If you haven’t been paying attention, now is the time to focus on the NHL Playoffs. Specifically the Vegas Golden Knights – not because I’m a fan, but because of what we have to look forward to here in Seattle.
Take a look at this atmosphere in Vegas, and tell me a scene like this with the Seattle Kraken won’t be incredibly fun. On Monday night, Vegas will host Game 1 of the league semifinals. In just four years in the league, the Golden Knights have reached the playoffs all four seasons, including the Stanley Cup Finals in their first year of existence. They have another chance to win it all again this year.
Do I expect the Kraken to find this much success so quickly? No. Just finally having a hockey team and enjoying a game will be satisfying enough, at least to start.
But Vegas has shown that it’s possible – that expansion teams don’t necessarily have to go through as many growing pains as others historically have. Much of the reason for this are the more favorable rules in the upcoming expansion draft for the Kraken – the same rules that applied to Vegas in its first season in the league.
When the Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning joined the league in 1992, not only were they competing against each other for players, all the other teams in the league could protect 16 players from being picked.
The Kraken have 30 teams at their disposal – no other expansion teams to compete with in the draft – and those teams can only protect 11 of those players. Times have certainly changed.
So while we don’t expect a Stanley Cup Finals appearance in its very first season, there should be a semblance of realistic playoff hopes when this is all said and done. That’s more than we can say for another team in town that has been selling mediocrity along with peanuts and Cracker Jacks for the last two decades.
Which brings us to the billion dollar question. Actually, let’s not say that – the billion dollar question has already been answered.
Maybe the other really big question: Who will end up as Kraken head coach?
That's why the next few weeks are so critical. While we watch Vegas chasing history, we can anticipate the Kraken taking the next huge step in its franchise’s story. General manager Ron Francis has said they’d like to name a head coach by the second quarter of the year, and, well, the second quarter ends at the end of June.
And whether it’s Rod Brind’Amour – a former teammate of Francis who has led Carolina to three straight playoff appearances – or someone else, the onus will be on them to find success sooner than later.
Because, frankly, to their credit, to this point, the Kraken organization has rarely mis-stepped. From the arena, to their season ticket rollout and response, to the unveiling of the team name and logo, this launch has gone off without a hitch, sans a pesky restaurant naming lawsuit that’s more a mini kerfuffle than a major ordeal.
In just over a month, the Kraken will have their head coach and most of their Opening Day roster. We will have faces and names to add to this new identity, along with logo that people are already wearing all over town.
This is exciting. Abetted even more by the ongoing NHL playoffs, giving us a sneak peek at what Kraken hockey could look like very soon.
So if you’re not paying attention yet, now’s the perfect time to start.