Rebecca, Grant, and Doug discuss the hiring of John Forslund and announcement of ROOT Sports for Kraken TV broadcasts and how that affects cord cutters who want to watch the games. We also touch on the NWHL (before the Isobel Cup shutdown) as well as some listener questions.
UPDATE 1/26/21 1:14PM – Added info regarding streaming option from AT&T.
The Seattle Kraken took to Twitter today to announce their TV plans for the upcoming inaugural season with a “FaceTime” call featuring John Forslund, the new TV play-by-play announcer. Fans will be able to hear Forslund and see the Kraken on ROOT SPORTS, the longtime home of the Mariners.
With the addition of the Kraken in 2021, the NHL will finally have a nice and even 32 teams, with 8 in each division. Who doesn’t love a good bit of symmetry?
Seattle will enter the league in the Pacific Division because that’s the only place they belong, and the Arizona Coyotes will have to move over to the Central Division to get them aligned just right.
That’s a fairly nice geographic alignment, keeping divisions mostly within one time zone. It’s a little wonky what with the dense population on the East coast, but overall it works.
Let’s blow it up.
Anyone can draw lines down a map to create divisions in a sports league, it happens in all of them. But why are we so restrictive on separating teams solely based on geography? That’s no fun. Let’s try something new. Let’s align them based on their nicknames.
As it turns out, there are exactly eight teams named after animals (okay maybe the devils make nine but it’s close) so that knocks out one division pretty easily. And that’s where the Kraken will land.
The Animal division wouldn’t be a bad place to start off a franchise right now. It’s probably the third best division in the league, and they’d only have to catch the Panthers (with just a +3 goal differential last year) to grab a playoff spot. A wild card berth is probably out the window, as both wild card teams are likely coming from that strong Nature division. In fact, all eight of the Nature division’s teams made it to the NHL Bubble Playoffs this past season, the only division in this new league to do so.
I like that the Protector division keeps the New York rivalry intact, but it’s a bummer that the Rangers and Flyers get separated. The Canucks and the Knights are getting absolutely wrecked with this schedule though. Every divisional game outside of when they play each other is on Eastern time. Tough, but it happens.
The Storied division is a bit of a mishmash, I’ll be honest. It was hard to find a good balance in the Man-Made Conference. It’s also probably the worst division in this league, though that win percentage is dragged down heavily by Detroit. Half of this division didn’t get an invite to the bubble.
If we had a normal playoffs with this alignment, ranking teams by their win percentage, the bracket would look like this:
This is fun, but that last miscellaneous division is really bugging me. Let’s get even more radical with it and split this into eight divisions of four teams each.
Now this is an alignment that would help out the Kraken quite a bit. Seattle should be able to compete with the struggling Sharks and Ducks right away, with the added benefit of short travel for those road games. Pittsburgh is tough, but would be the second worst division winner in this setup. The Disaster and Nature divisions remain the strongest, without a bad team among them. That’s going to make it harder to grab a playoff spot for the Kraken without toppling the Penguins for the division crown. The Nature division might suffer a bit as it’s the division with teams separated by the most distance.
The Storied division makes more sense now. St. Louis named after its music, Montreal its country, New Jersey after its own personal monster myth, and the Kings…well, kings are in a lot of stories at least. This division still sucks anyway outside of the Blues, so that’s easily forgotten.
The High-Flying division works out well, featuring things that fly, so long as we take the Blackhawks to mean the Blackhawk helicopter. In fact, this is a perfect opportunity for Chicago to get rid of their racist logo and replace it with a sweet military helicopter. They get to keep the name and get a less offensive logo, and they now fit in this division. Wins all around.
The Patriot division is the most interesting one in the Man-Made conference, outside of whatever it is the Senators are doing. The Canucks and Islanders appear to be on the upswing while the Capitals are only getting older. This should make for a tight race in the coming years. The Rangers should challenge the Knights in the Protector division soon if their recent high draft picks of Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafrenière play up to their potential.
In this alignment, we’d give the top four playoff seeds in each conference to the division winners, followed by four wild card teams from any division. The playoff bracket based on 2019 win percentage would look like this.
Who you got in this one?
The NHL is not the biggest league in the US, and I firmly believe that getting a little weird with their division alignments could be the key to bringing in that next generation of hockey fans that don’t yet realize they like hockey. What do they have to lose?
