Did the Seattle Kraken blame smart NHL GMs for their lack of success?

Seattle Kraken, Ron Francis (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)
Seattle Kraken, Ron Francis (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images) /

The Seattle Kraken are just as everyone expected them to be, which isn’t very good. The Vegas Golden Knights were also expected not to be very good in their inaugural season back in 2017-2018. Instead, they defied expectations and went on to the Stanley Cup final.

The front office in Seattle will admit that even though Seattle hasn’t had the high flying start Vegas had, they are still disappointed with the result. Seattle general manager Ron Francis recently did a lengthy sit-down interview with ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski about his team’s first season and their lack of success. One of the things Francis pointed to? Other general managers learned and were much more cautious approaching the expansion draft than they did with Vegas:

"For people to think that GMs were going to make same mistakes they made four years prior in the Vegas expansion draft was pretty naïve. They learned from that. Things were going to be different.So since those [trades] weren’t there, we took a different approach and tried to maintain our cap space, which we still have as we get into who might be available in free agency or who teams might have to move because of their contracts. We’re still in a position to work at that."

It’s very possible that the other 30 general managers (remember Vegas was exempt) didn’t want to see a player taken who would go on to score 30 plus goals for his new team and lead them to the Stanley Cup finals while their team was playing golf in April.

The Florida Panthers were a shining example of a team that gave up too much in the summer of 2017 losing both Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith in separate expansion draft-related transactions to Vegas. No team wanted to be left with egg on their face the same way then general manager Dale Tallon was.

Ron Francis said teams were more protective of their talent for the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft than in 2017

Here are the two problems with Francis’s assessment. First, Vegas also picked some diamonds in the rough that reached their true potential with the Vegas Golden Knights. No one, not even the most hockey-crazed analytical person, though William Karlsson would go on to be a 40 goal scorer after leaving the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Second, Francis seemingly forgets that there was some quality “win now” talent available in the expansion draft. Vladimir Tarasenko, Matt Duchene and James Van Riemsdyk were all among the forwards left unprotected and unselected.

One thing Francis does have going for him is the cap space argument. While Vegas’s cap space has vanished like a white tiger at a Siegfried and Roy magic show, Seattle currently has over $13 million left to spend. Cap space is at more of a premium now than it was during the Vegas Knights inaugural campaign. Since then, the world has turned upside down and caused havoc on league-wide finances.

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The Kraken aren’t making the playoffs and that’s okay. Wayne Gretzky famously tells the story of losing to the New York Islanders in the Stanley Cup final before beating them a year later as “we had to learn to lose to learn how to win”. Perhaps the same thing applies to the NHL’s newest franchise.