Through the first portion of the 2023-24 season, the Seattle Kraken have little to celebrate. They struggle mightily to find the back of the net, first and foremost. Defence and depth were their recipe for success last year, but things haven’t followed that pattern yet this year. On their blue line, the one exception is their top dog. After signing a big extension this summer with the Kraken, Vince Dunn looks like the only player living up to last year’s expectations.
Vince Dunn Leading Kraken Defence Through Tough Start to Season
Last season, Dunn finished second on the Kraken in scoring with 64 points in 81 games. That blew his previous career highs out of the water, nearly doubling his output from the season prior (35 points in 73 games in 2021-22). Just 12 games into 2023-24, though, he stands on-pace to top himself once again. And that comes despite the team’s measly 4-6-2 record.
Dunn sits in a three-way tie with Jared McCann and Oliver Bjorkstrand at the top of the scoreboard in Seattle. Each of them has ten points, though with eight assists, Dunn alone paces the Kraken in helpers. He only trails his defence partner, Adam Larsson, by just four seconds in average ice-time with 23:59 per night too.
Even Dunn’s advanced metrics remain strong even as the team around him struggles to find footing overall. His 8.6% relative Corsi-for picks up right where he left off last year, where he finished the year at 8.5%. Sure, he sports a minus-six goal differential while on the ice, but the underlying numbers say he moves the needle significantly towards Seattle’s favour. Simply put, with Dunn on the ice, the Kraken are a better hockey team than they are without him.
Kraken Defence Can’t Make Up for Missing Offence
Try as he might, Dunn alone cannot fix Seattle’s glaring issues elsewhere on the ice. Only he and Justin Schultz sport positive relative Corsi-for percentages out of their defencemen. The Kraken need Dunn to keep it up in a big way, as even Larsson’s advanced stats look putrid by comparison at -11.0% thus far. Exceptional penalty killing really pushes Dunn above and beyond the rest of their defence, yet the team’s penalty kill still resides in the bottom quartile overall.
Despite what appears like a team facing difficulty on defence based on all their Corsi statistics, Seattle’s real problem remains in the scoring department. That said, their defence always played a significant role in production, an important factor for a team that relies heavily on its depth. Last year, the defence scored 15.2% of the team’s goals, and exactly 25% of their points. Dunn led the blue line in both goals (14) and assists (50). Those contributions aided the team in finishing tied for fourth league-wide in total goal output, with 289.
This year, the Kraken only score 2.58 goals per game, the seventh-lowest average around the NHL. The defence potted 16.1% of their goals and 27.9% of their points. So, the team’s scoring rate dipped from fourth-highest to seventh-lowest, with the blue line making up a marginally higher share of the team’s drastically decreased production. The Kraken, from Dunn alone, receive 11.6% of their total production right now. Yikes.
Goaltending Also Not Solving Any Problems in Seattle
In net, Joey Daccord holds a 2-1-2 record in his first long-term nod as the team’s backup netminder. He carries an admirable .912 save percentage in his five starts, with a .600 quality start percentage. Ahead of him, Philipp Grubauer struggled out of the gates with a 2-5-0 record and .429 quality start percentage. He sports a mediocre .902 save percentage as well.
Overall, their goaltending has been average. Plenty of teams in the NHL can get by with just average goaltending, too. But in Seattle, they really need everyone on their game to pick up wins. Last season, their incredibly balanced attack provided enough goal support to take pressure off their goalies most nights. Adding their structured defensive systems to that and it proved difficult to even reach their net. Dunn became the Kraken’s prototype that year: consistently contribute offensively, while slamming the door shut defensively.
Kraken Struggling to Execute their Gameplan
The Kraken finished 2022-23 with the second-fewest total of shots allowed. That completely masked their goaltending deficiencies, where they posted the third-worst team save percentage (.886) league-wide. This year, the script is flipped. So far they’ve allowed the second-highest volume of shots, but once again their team save percentage of .895 isn’t pretty.
Seattle needs leadership right now to find a way through the storm. Their defensive structure doesn’t measure up to last year’s, as they’ve been porous and give up way too many chances. Without exceptional goaltending to mask those issues, they now cede way too many goals against. And with their offence running dry as a bone, every goal against feels like two right now.
Thankfully, the Kraken decided to extend Dunn this last summer and that decision still looks really good. He needs the cast around him to start living up to the expectations they set last year, though, if they expect to play postseason hockey again this spring.
Main Photo: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports