Fortified list in all areas
When the new Kraken attacker Olivier Bjorkstrand looked at his phone late one night on his recent honeymoon in South Africa, he noticed “a few missed calls”. He decided it was better to answer it even though he and his wife fully intended to disconnect from everyday life during the trip.
“There is a little jet lag [compared to Columbus and Seattle]”, Bjorkstrand said Tuesday during his first press conference since being traded from the Eastern Time Zone Blue Jackets to the Pacific Time Zone Kraken. “It was in the middle of nowhere … I thought I should call back and hear what it was. I kind of understood what the phone call was about.”
The news didn’t fall immediately for Columbus’ top scorer last season. He scored a career-high 28 goals in the first year of a new five-year contract.
“When I had time to think about it, I started to get really excited about it,” said Bjorkstrand, who said he “started thinking about being part of creating a winning culture” as the Kraken aspire to an improved record and a playoff. assertion in their second season.
Video: Media available: Olivier Bjorkstrand
The mission of a winning culture gained momentum this summer through the moves of Kraken General Manager Ron Francis and his Hockey Operations group. Joining Bjorkstrand as new guys in the locker room and part of Tuesday’s encounter is defender Michel Kempny and guardian Martin Jones.
Kempny won the Stanley Cup in 2018 as a first pair defenseman with the Washington Capitals, coming on a mid-season trade to partner with perennial NHL star John Carlson. Jones is widely credited as the main reason the San Jose Sharks were Cup finalists in 2016 and his playoff stats include a 32-27 record, 2.37 goals-against average and save percentage. .917 saves in 60 playoff games.
“I’m very grateful for this opportunity,” said Kempny, who lost the entire 2020-21 season to three separate left leg injuries and a time split between the NHL and AHL last year. before winning a bronze medal with his native Czech national team at the recent International Ice Hockey World Championships in Finland.
“I’m excited to join training camp in Seattle. I’m doing everything I can to be ready and ready to start a season.”
Video: Media Availability: Michal Kempny
Kempny’s stellar play alongside Carlson is a positive harbinger for Kraken fans and the potential to support a more attacking defender on Seattle’s roster.
“Playing with Johnny, you know he’s a great player,” said Kempny, 31, who played 247 regular season games and 30 playoff games in five NHL seasons after impressive years in the NHL. top Czech professional league. “I learned a lot from him. And I always like to play with gifted players on offense. I’m more of a stay-at-home defenseman…we’ll see who I get paired up with in Seattle. I have I really liked playing with the attacking guys.”
Per offensive production, Bjorkstrand’s career highs in goals, assists and points haven’t completely satisfied the 27-year-old Danish right-winger. “In terms of points, points, I had a good season, but I wasn’t too happy with my plus-minus [a negative-35 rating, a stat representing goals against subtracted from goals for when a player is on the ice.]”
“It’s something I want to fix. I think there are small areas in the game that I can improve. It’s the little details of playing a game from 200 feet coming back into the [defensive] area. You know, don’t put the brakes on, just keep skating.”
Video: Media availability: Martin Jones
Bjorkstand said he thinks playing more “defensively all over the ice” can help him collect pucks to set up his own renowned shot (teammates and opponents rave about his release) and/or feed his teammates for a chance to score. Somehow Kraken trainer Dave Hakstol will be smiling when reading or hearing about his new right.
At the same world championships where Kempny won bronze, the Kraken keeper Chris Driedger was goaltending for Canada in the gold medal game, thriving in close competition before a knee injury eliminated him from the game and host Finland beat Canada with a win in extension. Driedger’s potential return to the game is staked somewhere between January and March to allow for full recovery of range of motion and durability in the knee.
Enter Jones, who played 35 games with the Philadelphia Flyers last season, going 12-18 for a team that finished with a 25-46-11 record. He had some solid spells of play last year, no doubt providing Kraken’s front office and new goaltending coach Steve Brière reason to hope Jones can build on those successes and form a tandem. solid with Philippe Grubauer.
Jones said “there’s some technical stuff” he’s been working on this summer but chose not to go into detail while allowing it to bolster his efforts this season.
“There are things that I’ve been working on for the past few years, structural things,” said Jones, who is originally from North Vancouver, happy to be two hours away from his extended family. “I thought last year was obviously a trying year for our team, but I think I’ve made a lot of good steps forward. I think I’m very close to coming back to a couple of seasons that I had early in San Jose. It’s been a good summer for me. I feel like I’m ready to go and I’m looking forward to the season.
Jones, 32, won a Stanley Cup with Los Angeles in 2014, while Grubauer won his with Washington in 2018. The playoffs were on his mind Tuesday when asked what his expectations were for himself and his new Kraken teammates.
“We’re trying to make the playoffs,” Jones said. “I’m going to push as hard as I can to play and you know I think I have to push Phil as hard as I can. I think goalkeepers are at their best when they both push each other and have that kind of relationship. competitive.”