We’re now deep enough into this first Kraken season to have one of our better Twitter mailbags, and the questions this week did not disappoint.

It’s been a challenging season for the Kraken already, trying to launch an expansion franchise in the midst of a pandemic and struggling with all the stuff that comes with that.

As for the on-ice product, well, that’s been a mess at times. The Kraken are 10-17-3, last in the Pacific Division, second-worst in the Western Conference, and they have the fifth-lowest points total in the NHL. 

Now the team has been hit by positive COVID-19 tests and has had three games postponed while joining the rest of the league in shutting things down until after Christmas.

Plenty of questions about all those things, as well as the goaltending, naturally. So, let’s get to them.

Q: @djones024 asked: At what point does the team start to worry and think about changing its goalie situation. Is anything within the first year going to initiate a change of course in net, or will it take 2+ years


A: There’s no getting around it, goalie Philipp Grubauer is off to a terrible start. He isn’t entirely to blame for the team’s woes, but he must start stopping more pucks. 

According to MoneyPuck website, his goals saved above expected is an NHL-worst -20.5, which is 60% poorer than the next closest -12.8.

But forget the stats. You can tell by watching that something’s off. He has allowed goals unscreened, from distance, off his glove and between his legs. He’s often looked uncomfortable and out of position.

The team must use Chris Driedger more as part of the envisioned tandem with Grubauer. Driedger’s knee injury limited the ability to do that, though I still question giving Grubauer the season’s first four starts when Driedger was healthy. 

There isn’t much the Kraken can do other than allow Grubauer to play through this and have Driedger push him for playing time. A trade isn’t happening, given the numbers and five-plus years left on Grubauer’s contract.

Plus, you don’t sign a guy for six seasons, then bail one-third of the way into the first. At a minimum, Grubauer gets this season and a good deal of next before anybody contemplates rewriting the script.


Q: @ SzymanskiJim asked: What’s up with the mystery of hockey injuries? Upper body, lower body. This or that. What’s the rationale for keeping fans in the dark?

A: That’s an excellent question, as the NHL is all alone on this one. Injuries are vaguely described as “upper body,” “lower body” or left undisclosed, ostensibly to protect players. Unlike other sports, hockey players carry a big stick. If they know the specific location of an opponent’s injury, it’s easy to target that spot with an “accidental” jab or slash.

And hockey has the same high-speed collisions as the NFL, so roughing guys up is not difficult. In short, there’s no real reason for players or teams to want to disclose injury information. Word is, the NFL puts out specific injury reports for professional gambling interests. While I understand the NHL’s protective rationale, I don’t totally agree with it. Concussions have been a big issue, and it’s tough to monitor that if the league isn’t transparent in disclosing them.

Q: @MUP67 asked: Aside from Vegas which admittedly was an anomaly, can we compare the Kraken start to any other expansion teams?

A: Well, they’re on pace for 63 points, about 30 below where advanced statistical models had them. So it’s a disappointment. But I’ve seen real bad expansion teams the past 40-plus years, and the Kraken already have better depth, age and proven production to build on.

The Kraken are having a season more akin to the 2000-01 Minnesota Wild, who finished 25-39-18 with 68 points. But other than Tod Leiweke being that team’s president as well, the squads have little in common. 


Minnesota’s main goalie was Manny Fernandez, who was good but not on par with what the Kraken have — on paper, at least. An 18-year-old Marian Gaborik was second in Wild scoring with 36 points — no, not a typo — and undoubtedly their most talented offensive player. 

The Kraken have nine guys on pace to surpass Gaborik’s point total.

The team I’d most liken the Kraken to, sensing improvement to come, is the 1993-94 Florida Panthers. 

They went 33-34-17 for 83 points and nearly made the playoffs. Their leading scorer with 60 points was Scott Mellanby, a perennial 20-goal man who popped 30 that season and 32 two years later.

They had good goaltending with John Vanbiesbrouck and Mark Fitzpatrick.  

Oh yeah, they made the Cup Final in Year 3. Am I predicting that for the Kraken? Not on your life.


Q: @ reubenTjoseph asked: I want to know what the Kraken are doing with their bar stool seats. I’m a full paying STH and can’t watch the game without fan obstruction.

A: I was just asking Kraken senior vice president Bill Chapin about this. For those unfamiliar, the Kraken sold season tickets for bar stool seats along the perimeter of the upper and lower bowls. They are essentially bar stools with a small countertop in front for the feel of sitting in a sports bar.

Problem is, the bar-stool seats weren’t positioned high enough behind regular seating sections. So heads of fans in the regular seats obstruct bar stool patrons’ view. Chapin said platforms will be installed to elevate bar stool seats slightly so fans using them can have a “significantly better line of sight” over heads of people in front. Timeline for the not-cheap fix is being finalized before ticket holders are advised.

Q: @ mrhanusa asked: What makes Ron Francis the right choice as a GM? I’m always skeptical of former players who become GMs … Is playing the sport as an athlete really an advantage as a GM? Enough of an advantage to forgo other candidates who have other strengths.

A: Kraken owner Jerry Bruckheimer likes the “gravitas” Francis brings. He’s a serious man who commands respect. Not egotistical, either, despite his Hall of Fame playing career.

Such traits can benefit a GM in that people will take his phone calls. Other GMs won’t avoid him. Agents talk to him. He doesn’t have the reputation of someone who enjoys embarrassing rivals in trades.

From a strategy perspective, Francis builds from the back out. Meaning solid goaltending, a strong defense and some centers to make it all work while filling in the wingers. He doesn’t quite have the centers, and the Kraken goaltending has let him down, but that’s how champions are made.

One critique I’ve heard of Francis, besides the ho-hum expansion draft, is he’s too patient with his process. His teams in Carolina didn’t make the playoffs until five years in, and he got fired after four. The Kraken don’t have five years; Not in this new market, at these ticket prices. So this first-year stumble needs to get turned around. Can’t have a repeat next season.