The Vegas Golden Knights had immediate success in the NHL.
George McPhee, Gerard Gallant and the Golden Misfits set quite a standard with an unparalleled inaugural campaign.
With the Seattle Kraken franchise one week away from its first taste of NHL regular-season action, the question remains: does Seattle have to match Vegas’ success?
The short answer is no. After all, the Knights’ run was unexpected and unprecedented.
Almost every expansion team in modern sports history has been bad. The only other team to have a points percentage above .500 was the 1925 Pittsburgh Pirates in an NHL season that lasted only 36 games.
Obviously, the Golden Knights were a major outlier, as they and the Pirates were the only teams with a positive goal differential.
According to history, if the Kraken can even come close to what the Golden Knights did in the 2017-18 regular season, they will be in the upper echelon of expansion teams in their first season.
But recency bias from the media and fans alike will be a factor throughout the season.
It was only a few years ago that the Knights stormed into the league, and Vegas has quickly become a perennial playoff contender.
No matter what, expectations will be higher for Seattle than they were for Vegas.
Hindsight is 20/20, but the Knights were not supposed to be or expected to be good, let alone great. That’s part of what made that run so memorable.
The rules for the expansion draft were the same for Seattle as they were for Vegas back in 2017; those have been criticized for being too favorable to the expansion franchise, though that’s partly because of what Vegas was able to do.
Seattle had a lot more to work with, though.
As a result of the flat cap, the Kraken had a tremendous amount of talent available to them, as teams throughout the league exposed star players on expensive contracts.
In most cases, general manager Ron Francis and Seattle’s management elected not to take advantage of that.
This time around, teams were less willing to negotiate pre-draft deals the likes of which helped the Knights land extensive draft capital and players like Alex Tuch; plus, Francis reportedly had high demands. In the end, the Kraken made zero deals and failed to acquire a single draft pick or player in the expansion draft.
The team’s handling of the expansion process somewhat tamed expectations for this season, particularly given the amount of top-tier talent left on the table.
However, the strategy was clear; Seattle chose to preserve its cap space both short- and long-term while putting together a roster that can compete.
Seattle then used some of that cap space to improve the lineup, picking up Vezina finalist Philipp Grubauer and winger Jaden Schwartz, among others, in free agency.
The roster is by no means a typical expansion lineup.
Grubauer — along with former Florida Panthers netminder Chris Driedger — should keep the Kraken competitive throughout the year.
The defense should be extremely formidable with the selections of Mark Giordano and Adam Larsson. Haydn Fleury could also be an extremely interesting project that could strengthen the blue line even more.
The team’s primary question mark heading into the season is on offense; it’s unclear where all the scoring will come from with this forward group, though only time will tell.
Considering the success Vegas found with a much less flashy lineup, recency bias will still be one of the Kraken’s challenges.
But it would be unfair for Seattle to be expected to do what Vegas did.
All things considered, surpassing .500 and breaking into the postseason in what appears to be a very weak Pacific Division seems to be a more reasonable goal for the NHL’s newest club.
Is there added pressure on Seattle?
This poll is closed
Yes, the Kraken have to be great like the Knights were
Yes, but the Kraken can’t be expected to match Vegas’ success
No, that’s not fair to Seattle
No, not after the expansion draft