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How Long Will the Canucks be Smokin’ the Kraken?



Vancouver Canucks, Kraken
Conor Garland scores the game winning goal for the Vancouver Canucks in a 4-2 win last October 23rd.

Let’s face it, the Vancouver Canucks have owned their Pacific Northwest rivals thus far, beating the inaugural Seattle Kraken all four times they met and outscoring them 19-to-8 head-to-head.

That includes a 4-2 victory on October 23rd, 2021 in the Seattle Kraken’s first ever home game. Bummer for them, especially considering the crowd at the Climate Pledge Arena was going bonkers before the home team blew a 2-1 third period lead.

Bo Horvat tied the game with about seven minutes remaining, Conor Garland flew down the right wing and scored the game winner with four minutes left and Justin Dowling added an empty netter.

After that, things got repetitious.

A 5-2 Vancouver Canucks victory on January 1st at Seattle spoiled the crowd’s New Year’s Day.

Another 5-2 win on February 21st at Rogers Arena, followed by, you guessed it, a 5-2 win at home for the Canucks on April 26th.

How long can this last? Well, clearly if Vancouver keeps pace with any improvements Seattle makes, they’ll remain a step or two ahead depth-wise for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately for Canucks fans, the Kraken likely have an edge with the quality of their recent additions.

The club added depth by signing right-shot, 32-year-old defenceman and Kelowna native Justin Schultz. They also signed versatile winger and recent Stanley Cup champion André Burakovsky to a five year deal.

Left wing Jaden Schwartz will look to have a full, healthy season.

The big development for the Kraken comes up the middle. When the 2022 NHL Draft began on Thursday night, July 7th, Seattle was not expecting the projected number-one pick Shane Wright to fall into their lap at 4th-overall. But as it happened, the Kraken now have two young studs at centre including Matty Beniers, drafted 2nd-overall in 2021, and Wright. Not bad, one would think.

They also have a little balance with their top-end pivots, something the Canucks can’t sport, with Beniers being a lefty and Wright a righty. This is presuming Wright makes the club as expected, but either way, moving forward, at some point it’s safe to say it’ll be these two owning the middle.

The club made four 2nd-round picks in 2022 as well. It’ll be fun to see where high scoring, undersized winger Jagger Firkus out of Moose Jaw of the Western Hockey League ends up.

In somewhat of an oddity, the Kraken are looking for a fulltime captain in year two, with soon-to-be 39-year-old Mark Giordano, the franchise’s first ever captain, shipped off at the trade deadline to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Aside from that quirk, the club returns its top-5 scorers in Jared McCann, Yanni Gourde, Jordan Eberle, centre option Alex Wennberg and defenceman Vince Dunn.

Expansion draft forward Calle Jarnkrok has since moved on via trade while the man who scored the first ever goal in franchise history, Ryan Donato, is an unsigned free agent. That feels a little bit weird too. He tallied on October 12th, 2021 at Vegas in a 4-3 loss to the Golden Knights.

Goaltender Philipp Grubauer looks to have an improved year. The Kraken are counting on him, he has five years remaining on an healthy contract paying him $5.9-million per season. The back-up job comes down to Chris Driedger or Martin Jones.

Looking ahead the Kraken still possess a boatload of draft picks which can be exercised or used as trade chips by general manager Ron Francis.

For now the Vancouver Canucks likely still hold an edge, but that edge is definitely not as profound as it was ten months ago.

The Canucks visit Seattle for their 8th games of the regular season on October 27th, they host the Kraken on December 22nd, they alternate back to a road visit on January 25th, and then conclude the season series at Rogers Arena on April 4th.

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