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Time to Buy the Seattle Kraken's Betting Odds?

Time to Buy the Seattle Kraken's Betting Odds?
Philipp Grubauer #31 of the Seattle Kraken looks on as he warms up. Photo by: Steph Chambers/Getty Images via AFP.

The Seattle Kraken are off to a rough start in their first NHL season, but our Scott Cullen sees value in their regular betting lines. Is it time to buy?

When the first puck dropped for the Kraken this season, the expectations were modest. The roster looked like it might have some difficulty scoring but was a mostly solid group that could have a real advantage in goal. The Kraken were even in the middle of the pack by the preseason betting odds to win the Stanley Cup.

After all, the Kraken spent free-agent dollars to lure goalies Philipp Grubauer (six years, $35.4 million) and Chris Driedger (three years, $10.5 million) to Seattle. Grubauer was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy last season and Driedger had posted a .931 save percentage in 35 games across the previous two seasons with the Florida Panthers. 

A mediocre roster with better-than-average goaltending was a fair assessment.

Now the Kraken are 18 games into their first season and have a 5-12-1 record, which ranks 29th in terms of points percentage (.306).

What’s going wrong?

The most glaring shortcoming is not Seattle’s goal-scoring, but it’s also not a strength. The Kraken are tied for 20th with 2.19 goals per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play.

The power play could be better, as the Kraken are 24th with 5.37 goals per 60 minutes during 5-on-4 play. They have allowed just one shorthanded goal against so the Kraken’s goals-for percentage during 5-on-4 play is 88.9%, and tied for 17th. 

During 5-on-5 play, the Kraken rank 15th in score-and-venue-adjusted shot attempts (50.5%) and 13th in score-and-venue-adjusted expected goals (51.4%). Does this make them Stanley Cup contenders? Of course not, but they should be a team that could run in the middle of the pack with league-average goaltending.

To this point, they are not.

During 5-on-5 play this season, the Kraken have a .869 save percentage. The second-worst team in this category, the Minnesota Wild, has a .903 save percentage. That is the same gap that exists between the Wild and the sixth-ranked Vancouver Canucks (.936).

Historical comps

How bad are those goaltending numbers for Seattle? Last season’s Philadelphia Flyers, amid G Carter Hart’s absolute collapse, finished with a .895 SV% during 5-on-5 play.

In hockey’s advanced stats era, since 2007-2008, there have been five teams to finish with a 5-on-5 save percentage below .900:

Is it possible that the Kraken could be a sixth? 

I suppose anything is possible, but it is not likely. During 5-on-5 play the Kraken are literally one of the best teams in the league defensively. Using score-and-venue-adjusted data, the Kraken rank second in shot attempts against/60 (48.4), third in shots against/60 (26.6), and second in expected goals against/60 (1.95). This is not a team that should be bleeding goals against in this manner.

Which brings us to the goaltenders.

Hope for correction?

Grubauer has been an above-average goaltender for nearly all of his career. Last season's .921 SV% during 5-on-5 play was the lowest mark of his career, and it was still miles better than his .878 full-strength save percentage this season. 

As for Driedger, he was already something of a small sample risk, but he has missed some time due to a knee injury and has appeared in only three games. In those three games, he has allowed five goals on 31 shots for a .839 SV% in even-strength play. During 4-on-5 play, he has allowed three goals on eight shots for a .625 SV%.

Joey Daccord made a pair of starts while Driedger was injured, and he gave up seven goals on 39 5-on-5 shots for a .821 SV%.

There has not been a good answer in goal for the Kraken, yet. The bottom line to it is that just as goaltenders riding a hot streak can have unsustainable performance, so too can goaltenders on a cold streak. The Kraken are bound to get better goaltending because it would be hard to get worse. This makes the Kraken a reasonable plus-money target on the daily NHL betting lines.

Betting on the Kraken

The Kraken are 5-13 against the moneyline this season so they might seem like a team to fade, but that trend is likely to reverse. Maybe not immediately, as the Kraken’s next three games are at home against the Carolina Hurricanes, then at the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers. So, just the two-time defending Stanley Cup champs sandwiched between the teams with the best two points percentages in the league.

However, the underlying numbers show that the Kraken have been a middle-of-the-road team that has been undone by goaltending that has been so bad it can only get better.

There is likely a window of potential value when betting on the Kraken because they are already 10 points out of a playoff spot. Unless they close that gap dramatically and hurdle several teams along the way, the Kraken are most likely to be sellers as the NHL Trade Deadline approaches. Should the Kraken start dealing veterans like D Mark Giordano away, there will need to be a re-evaluation of their chances down the stretch but, in the short term at least, there may be some value to be found on the Kraken.

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