A Deep Dive Into The NHL’s Newest Franchise

Ben Lepper ‘25
Staff Writer

Following the 2017 season, the NHL was in a weird place. They had just welcomed the Vegas Golden Knights into the league, and were then sitting at 31 teams. No self-respecting league has 31 teams, and the NHL needed to figure something out. So, to even out the divisions, they looked up north to a major city with some hockey history: Seattle, Washington. While the NHL has never actually been in Seattle before this, there have been other professional hockey teams in Seattle: the Seattle Totems of the Western Hockey League played there for 30 years (1944-74), and long before that, the Seattle Metropolitans of the PCHA played from 1915 to 1924, winning the Stanley Cup in 1917. Naturally, people were predicting the new NHL team to have the same name as one of these two defunct franchises, to pay homage to the city’s history. After all, the second coming of the Winnipeg Jets did that. However, on July 23, 2020, the franchise shocked the world by announcing they had looked to Scandinavian legend for their name and would be known as the Seattle Kraken. 

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To play games in the NHL, you need more than a name and cool uniforms. Ron Francis, the former GM of the Carolina Hurricanes, became their first GM in 2019. Luke Henman became the first player ever to be signed by the Kraken, inking a three-year entry level contract on May 12, 2021. On June 24, 2021, Dave Hakstol, a former Philadelphia Flyers head coach and Toronto Maple Leafs assistant, was hired as the Kraken’s first coach. And then, on July 21, 2021, the NHL Expansion Draft was held, allowing Francis and Hakstol to select one player from each existing NHL team (except Vegas). The teams were allowed to protect certain players—either eight skaters and one goalie, or seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie. A few notable players selected in the draft were Yanni Gourde from Tampa, Jamie Oleksiak from Dallas, Jordan Eberle from the Islanders, Adam Larsson from Edmonton, and Mark Giordano, the former captain of the Calgary Flames (and the Kraken’s first captain). Some big names, such as Montreal’s Carey Price, Dallas’ Ben Bishop, Philadelphia’s James van Riemsdyk, and St. Louis’ Vladimir Terasenko were left unprotected, but the Kraken passed on all of these players. Then, in free agency, the Kraken continued to strengthen by signing goaltender Phillipp Grubauer and forward Jaden Schwartz. 

By all means, this is a solid roster. The Kraken have the pieces to do something this season. We all remember the Golden Knights shocking the world and making the Cup Final in their inaugural season, and with the Kraken’s talented roster (and the fact that the Pacific Division is pretty weak aside on paper), they could do something similar. I’m not saying they’re going to the Cup Finals, but I’m saying I wouldn’t be surprised if they do something in May. 

However, if that’s going to happen, they’re going to need to start getting it together. Through six games, the Kraken are 1-4-1. Not a great start. But it has to be remembered that this is a team who is just learning how to play together and they’re just now starting to build chemistry. Based on their roster, I would be very surprised to see them still struggling like this in a few months.

I don’t know if it’s me drinking the new team Kool-Aid, but I really like this team. They’ve got a likable bunch of players, a great color scheme, and the amount of hometown pride they have is incredible. For example, their goal horn is an actual Washington State Ferry horn, and their goal song is legendary Seattle band Nirvana’s “Lithium.” This is an easy team to root for; for now, release the Kraken!

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