The NHL’s new Seattle Kraken won’t pull a Vegas when they start play in the 2021-22 NHL season. Sure, Vegas proved it’s always possible to rise above and beyond what the rest of the world expects.
And the “misfits” had one heck of a season after opening the 2017-18 NHL Season at 500-1 odds to win the Stanley Cup. And you can bet their odds to win the Western Conference were somewhere in the 150-1 or 250-1 range.
I can see why it’s tempting to take the risk and bet that the Kraken will repeat what Vegas did just a few short seasons ago. But it’s not smart to bet the house that the Kraken will win the NHL’s Western Conference in Year 1.
In fact, other than Las Vegas, this has never happened among the four major pro sports leagues. Here are five reasons it won’t happen again.
1 – Because Vegas Embarrassed the NHL
The Vegas Golden Knights embarrassed the other 30 NHL teams, their owners, and probably even those in the league’s offices. While the NHL wished for a more competitive expansion team with more lenient expansion draft rules, it was never to allow the team to play Cinderella.
Mainly, it was to draw in and keep fan interest. But Vegas implied the rest of the NHL’s product was weak, and that any new team could just come in and clean house.
This was much like what the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and Carolina Panthers accomplished in just Year 2 of their expansion eras, when each appeared in their respective conference championship games. The NFL put an end to it real quick when Cleveland and Houston joined the league.
And you can expect the NHL to do the same.
It will begin with the expansion draft. And at the time of this writing, it’s also unclear whether the Kraken will enter a temporary exchange with an AHL club because of the delay for the start of their expansion affiliate in Palm Springs, California.
This section isn’t to say the NHL will internally set up the Kraken to fail from the outset. But even with the expansion draft at least looking to remain lenient, expect the league to pull a few strings to keep the Kraken from repeating what the Knights did to their teams in 2017-18.
The next two reasons will show you exactly how the NHL will limit the Kraken to finish in the middle of the pack in Year 1.
2 – The Kraken Will Have Limited Expansion Options
They will have limited expansion options behind the scenes.
They say the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft will boast the same, lenient rules that the Golden Knights saw during the 2017 Expansion Draft. 30 of the league’s 31 existing teams (the Knights are exempt) can protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goaltender.
Or they can protect eight skaters and one goaltender, regardless of the position they play. Sounds to you like the NHL will let the Kraken pull a Vegas, right?
Not so fast.
In 2017, teams made deals with Vegas to concede either more players or draft picks in exchange for selecting specific players. Only a handful of teams did this in 2017 to keep the Knights from drafting their best unprotected players.
In 2021, don’t expect just 10 of the league’s 30 teams (taking part in the draft) to go so easy on the Kraken. As mentioned above, Vegas’ success embarrassed the NHL, even if the players, owners, and those in the offices won’t admit it.
Expect the current NHL teams to come into the expansion draft with a game plan to prevent Seattle from taking the best players in the draft, either by enticing them with an increased number of draft picks or conceding a greater quantity of players.
It comes down to Seattle’s overall plans on how to approach the expansion draft. But if they’re looking for long-term success by building a winning product through a farm system, look for the Kraken to take the draft picks and lower quality, but higher-quantity players.
They could take the best the expansion draft offers and try to compete for a Stanley Cup. But since players must be under contract for the next season plus have at least two years of experience at the NHL level, is it worth competing for a year or two before tanking in Years 3 through 5?
It was something the NFL’s Carolina Panthers attempted back in 1995 when they were hot in 1996 with a 12-4 record. Then, they didn’t have much over the next five seasons, eventually bottoming out at 1-15 in 2001.
If history shows us—or the Kraken—anything, it’s that they’re building the program from the ground up. Expect them to take players of lesser talent in exchange for draft picks and prospects, taking the long and the right view rather than win now and lose later.
3 – No Minor League Affiliate Until 2022
The team’s Palm Springs affiliate won’t be available until the 2022-23 AHL season. With that said, the Kraken won’t have an AHL affiliate of their own with only 31 AHL teams and 32 NHL teams set to play in the 2021-22 NHL Season.
At this point, the only AHL/ECHL team without an affiliate is the independent Norfolk Admirals. But you can already see the logistic concerns here with the Kraken on the west coast and the Admirals on the east coast.
The Admirals last affiliated themselves with the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes in 2018-2019, so it’s not like a West Coast team affiliating itself with an East Coast minor league team is completely unheard of.
The Kraken will have to scramble to find a way to develop their younger and lesser talented players. There are more options available than the ECHL’s Admirals, such as affiliating with another NHL team’s AHL affiliate for delegating players, but it’s a huge roadblock for the Kraken.
It’s something the Golden Knights weren’t forced to contend with, having been affiliated with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves.
4 – Vegas Is the Sole Outlier in North American Sports
Technically, the St. Louis Blues also won their conference and earned a trip to the Stanley Cup Final. But that season, the entire conference comprised expansion NHL teams, so you can put an asterisk next to that.
It never happened in the NFL since the league’s expansion era began upon the merger of the All-America Football Conference and the NFL in 1950. While the Cleveland Browns won the NFL Championship in their first season in the league, the team was already in its fifth season of existence.
They were an established team playing in another league.
As for the MLB and NBA, this has never happened. Though the Arizona Diamondbacks and Milwaukee Bucks both won the World Series and NBA Finals, respectively, in their fourth seasons of existence.
In the NBA, you would have to go all the way back to 1947 when the league was known as the BAA for a team to have won both their conference (division in the BAA) and the Finals when the Philadelphia Warriors did it. However, the league had just 11 teams. Not 31.
As mentioned, the NFL’s Jaguars and Panthers made their respective conference championship games. But neither made it to the Super Bowl until the Panthers went in 2003 during the franchise’s ninth season of existence.
While the most recent example shows us that winning a conference championship in the first year is possible, history is definitely not on Seattle’s side.
5 – The Norm for Expansion Teams
It often takes at least a half-decade to build a winner. Especially these days when leagues comprise 30 or more teams. The NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks won the NBA Finals in a 17-team league. There were just 12 teams when the St. Louis Blues went to the Stanley Cup Final in 1968.
The only other team in the era where pro sports leagues comprising 30 or more teams to win their conference/league are the MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks. Founded in 1998, only to win the World Series in 2001.
Other than the Snakes, not a single team in the four major sports leagues accomplished a feat so early until the NHL’s Knights.
But in terms of realistic thinking, the Kraken are a good 3-5 years away from being considered serious contenders. Sure, it might be cool to place a small bet on the 150 to 200-1 odds NHL team. But you’re better off betting on other NHL teams for now, because they’re most likely a while away from contending.
You can expect the NHL to make life rough for the Kraken, even if they aren’t telling anyone. And this isn’t a conspiracy. Something similar happened to the 1999 Cleveland Browns just three seasons after Jacksonville and Carolina embarrassed the league.
Expect the other 30 teams to entice the team during the expansion draft. The existing teams will be more than happy to concede draft picks to the Kraken in exchange for selecting specific players of lesser talent.
Seattle is also lacking an AHL/ECHL affiliate at the time of this writing, and history is not on expansion teams’ sides in terms of success.
They may not be a great bet unless you’re looking to bet some play money come 2021. What do you expect from the Kraken come their debut season in 2021-22?
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...
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