Seattle Kraken are one of the city’s great sports stories

The team with the third-worst record at the end of last season now sits first in the Pacific Division.

SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken have reached the halfway point of the season with a tie for first place in the Pacific Division.

They’ve been one of the big sports stories among several in Seattle over the past six months. The Seattle Mariners surprised us not only with a playoff spot, but as a team that caused a stir in the postseason.

We just finished watching the Seahawks not only surprise us here in Seattle, but shock the entire league by winning nine games to make the playoffs.

And here we are in the middle of winter with the Kraken. The team with the third worst record at the end of the previous season. A team that made its share of mistakes on and off the ice in its inaugural season.

But every owner, every boss and certainly every parent on this planet can live with mistakes as long as you learn from them.

The Kraken seems like a quick study.

General Manager Ron Francis said from the start that success in building a team starts with a solid goaltendership. The best team in the league, the Boston Bruins, have the best goalie in the league in Linus Ullmark. The Kraken have a decent 1-2 draw with Martin Jones and Phillip Grubauer.

You couldn’t say that last year. Grubauer needed help ahead, so Francis brought in some good defenders. We’re seeing a lot less mistakes and turnovers on defense and opponents are firing fewer shots. The Kraken are third in the league for fewest shots allowed.

Francis also said good centers are hard to find. Because of this, he focused on getting the best center available in Seattle’s first draft. He brought in Matty Beniers from Michigan and we saw how that worked. He’s a front-runner for NHL rookie of the year, and if Vancouver’s Tyler Myers hadn’t had a cheap shot, Beniers would be playing in his first NHL All-Star game this weekend. Instead, he is preparing for the second half of the season.

And by the way, with a renewed emphasis on player safety in all sports, it’s puzzling to say the least why Myers wasn’t exposed to any league discipline in his blind shot against Beniers. Myers is 6-8, 230 pounds. Beniers is 6-2, 175 pounds. You don’t have to thoroughly understand the laws of physics to understand that Beniers would be crushed in that collision, especially if he didn’t see it coming.

Mark your calendar. The Kraken will play the Canucks in Vancouver on April 4th. I’d be surprised if there wasn’t retaliation for Myers hitting Beniers. Jamie Oleksiak will likely go straight for Myers once they drop the puck. At 6-7, 260 pounds, that’s a much better matchup.

That’s enough harsh talk, although I’ll say the Kraken needs to build muscle and add a few more big guys to the roster lest Oleksiak be the only one dropping the gloves. This team could use a little more physicality, especially in the postseason.

I’m pretty sure Francis is already thinking about it.

The one thing he doesn’t want to do is disrupt the chemistry this team has developed. It’s a credit to the quality of players he brought in and definitely the leadership from the head coach he hired in Dave Hakstol.

All question marks about Hakstol’s NHL coaching experience prior to coming to Seattle have been answered. He’s built respect among his players, and that respect runs through the league – much like Hakstol’s gaze. A star who has built a reputation of her own over the years. Former players call it intimidating. One went so far as to say that Hakstol’s gaze “will penetrate the back of your helmet”.

It’s a testament to its intensity. There was even an @AngryDaveHakstol Twitter account at one point. These days, the only supporters he cares about are the 23 in the dressing room and the teams trailing Seattle in the standings.

Right now, five teams are within six points of first place in the Pacific Division. In a few months, they’ll be eyeing each other for the top spot.

Expect the Kraken to be ready. You’ve seen this look before.

Regard: Interview with Matty Beniers Seattle Kraken are one of the city’s great sports stories

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