WINNIPEG, Manitoba — It was 132 years ago and exactly that number of miles west of this rain-soaked city that a player who’d eventually bring Stanley Cup glory to Seattle was born.
And now, a century-plus after Bernie Morris scored 14 goals in a four-game Cup final for the victorious Seattle Metropolitans, the Kraken were in his birth province Sunday wrapping up their own hockey history. While the Kraken team beaten 4-3 by the Winnipeg Jets will never be confused with the 1917 champion Metropolitans carried by Brandon, Manitoba, native Morris, this inaugural NHL season now completed did pass the Seattle major professional hockey torch from one franchise to the other.
Which means, it’s up to the Kraken to write their own history from here.
“I feel that we could have been better this year,” said Kraken forward Jared McCann, who finished with a team-high 27 goals and added an assist in Sunday’s defeat. “We let some games slip away and could have had a couple of extra points there.”
The immediate Kraken chapters to be written may have been helped by Sunday’s loss, keeping them at 60 points and in 30th place overall rather than leapfrogging Philadelphia and lessening their odds in the May 10 draft lottery. They blew their fourth multi-goal lead in nine days on third-period Winnipeg goals by Blake Wheeler, Dominic Toninato and Kyle Connor within just more than four minutes of each other.
Alex Wennberg, Daniel Sprong and Riley Sheahan had scored in the middle frame to erase an early Morgan Barron goal.
“I feel like moving forward here, it’s something to learn from,” McCann said of the inaugural season. “But the future’s looking pretty bright. We’ve got some young prospects that are really good and maybe next year they can step in and play some games.”
Years from now, few may remember details of this 27-49-6 season other than it being the first. The Kraken hope to quickly move on, helped by one of those aforementioned “prospects” in center Matty Beniers, who took Sunday’s opening faceoff and later assisted with McCann on a game-tying Wennberg goal to finish with points in nine of his first 10 NHL contests.
The Kraken had their modern-day version of a Manitoba native son, Winnipeg-born Chris Driedger, starting in goal just two days after notching the franchise’s first home shutout. Also, center Morgan Geekie is from the Manitoba town of Strathclair just a short distance from where Cup scoring star Morris was born.
Both had expected this homecoming more than two weeks ago before a massive blizzard pummeled the province and forced the game’s rescheduling to two days after the rest of the league finished playing. Throw in heavy rainstorms this past week that — coupled with melting snow from the earlier blizzard — caused problematic flooding all around Winnipeg and the Kraken were happy just to be getting in and out of here as quickly as possible.
As for the rest, history will note the Kraken failed to register a regulation win anyplace in Canada, though they did notch a lone shootout victory in Montreal. There are ample improvements to be made alongside Beniers and other future cornerstones such as McCann, voted team MVP by local media and thus winner of the Pete Muldoon Award — named after the legendary Metropolitans coach who won Seattle’s only Cup title.
“It’s a team evaluation, so we’ll look at those areas,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said after the game, adding player exit interviews take place Monday and Tuesday. “And then you start looking at the different pieces that might help improve us. That’s part of the process that we start looking at now.”
Hakstol had been asked pregame who he felt the team MVP was and wisely deferred to a team-first answer.
“In my experience, those rewards are always more enjoyable when they come along with team success — which is No. 1,” he said.
And that elusive team success is largely why nobody will mistake Hakstol for Metropolitans coach Muldoon just yet. Same as how nobody will confuse Kraken general manager Ron Francis with brothers Frank and Lester Patrick, who cobbled players from other teams together to form the original Metropolitans back in 1915.
The Metropolitans played .500 hockey their first season and were champions the next. Sure, they played in a much smaller Pacific Coast Hockey Association, minus today’s grinding two-month NHL playoff format.
Also, the Patricks attained most of their roster by raiding the prior champion Toronto Blueshirts. Francis didn’t have quite that luxury, though his plucking Yanni Gourde off the defending champ Tampa Bay Lightning in the expansion draft proved a winner and likely netted the Kraken’s next captain.
Settling the captaincy is just one more task the Kraken face before playing another game that matters. Hakstol said postgame he’ll focus less on the blown leads during summer evaluations and more on the work his team did in getting ahead and staying close to start with.
“Our play since the trade deadline and a couple of weeks before has been really sound, really solid,” Hakstol said. “We’ve been real competitive in each and every game and it doesn’t really matter who the opponent is this time of year. There are a lot of pieces to our game that we’ve really liked.”
Ultimately, it’s a very different type of hockey challenge and history the Kraken will try to forge compared with the major pro team that preceded them. Metropolitans star Morris may have been born in Manitoba, but it was in Bremerton where he died and Port Orchard where he was laid to rest.
Now, that pioneer hockey spirit first forged by Morris and others, blended within Washington’s soil, has been resurrected. And it’s up to the Kraken to do it justice.