Your jaw will drop the first time you step into the state-of-the-art Seattle Kraken exercise facility, but that wasn’t why many people in Northgate were stunned and limp this week. No, that was because striker Yanni Gourde was walking around in baby blue for the first time instead of the red contactless jersey he had been wearing throughout the training camp.
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That development with Gourde helping the Tampa Bay Lightning win consecutive Stanley Cup championships leaves room for speculation and optimism that he will make his Kraken debut early. After Seattle made the 29-year-old forward one of its most valuable acquisitions in the NHL Expansion Draft, general manager Ron Francis reported that Gourde was missing out on the first two months of the Kraken’s inaugural season after undergoing shoulder surgery in July.
Hockey is notoriously secretive when it comes to disclosing information about injuries. This is the sport that is simply called “upper body” or “lower body” regardless of the severity. We’ll all just have to speculate before the teams inevitably reveal how injured their players really are after the season is over. With that in mind, there have been no definitive responses from Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol or Gourde himself, both of whom downplayed the situation during Monday’s interviews.
“I need repetitions. When I’m red, the guys are super careful, a little too much, ”said Gourde. “I have to add a few more bumps. That doesn’t mean much, just a different color.”
Although Gourde reduces the situation to a simple laundry suitcase, the contact is a big sign that he is about to be included in the line-up. The Kraken would not take any liberties with a predicted top 6 player and probably the most important striker in the squad.
Gosh @YanniGourde. 😱
Check out the highlights from last night → https://t.co/D9ikQxKFZx pic.twitter.com/7VxXnePCfA
– NHL on NBC Sports (@NHLonNBCSports) March 28, 2017
“There is a plan and we implemented it every day, but I am not going to go into a specific schedule,” Hakstol said of Gourde. “Everything he does is at 110% and that will help him come back.”
It won’t be a formal announcement when Gourde is ready, maybe just another jersey change to a blue or white in training and then suddenly he’ll be listed on one of the lines. With the NHL season starting just a few days left – Tuesday night in Las Vegas – an opening night debut is unlikely for Gourde, but he is ahead of schedule in his recovery and will certainly ruin initial expectations of being canceled by November do.
There’s one date that seems to fit this adjusted timeline perfectly, and it comes after a five-game road trip that gives the Seatle Kraken a good feel for what they are and where Gourde can fit: October 23rd, the Home game against the Vancouver Canucks at the Climate Pledge Arena. The unveiling of a new building, a new team, and perhaps the new face of the franchise.
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