So let’s jump a little deeper into this presumed Vancouver Canucks rival. Is it fair to say that the “experts” and pundits are not that crazy about the roster thus far? But then again, at first glance, was anyone really that blown away by their first look at the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017?
You don’t know what you’re gonna get when certain players finally get the opportunity at some ice time. William Karlsson, who had back-to-back seasons of 20 and 25 points (!) before leaving Columbus for Vegas, ended up leading the inaugural franchise with 78 points. That’s a proverbial breakout season. These things happen when you change coaches, change environments, and change pecking orders. Jonathan Marchessault had already broken out the previous season in Florida with 30 goals, but he ramped it up and continued in his first campaign on the strip. Another forward, Reilly Smith, split the difference between these previous two and found consistency above the 50-point per-season mark, starting in the inaugural year with 60.
The point is, don’t poo-poo a line-up until you’re confident in projecting what a guy is going to produce in a new time and place. It falls under the category of the great-unknown to a degree.
I could keep giving examples: On D, Colin Miller‘s productivity, suddenly a half-point-a-game guy who scored big goals in the playoffs, I mean c’mon. Deryk Engelland‘s renewed confidence and leadership. Shea Theodore steadily found his game in a big, big way. And then, of course, Marc-Andre Fleury stole the show in net after twisting in the wind in Pittsburgh.
Unfortunately, sadly, and catastrophically, part of the fabric of that team was established via tragedy, a mass shooting in Vegas five days before the franchise’s opening game. They suffered right along, embraced the community, and became a symbol of recovery. Let’s pray and plan on not having that franchise comparison to make in Seattle.
The Kraken have a similarly mixed bag, and I don’t give a hooey about their cap hits at this point. They’re on the roster; it doesn’t matter if it’s Jordan Eberle at $5.5-million or Marcus Johansson at $1.5. It’s all about what they do in year one on the ice. So what will they do? Let’s pick a half-dozen guys who may be the most fascinating.
Mark Giordano (Expansion Draft – CLG) will be interesting to watch. Probably not the most fascinating, especially on the ice, simply because he’ll turn 38 years of age before the season starts, and he’s probably only going to be around for a year or less. In fact, there’s still chatter he could be moved before the season. If he is around long enough to be moved at the deadline, he’d be a great veteran rental for a team considered a Cup contender. If he is around for the entire season, based on odds and logic alone, I don’t see Seattle in the Stanley Cup Final. Also, if he is a Kraken, I don’t make him my captain. It’s simply remarkable that dude won the Norris Trophy just two years ago. But then again, he’d probably still be a Flame if GM Brad Treliving wasn’t happily shedding that $6.75 million cap hit. Oh sh–, did I say cap hit. On the ice, he’s still a top pair guy. Many have projected him with right-D Jamie Oleksiak. Not bad.
Yanni Gourde (Expansion Draft – TB) This Quebecois is the man to watch. He is feisty, he’s clutch (7 playoffs goals in 2020, 6 more this year), he’s been mixed in with a deep, talented bunch of forwards in Tampa, and now he has a chance to be a star. He’ll get time on the power play, and the penalty kill and will centre (at least) the second line. Oh wait, you’re saying Gourde’s not a top-line centre? And you’re convinced Alexander Wennberg is? Wait and see how it shakes out and who else might show up before the season.
Note: Meanwhile, if you know what exact moves Seattle will make between now and the start of the season, let me know. Oh, and in that case, I might have you pick me some lotto numbers while you’re at it.
Adam Larsson. (Expansion Draft – EDM) Here’s my captain. It feels like he should be older than 28, but he’s not. Larsson is a horse and a force. He’ll tuck right in on the 2nd pair and make life very difficult for people. I think this is his got-me-the-hell-out-of-Edmonton-after-5-seasons moment, and he’ll be a stalwart. Other than a broken foot (obviously acute) and a brief upper-body injury in 2019-’20, he’s been healthy. He played all 56 games last season and all 82 the one prior. If he doesn’t wear the “C,” I reckon it’ll be Jordan Eberle.
Vince Dunn‘s (Expansion Draft – STL) contract has to be brought up simply because it’s for two years, which is good for the club, but it’s at $4-million per which is not so good. Solid player statistically who does make the occasional egregious mistake in his end. Last year he slipped a wee bit. This isn’t about a guy being “super excited” about an opportunity. It’s about living up to expectations or exceeding them to a reasonable degree and filling an important role potentially next to Larsson. Interesting slot psychologically in my mind, winning a Cup in year two with a team and then leaving after year four. He should be entering his prime.
Philipp Grubauer (Free Agent – COL) and Chris Driedger (Expansion Draft – FLA). This is a pretty damn good goalie combo given what we know about Grubauer (although his numbers were substantially not as good in the playoffs) and what we watched last season from Driedger. If you’re building from the crease out, this is an excellent start.
Anyone else completely stoked to get this rivalry started?! Who’s nervous? Two months to think about it.