- The expansion Seattle Kraken will begin play with the 2021-2022 season.
- They’ll play the NHL’s previous most recent expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights, in their opening game.
- NHL futures odds give the Kraken a better chance of winning the Stanley Cup than many established teams.
At an earlier point in National Hockey League history the expectations for expansion teams were set almost painfully low. When the Atlanta Flames and New York Islanders entered the league in 1972 no one expected anything out of them. In 1972-1973, the Flames went 25-38-15 which was considered to be reasonably competent. They were downright precocious in 1973-1974, making the playoffs in their second year in existence–only to be throttled in a 4-0 sweep by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Philadelphia Flyers. The Islanders started a bit slower than the Flames–they were 12-60-6 in 72-73 followed by 19-41-18 in 73-74. At that point, their paths started to diverge. The Flames won just two playoff games and never made it out of the first round in the next six seasons before relocating to Calgary. The Islanders got very competitive very quickly reaching the Stanley Cup semifinals in four of the next five seasons. All they did after that was run out a dynasty, winning four straight Stanley Cups in 1980, 1981, 1982 and 1983 before losing in the 1984 finals to the next dynasty on the rise, the Edmonton Oilers.
The next two expansion teams didn’t fare quite as well. The Washington Capitals and Kansas City Scouts entered the league in 1974-1975. The Scouts were ‘two and out’, lasting only two seasons in KC before moving to Denver for six seasons followed by another relocation, this time to New Jersey where they remain as the Devils. The Capitals went 8-67-5 in their first season which at the time was the worst seasonal record in NHL history. Since then the San Jose Sharks and Ottawa Senators (both in 93-94) lost more games due primarily to the season being four games longer. Neither had a worse winning percentage than the 74-75 Caps. No team has ever finished with fewer points in a season (21).
The dynamic of expansion teams was upended for good in 2017 with the arrival of the Vegas Golden Knights. No one told VGK they were supposed to suck in their first season and they decidedly didn’t. The Golden Knights ‘flipped the script’ when it came to what an expansion team could accomplish. They finished the regular season at the top of the Pacific Division with a record of 51-24-7. They played before a packed house of extremely enthusiastic fans at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas which quickly earned a reputation for being one of the toughest places to play in the NHL. Most impressively, they shocked the world by not only reaching the playoffs but reaching the Stanley Cup Finals. They would lose to the Washington Capitals in six games but that didn’t negate the absurdity of their accomplishment.
One byproduct of the Golden Knights’ first year success–and subsequent success–is that no team entering the league will get off easy during their first few season. The first team to experience this dynamic will be the NHL’s latest team, the Seattle Kraken. Reasonably speaking, no one expects the Kraken to make the playoffs this year, let alone come anywhere close to what Vegas accomplished. That said, they’re getting a lot more respect as a potential Stanley Cup winner than many well established teams.
Before the expansion draft, the Kraken were given rock bottom chances to win the Stanley Cup. On July 6, we reported on the opening NHL futures odds market at BetOnline.ag and the Kraken were right at the bottom with six other dregs:
2021-2022 STANLEY CUP CHAMPION (ODDS FROM BETONLINE.AG AS OF JULY 6, 2021)
(bottom six teams)
Anaheim Ducks +10000
Buffalo Sabres +10000
Columbus Blue Jackets +10000
Detroit Red Wings +10000
New Jersey Devils +10000
Seattle Kraken +10000
After the expansion draft the Kraken’s price plummeted. The specific price varied from one book to another but at BetOnline.ag they went all the way to +2500. That put them ahead of 19 already established NHL franchises.
2021-2022 STANLEY CUP CHAMPION (ODDS FROM BETONLINE.AG AS OF JULY 22, 2021)
Edmonton Oilers +2500 Montreal Canadiens +2500 Pittsburgh Penguins +2500 Seattle Kraken +2500 St. Louis Blues +2800 Washington Capitals +2800 Dallas Stars +3300 Philadelphia Flyers +3300 Nashville Predators +4000 Winnipeg Jets +4000 Calgary Flames +5000 Chicago Blackhawks +5000 Vancouver Canucks +5000 Los Angeles Kings +6600 Arizona Coyotes +7500 Ottawa Senators +8000 San Jose Sharks +8000 Anaheim Ducks +10000 Buffalo Sabres +10000 Columbus Blue Jackets +10000 Detroit Red Wings +10000 New Jersey Devils +10000
The story was similar at PointsBet Colorado where the Kraken were at +4000 ahead of 12 established teams and at Betfred Sports in Colorado where they were +5000 ahead of 11 other teams.
Some of the enthusiasm has cooled but they’re still nowhere near being considered one of the league’s bottom feeders. Here’s the current odds from BetOnline.ag where the Kraken are at +3300.
2021-2022 STANLEY CUP CHAMPION (ODDS FROM BETONLINE.AG AS OF SEPTEMBER 26, 2021)
Carolina Hurricanes +2500 Edmonton Oilers +2500 Minnesota Wild +2500 Washington Capitals +2800 Philadelphia Flyers +3300 St. Louis Blues +3300 Seattle Kraken +3300 Winnipeg Jets +3500 Chicago Blackhawks +4500 Montreal Canadiens +4500 Calgary Flames +5000 New Jersey Devils +5000 Vancouver Canucks +6000 Los Angeles Kings +6600 Nashville Predators +6600 San Jose Sharks +8000 Ottawa Senators +15000 Arizona Coyotes +20000 Anaheim Ducks +20000 Buffalo Sabres +20000 Columbus Blue Jackets +20000 Detroit Red Wings +20000
The Kraken have dropped from +4000 to +5000 at PointsBet Colorado:
2021-2022 STANLEY CUP CHAMPION (ODDS FROM POINTSBET COLORADO AS OF SEPTEMBER 26, 2021)
Calgary Flames +4000 Winnipeg Jets +4000 Chicago Blackhawks +4000 Seattle Kraken +5000 Nashville Predators +6000 Los Angeles Kings +6000 Vancouver Canucks +6000 New Jersey Devils +6000 San Jose Sharks +8000 Arizona Coyotes +10000 Ottawa Senators +10000 Columbus Blue Jackets +10000 Anaheim Ducks +10000 Detroit Red Wings +20000 Buffalo Sabres +20000
From Betfred Sports in Colorado, where Seattle is still at +5000 but now ahead of 13 established franchises:
2021-2022 STANLEY CUP CHAMPION (ODDS FROM BETFRED SPORTS COLORADO AS OF SEPTEMBER 26, 2021)
Seattle Kraken +5000 Calgary Flames +6000 Los Angeles Kings +6000 New Jersey Devils +6000 St. Louis Blues +6000 Chicago Blackhawks +8000 Nashville Predators +8000 Anaheim Ducks +10000 Arizona Coyotes +10000 Columbus Blue Jackets +10000 Detroit Red Wings +10000 Ottawa Senators +10000 San Jose Sharks +10000 Buffalo Sabres +20000
Future prices can vary widely from book to book depending on what their balance sheets look like. This is particularly true for the ‘middle of the pack’ teams. There are several things going on with the Kraken and their support in the marketplace. There are likely some bettors wanting to take a flyer on the expansion teams based on what happened with Vegas in 2017-2018. There are also obviously some sportsbooks who are going to make certain that they aren’t facing a potential 7 or 8 figure liability like they were during the Golden Knights’ run to the Stanley Cup Finals. At any rate, there’s definitely more optimism in Seattle now than prior to the expansion draft.