The Oak View Group and the Seattle Kraken welcome five new executives to their team at Climate Pledge Arena. David Curry has been named vice president of technology, Nick Vaerewyck vice president of programming, Randy Foster as director of event production, Damon Murray as director of engineering, and Christine Spiller as senior director of event services. All new hires will assume their new roles immediately.
Spiller adds to the already experienced group, having most recently served as the senior director of venue operations at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. In Denver, she led the overall guest relations & experience vision as well as directed logistics and event implementation for concerts, the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, and the Colorado Mammoth lacrosse team. As a member of Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (KSE), who also owns Arsenal FC in the English Premier League and the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer, Spiller executed hundreds of events between all of KSE’s venues.
Curry, a Seattle native, has logged over 25-years of technology experience, including 13 as the vice president of technology with the Seattle Mariners. Additionally, he led all team back office, audio/visual, and facility technologies for the Mariners at Safeco Field (T-Mobile Park), the Peoria Sports Complex in Arizona, and the Academy in the Dominican Republic.
Vaerewyck takes the role of vice president of programming and will be responsible for strategic content programming of all concerts, family shows, and special events. Additionally, he will facilitate the schedules for both the Kraken and Storm of the WNBA.
Prior to joining the team at Climate Pledge Arena, he most recently oversaw the $180M renovation and reopening of Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in New York with Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment and was recently honored as a 2020 VenuesNow Generation Next recipient.
Foster most recently worked as the director of production for AEG Presents in Seattle where he oversaw 650 shows annually in the four-state region. He has three decades of experience as production manager, tour manager, and promoter rep including tour manager for Marvel Universe Live for Feld Entertainment. As the former director of events of Bridgestone Arena, home of the NHL Nashville Predators, from 2006-2012, he brings additional experience to an already stacked group.
As the newly appointed director of engineering, Murray comes to Climate Pledge Arena from the Atlanta Hawks Basketball Club and State Farm Arena where he served as chief engineer and managed HVAC, plumbing, painters, maintenance, locksmith, and electrical staff. Prior to his role in Atlanta, he oversaw all event operations, engineering, security, and production for the U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville, NC. Additionally, he held multiple roles at the Spectrum Center – home of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets.
Located at Seattle Center, Climate Pledge Arena will be the first net-zero certified arena in the world. Home to the NHL’s Seattle Kraken, WNBA’s Seattle Storm, Esports events, and the world’s biggest performers of live music and events, Climate Pledge Arena will open in 2021.
We’re back after a bit of a break. What happened while we were gone? Grant is now a resident of Seattle, the Kraken opened up their team store, and a new octopus appropriately named “Kraken” has taken up residence at the local aquarium. Oh, there’s also been some playoff hockey, which we discuss along with listener questions and suggestions on where to eat in the PNW. Got a question, comment or harsh critique? Drop us a tweet at @cellyinseattle.
Oak View Group and the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation announced today, their mission to build a state-of-the-art sports and entertainment arena for Coachella Valley. The facility will house the Seattle Kraken’s AHL franchise, as well as a training facility and community gathering spaces. The project will be privately funded and is to be constructed on land owned by the foundation.
Today’s announcement brings a change to the initial plan outlined in 2019 which proposed an arena located on tribal land in downtown Palm Springs. The new location will allow for fan access across all nine cities of the Coachella Valely for AHL games as well as concerts and other events taking place at the arena.
The arena construction is scheduled for 2021 which alters the timeline of having an AHL affiliate hit the ice for the Krakens inaugural season. With the project set to be completed in the last quarter of 2022, the AHL team won’t begin play until the 2022-23 season. General manager Ron Francis and assistant GM Ricky Olczyk are exploring all options for finding other competition options for a certain number of reserve players during the 2021-22 NHL season.
One option is to follow the path of the Vegas Golden Knights and share an affiliate to house their AHL players during the construction process.
All 18 and 19-year-old players that are selected during the 2021 NHL draft, and who don’t make the NHL roster, are required to return to their junior, college, or European teams.
The Kraken will maintain development control of any players sent to a shared affiliate, should that happen. However, they will not have control over systems used or playing time until a team takes the ice in their own facility.
Grant Beery and Rebecca Moloney had the privilege of (virtually) sitting down with Everett Fitzhugh (@TheVoiceFitz), the new broadcaster for the Seattle Kraken. We discuss his career with hockey so far, the state of the league, and what he hopes to accomplish in his new major league role.
