 24 fewer goals, they’d be in the top ten for fewest goals against league-wide. Their goal differential would jump from tenth-best to fifth-best too, and surely the team would have more wins.

And more wins means they’d sit further up the standings. Given they sit just four points back from the top of the conference, it’s easy to think they would be in first. Sure, it is a lot of “what if’s”. But Driedger might be able to help answer some of those questions, especially should be perform well. That addition might have the most impact on the Kraken playoff push and beyond.

Main Photo: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports