The NHL All-Star Game will take place in Sunrise, Florida, this weekend without a single member of the Seattle Kraken. An injury to Matty Beniers will keep him from attending the event. Initially, this didn’t sit well with the Kraken fan base, especially considering why Beniers won’t be able to attend. However, this may just prove to be the best thing to happen to this team.
The Hit on Beniers
The hit that knocked Beniers out of All-Star Weekend was unnecessary. Against the Vancouver Canucks on Jan. 25, defenseman Tyler Myers, who stands 6-foot-8 (off skates) and tips the scales at around 230 pounds, saw Beniers (6-foot-1 and 175 pounds) heading toward the middle of the offensive zone and getting into position for a potential tip off the point shot coming from Jamie Oleksiak. Myers leveled Beniers before the puck even got close to him. Clearly it was a play made out of frustration in what has been a vexxing season in Vancouver. Again, not needed at all from Myers.
The referees made the right call, but the damage was done. The 20-year-old Calder Trophy candidate left the ice, returned for a shift, then exited the game for good with what the team is calling an upper-body injury. Head coach Dave Hakstol addressed the media and said that Beniers would miss the team’s last two games before the break, and then word came down that he’d have to sit out the All-Star festivities as well.
Since then, the league announced that Vegas Golden Knight Chandler Stephenson would replace him, even though, according to Kraken general manager Ron Francis, another Kraken player turned down the offer. No punishment is needed for this decision. In 2020, Washington Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin decided to skip the game in St. Louis despite being voted captain of the Metropolitan Division by fans. It was the second year in a row that he didn’t attend, citing the need to be at his best physically for the stretch run. His decision, however, led to a one-game suspension.
Kraken’s Long-Term “Goal”
This time last season, the Kraken were last in the Pacific Division with 42 points and had only 14 wins. They had allowed 166 goals, tied for third-most in NHL, and were headed nowhere. Not ideal, but acceptable for a first-year expansion club.
In Year 2, the thinking has changed, as has the play. The club currently sits in a tie with the Los Angeles Kings for first in the Pacific with 63 points. The Golden Knights are one point behind with 62 and the Edmonton Oilers are three points off the Kraken’s pace with an even 60. Needless to say, this is going to be a dog fight the rest of the way, but here’s the thing. Seattle has games in hand on the three teams chasing them. In fact, they have four in hand on the Kings which just might prove to be the difference in closing out the regular season. Seattle has to focus on maintaining its standing and locking down a postseason spot. They are a competitive group. They score. They work hard. They are good. The results prove that, and as they say, anything can happen in the playoffs.
I don’t think the injury to the second-overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft is serious. Regardless, this rest period has come at a good time. When Seattle does return to action, they have three tough road games: Feb. 7 against the New York Islanders (see Bo Horvat trade), Feb. 9 against the New Jersey Devils (see Eastern Conference Standings), and then Feb. 10 against the New York Rangers (MSG is a tough building).
So, for this upcoming stretch, being out for any length of time is not an option, and if it means the whole team, not just Beniers, has to skip out on the Florida festivities, that’s fine. Remember, there will always be another All-Star Game.
Ryan has been in the sports media industry for 20 years with stops on television as well as radio where he currently holds the position of Sports Radio Host for Sirius XM NHL Network Radio. Along with his passion and love or sports, he also is a part-time actor in commercials as well as a voice-over artist. Ryan covers the Seattle Kraken for The Hockey Writers