Kraken struggling in first season, have found a way to lose, GM says

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The Seattle Kraken have “found a way to lose” games in their inaugural NHL season and should be more competitive, general manager Ron Francis said Monday.

“We felt that goaltending and defense would give us a chance in each game,” Francis told The Seattle Times. “And then the question was scoring, and can we score enough or not? I think we certainly felt going into the season that we would be a competitive team.

“I think we’ve had some games from the start of the season where I’ve felt we found a way to lose rather than gain a point or two. And when you give up six or eight of those points, you’re in a different situation than you’re sitting in now.”

Seattle (4-10-1) is eighth in the Pacific Division with nine points after losing four straight games and six of the past seven. It ranks 31st in the NHL with a 3.67 goals-against average and 20th in goals per game at 2.80.

“I think the expected goals against is the big discrepancy from where we thought it would be,” Francis said. “And it seems to be different things on different nights. Certainly, there have been games where the goaltenders feel they’d like one or two back. And I think there have been nights where the [defensemen] and the forwards, they’d like to do something different with one or two. And that’s sort of adding to our frustration at this point.”

Jordan Eberle leads the Kraken with eight goals and 12 points in 15 games. Defenseman Mark Giordano, who has seven points (three goals, four assists), leads all Seattle skaters in average ice time (21:12).

Goaltenders Philipp Grubauer and Chris Driedger have each struggled to find consistency. 

Grubauer, who signed a six-year contract July 28, was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy voted as the best goalie in the NHL last season, is 4-7-1 with a 3.18 goals-against average and .880 save percentage in 12 games (all starts). Last season with the Colorado Avalanche, he was 30-9-1 with a 1.95 goals-against average, .922 save percentage and seven shutouts in 40 games (39 starts). 

Driedger, who signed a three-year contract July 21, has started one game due to injury, a 4-2 loss at the Vegas Golden Knights on Nov. 9. He was 14-6-3 with a 2.07 GAA, .927 save percentage and three shutouts in 23 games (all starts) for the Florida Panthers last season.

“There’s a lot of things that have factored into it,” Francis said. “We started with five [games] in eight [days] on the road, and then [Driedger] got injured so we had to run [Grubauer] probably harder than we want. You’ve got a team with guys trying to figure each other out, figure out a new system. Certainly, there’s been more than one time we’ve sort of left [Grubauer] out to dry, and I think that factors into things.

“I’m not making excuses for him. I think if you talk to him, he’d say he needs to be a little bit better. But as a group, we all need to be a little bit better in situations as well, too.”

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