Hockey fans waited four months for this. The Seattle Kraken officially said goodbye to the summer and turned the page to a 2023-24 season, splitting a pre-season split-squad meeting with the Calgary Flames in a 5-3 victory at Scotiabank Saddledome, and dropping a 3-2 shootout loss at Climate Pledge Arena.
While there is no meaning in the scope of pre-season standings, the Kraken are officially underway with a five-game test drive of various parts of the roster – some parts rockstars, some parts supporting cast, and some parts hopefuls.
Here are five immediate thoughts from the first night:
5 – Jessica Campbell’s debut on the Kraken bench, simply fantastic.
Monday night led to an opportunity for Jessica Campbell, becoming a part of a growing list of women in NHL coaching roles and continuing to add to her resume.
As she became the first woman to join the coaching staff of a national team in the 2022 World Championship with Germany, Campbell later was named the first assistant coach hired with the Coachella Valley Firebirds two summers ago, also as the first woman to coach within a full-time role in the American Hockey League. On Monday night, she joined an NHL bench as the first woman serve in a coaching capacity for a Kraken game, following Kori Cheverie’s historic night behind the Pittsburgh Penguins bench one day later.
Campbell worked the game in Seattle with Dan Bylsma, both who teamed with Stu Bickel to nearly lead an AHL expansion team – the Firebirds – to a championship last season. She played a role in helping Tye Kartye crack the NHL roster last season and put players like Ryker Evans on the threshold.
"I get most excited about developing prospects, and getting them on the path to be here,” said Campbell. “To see guys like Tye Kartye, to come up in key moments last year and get an opportunity to succeed and have an impact in the way he did, that’s what it’s all about.”
Her influence was on full display, in a career that has taken a big step, with a goal she said of reaching the top level – once as a player, now as a coach.
“I’m obviously honored to be on this path and continuing to just do the good work it takes to reach that goal,” said Campbell.
4 – Tucker Robertson showed out in the home debut.
A youthful line of Robertson, David Goyette and Luke Henman may have lacked the experience that was saturated across the Kraken lineup but played to the tune of seasoned professionals.
Robertson got the scoring off and running with a one-timer from the left circle, made complete by an on-the-mark feed from David Goyette through traffic.
The pass opened up space for Robertson at the left circle, who blasted a 1-0 lead past Dan Vladar and into an open net.
“Young line, just fast, fearless, they were going after the puck, their pursuit was all night long,” said Campbell.
“Simple play, skilled play, but a very nice look by Goyette to the back side. To see them finish and execute, they may have surprised themselves. But they’re great players and they earned it.”
3 – Face-offs on full display, and perhaps a sneak preview upgrade?
For all of the breakthroughs on a Kraken team that defied odds last season and made the Stanley Cup Playoffs, then made noise in it, the long list of strengths wasn’t without sporadic flaws. One of them was the face-off circle, where the Kraken routinely fell on the negative half of the scoresheet.
It’s pre-season, but perhaps offering a sliver of optimism that he times are changing for the Kraken at the dot. Enter free agent pickup Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, well known for his aptitude previously in Tampa Bay, and torched the Flames for a 13-of-17 night in the circle.
Matty Beniers – who battled through struggles in this area as a first full-season center, showed marked improvement with a 12-of-18 effort. He and Bellemare wound up taking 44 of the team’s 54 draws, winning a near unconscious 64 percent clip.
2 – Kartye, Yamamoto helping lead the Calgary party.
Kailer Yamamoto earned first star of the game efforts in Calgary with his nose for the net.
Looking for new life in a Seattle sweater, he got off to a great start. Yamamoto, stationed at the left side of the crease, slammed a power play goal into a wide open net for the first Kraken lead of the night, but his second goal – which extended the Kraken lead for good - illustrated his willingness to smother the front of the net – a necessary ingredient for the minutes he may be disposed to on the Kraken roster.
Kartye put together moments that demonstrated his full time role in the NHL may be around the corner. After he was stopped on a rush up the left wing and a breakaway that Dustin Wolf stopped, he stayed with the play and snuffed out a Ben Jones turnover and blasted a wrist shot past Wolf from the left circle.
Kartye has reference his shot before as a big part of his skill set, and it created havoc. He wasn’t shy letting it go, leading the Kraken with five on net.
1 – Glimpse of Matty Beniers – McCann – Eberle:
For a sizeable pre-season crowd in Seattle that found shelter from the rain, they got their money’s worth with the Beniers line, flanked by Jordan Eberle and Jared McCann who were swiftly shaking off rust and providing a future glimpse of the damage they can inflict.
When they find open ice, they are dangerous. Transition hockey? To quote John Forslund, that’s Kraken hockey, baby. Eberle set up Beniers at the front of the net late in the first period, a stop by Dan Vladar that kept Calgary ahead. Beniers nearly set up McCann for a tie game on an outnumbered attack, on a pass that Beniers parked right on McCann’s tape and only found the post to deny the goal.
Beniers then parked a silky smooth backhander to eventually tie it on a second period power play – calm, cool, and poised to fire glove side.
It’s pre-season, but the evidence is there for promise.