After a qualifying round that was really like none before it, the matchups for the first round of the REAL Stanley Cup Playoffs are set. We can dive deep into stats, rosters and the like, but really it’s going to come down to a couple key things to send a team further into the playoffs. Here’s some short takes and predictions from the Cascadia crew.
Now that Seattle has announced our new team name, jersey, colors, and arena, what’s next? Players. As of now, we don’t know what players will be protected by their teams, but there are plenty of players who will have free agent status during the 2021 NHL draft. Out of our 30 picks, 10 of them can be free agents, so who doesn’t like to speculate, right? Club-optioned free agents will play a huge role in building the Seattle Kraken’s inaugural team, so let’s take a look at some of the best picks.
There are some big names in the goalie world who will be free agents, including Henrik Lundqvist (NYR), Pekka Rinne (NSH), and Tuukka Rask (BOS). Rask would be a hands down pick, but odds are Boston will want to keep their star goalie by re-signing him. Depending on Seattle’s spending cap, my picks would be Frederik Andersen (TOR) or Anthony Stolarz (ANA). With his seven years of NHL experience and career save percentage (SV%) at .917, Andersen would be a strong choice between the pipes. Alas, this is probably a dream pick as he is Toronto’s starting goalie. Our only chance would be if Toronto wants to protect star players like Austin Matthews, Mitch Marner, or their up-and-coming back-up goalie Jack Campbell. A less expensive, and more realistic, choice would be Anaheim’s farm team goalie, Anthony Stolarz. As we learned with the Matt Murray/Marc-Andre Fleury change for Pittsburgh, sometimes young skills will push out the older star player. Stolarz hasn’t had much experience in the majors but at 6’6”, 230 lbs with a .910 SV%, he could be the wall that Seattle needs.
Now I know I’m showcasing a lot of former Anaheim players, but this one is too hard to pass up. The 5’11”, 185 lb, tiny-but-mighty force that is, Kyle Palmieri (NJD). In his 10-year, 561 game career, Palmieri has accumulated 338 points. He could be a strong leader as well considering his time and knowledge in the league. With 280 blocks and 785 hits, Palmieri could bring the hurt to Seattle.
One of the biggest left wingers in the league, Alex Ovechkin (WAS), will be a free agent next year, but I highly doubt the Capitals will give up their captain and the 2004 first overall pick. I’m sorry to go back to former ANA players again, but if Andrew Cogliano (DAL) isn’t re-signed and protected, he should be our pick. He started his 13-year career in 2007-08, finishing that season with a nomination for the Calder Trophy. Some will argue that he’s too seasoned and slowing down, but I believe he could write a new story in Seattle, possibly finishing his career with an anchor on his shoulder. While he isn’t the biggest point leader (career: 399 PTS), his strengths are shown through his 1,042 hits in 1,012 games. Not to mention his outstanding feat of 890 consecutive games (including playoff games), spanning from his first NHL game to a somewhat controversial hit causing him to receive a two-game suspension, putting to end his nickname, “Iron Man”.
Okay, I won’t include a former Anaheim Duck this time. Although, I will mention that ANA’s current captain Ryan Getzlaf will be available, but he’s slowed down significantly over the years so if ANA doesn’t protect him, it wouldn’t be in our best interests to pick him up. After talking about all of these veteran players I want to take a risk and suggest a rookie for a possible center. Joseph Gambardella (EDM) has only played one year but appears to be a promising player. In 15 games, he has 3 points, 14 hits, and 5 takeaways in a total of 122 minutes on ice. It would be a gamble, but after reviewing his MIC’D up highlights from the Young Stars Classic in 2017, he sounds like a born leader and strong center.
Defenders are harder to rank because some of them are big scorers and some are bigger hit/blockers. A good option for a power blocker with free agent status would be veteran player Jordie Benn (VAN). In 517 games within his nine-year career, he’s accumulated 117 points and 856 blocks, averaging around almost 2 blocks per game. Benn is 33-years-old, so if Seattle wanted a younger player to grow with the team a bit, I would opt for Jamie Oleksiak (DAL). Oleksiak has proven himself in his 313 games by throwing down 354 blocks and a whopping 697 hits. He lacks in scoring ability, but not every player can be a point leader.
It’s still very early in the process to make any “perfect” picks, but this gives us the chance as fans to speculate wildly. I can’t wait to see how our new team progresses in the next year, let’s “Dive in” Seattle!