Seattle Kraken

Seattle Kraken begin Year 3 knowing they no longer can catch the NHL by surprise

Ron Francis knows how important last season was for the present and future of the Seattle Kraken.

Seattle found success on the ice by making the playoffs in just its second season. The Kraken developed a footing in a crowded sports marketplace where the hockey team became the focal point during an unexpected playoff run. And by doing so, the team turned the novelty of being the newest NHL franchise into the reality of being a solid team worthy of respect around the league.

Now, they have to do it again and prove the second-year version of the Kraken is the one the NHL can expect to see with regularity.

“We’re not going to surprise anybody. I think they understand that we’re for real,” said Francis, the Kraken’s general manager. “So it’s a tough leap. We hopefully can pick up and do what we did last year. I think our guys are hungry to do that.”

The process begins for Seattle on Tuesday night in its season-opening game at Vegas. The Kraken will be out to ruin the evening for the Golden Knights, who raise their Stanley Cup champions banner.

Seattle will be in the spotlight plenty this season, beginning with the opener. The next time the Kraken see Vegas, it will be the Winter Classic on Jan. 1, hosted by Seattle at T-Mobile Park. Seattle will have 13 games currently for national broadcasts among the league’s TV partners. That’s the same as Chicago with rookie sensation Connor Bedard, and the New York Rangers.

But that kind of attention means proving last season wasn’t a fluke when Seattle went 46-28-8, finished with 100 points in the regular season and knocked out defending champion Colorado in the first round of the playoffs before losing to Dallas in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals.

Seattle acknowledged teams were surprised by its success early last season. That won’t be the case this time.

“The biggest thing for me was the exit meetings last year. After we lose a tough Game 7, our guys weren’t satisfied with going two rounds of the playoffs,” Francis said. “They went home and they worked hard. They came in camp in shape and I’d be lying if I said I feel comfortable we’re clicking on all cylinders right now and we still have work to do, but there has been a lot of progress from Year 1.”

Jordan Eberle is one of those who have been around since that first season. He’s one of 11 players who were on the roster during Seattle’s miserable expansion season that will be on the ice against the Golden Knights on Tuesday.

From a player perspective, Eberle said it was a bit odd this summer being congratulated for what Seattle accomplished last season when the team finished short of winning a trophy. But he also understands the scale of the situation and that the success helped establish the franchise in several ways, even if the conclusion was disappointing for fans and those on the ice.

“You get to that point where anytime you get past the first round you see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s almost achievable and it becomes real. And then it doesn’t happen, it’s a tough settling in your stomach,” Eberle said. “You look at some good teams and you have to lose before you win, and I know for sure this group felt bad and felt rattled about how it ended and I think should add motivation for this year.”

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