Commentary: Is the honeymoon over for Seattle Kraken?

This week marked the first time in 14 years that the Seahawks season has ended, and we’ve had a chance to immediately pivot to evaluating a local professional winter sports team. 

And the question that needs to be asked of the Seattle Kraken is, "When is the honeymoon over?"

Now, a lot of people might say, "Wait a minute. These guys just started! How can you even broach the topic two and a half months into their very first season? They’re brand new. They’ve dealt with COVID and postponements – challenges that other expansion franchises have never faced before!" And those are all valid points. 

Plus, there are thousands of curious fans out there who want to enjoy the brand new arena and in-game experience for the very first time – and I can say from experience, it’s absolutely worth it. 

I mean, no one expected to raise a Stanley Cup in the Kraken’s first season. But no one expected a Kraken team that had some of the most favorable expansion rules in professional sports history to be in second-to-last place in their conference with no playoff hopes by the start of January. Losses in nine of their last ten games, with just one home win since the end of November has to be testing patience at the top.

From the perspective of ownership, the question is also valid because of the bottom line: Money. 

Remember, the Seattle Kraken’s expansion fee was a league-record $650 million. That was on top of more than a billion dollars paid for a new arena. That combined price is about double what was paid for the Golden Knights and T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The Golden Knights were also extremely competitive from the start. 

And if anyone wants to bring up how old Sonics, Seahawks or Mariners fans had to be patient with those expansion franchises, consider the prices paid for those teams, with an adjustment to today’s prices, based on inflation. 

Seahawks (1976): $16 million = $78 million (inflation adjustment)

Mariners (1976): $6.5 million = just under $32 million (adj.)

Sonics (1966): $1.75 million = $15 million (adj.)

Sounders (2008) $30 million = $39 million (adj.)

Given that adjustment, the Kraken basically cost 8 ½ times what the Seahawks cost.

Now, the good news is, according to Forbes just last month, the Kraken are already worth $875 million dollars, close to a 35 percent increase from their original price. 

But it’s still not an indication of when a novelty wears off and the results become most important, especially when you start approaching season ticket holders paying an arm and a leg, and asking them if they want to renew for another season. 

I can’t imagine that either head coach Dave Haksol or general manager Ron Francis are already in danger of losing their jobs. But Francis should be feeling some heat for certain decisions made during the expansion draft, and questions about Hakstol’s ability to lead this group should linger until they’re able to turn things around. Francis also has a point when he mentions the lack of a minor league pipeline, especially during COVID complications.

Are we all thankful for having this team? Of course – that’s been covered at length and will never change. But it doesn’t give this franchise immunity from questions that come from mediocre results.