Better luck next year: Matty Beniers is ready to be a star for Seattle Kraken
The Calder Trophy winner could be on the verge of an even bigger breakout season.
Welcome back to Better Luck Next Season where we will take a look at what went wrong, what went right, and what sits ahead for all of the teams that missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs or lost in the playoffs. Today we look at the Seattle Kraken who went from first year disappointment to second year Stanley Cup contender thanks in large part to their first potential superstar.
They just do not make expansion teams the way they used to.
Back in the 1980s and 1990s (and even early 2000s) when new teams would enter the NHL, the expansion draft rules would result in them getting shit players and shit rosters, they would win 15 games in their first season, pick No. 1 overall for a few years, and probably take five years just to become a fringe playoff team that would get crushed in the first round.
It is totally different now, and thanks to the combination of the NHL limiting how many players teams could protect in newer expansion drafts, and the existing NHL general managers not quite knowing how to manage those lists, the two most recent expansion teams have become almost immediate Stanley Cup contenders.
The Vegas Golden Knights reached the Stanley Cup Final in their first year of existence and have been a constant championship contender every year, and just this past season won their first championship in just their sixth year of existence. They are a regular in the Conference Final and one of the most successful teams in the league.
The Seattle Kraken did not have quite the same sort of initial debut, but quickly rebounded in year two to not only make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but also knock off the reigning defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche and come just one goal in Game 7 away from reaching the Western Conference Final.
And there was not much to suggest that it was a fluke.
The Kraken played like a legitimate contender during 5-on-5 play and were among the league’s best teams when it comes to possession and scoring chance metrics, while they managed to win 46 games and go on a nice run in the postseason despite having below average (and at times flat out bad) goaltending. If you can overcome average to below average goaltending and still come within a one-goal Game 7 loss of the Conference Finals, it is a pretty good sign that the rest of your team is pretty damn good.
The Kraken are pretty damn good.
While they did not feast on teams in the expansion draft process the way Vegas did, they still managed to get some shockingly good players that snuck through the cracks due to some bad management elsewhere, including Jared McCann, Jordan Eberle and Vince Dunn.
They also made some smart trades and free agent signings over their first two years, built up their defense, and just simply hit on a lot of moves.
All of it has pieced together a surprisingly deep team that was one of the best offensive clubs in the NHL during the 2022-23 season. While there might be some shooting percentage based regression that happens this year (the Kraken shot a league-best 10.4 percent during 5-on-5 play), there is still a strong team here with a good process that should be able to overcome whatever percentage-based regression happens.
They also have a blossoming star in Matty Beniers, the 2022-23 Calder Trophy winner as the NHL’s top rookie, that might be ready to take an even bigger leap forward.
So let’s talk about him a little bit.
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