This, the second week of February, used to be the height of the American sports lull.
The Super Bowl moving one Sunday over has altered that a bit, but not so much locally.
Spring training games are still a few weeks away, the NFL draft a couple of months away, and any meaningful contests in the hoops, soccer or hockey world won’t arrive until March at the earliest.
So I thought I’d address the state of Seattle’s most well-attended teams — ranking them from eight to one in terms of where they stand as organizations/programs.
The criteria is a mix of how dominant they are now and what their future prospects hold.
So without further ado …
8. Washington men’s basketball
The Huskies’ 6,297 fans per home game this season is a drop-off from that of years past, and it isn’t hard to see why. UW (13-12 overall, 5-9 Pac-12) is on pace to miss the postseason for the fourth consecutive year (2020 postseason tournaments were canceled because of COVID-19, but the 15-17 Huskies wouldn’t have qualified) and finish with a sub.-500 conference record for the third time in the past four seasons. Coach Mike Hopkins appeared to be a godsend when he coached this team to its first NCAA tournament in seven years in 2019 — but with nothing to show for since, and little promise for the future, one has to wonder if he’ll soon get the send-off.
The highest-attended team in the WNBA last season (10,631 per home game) is suddenly short two icons. Sue Bird, who won four titles here over the span of two decades, retired — and Breanna Stewart, who won a regular-season MVP and two Finals MVPs, just signed with the New York Liberty. There is still talent on this roster — most notably in the form of four-time All-Star Jewell Loyd. But it looks like full-on rebuild mode for this group.
This might have been the toughest team to rank due to the ambiguity of last season. Yes, the Sounders won the CONCACAF Champions League title — an unprecedented feat for an MLS club. But they also missed a postseason reserved for 14 of the league’s 28 teams. Winning Saturday in the Club World Cup in Morocco would have vaulted this fútbol squad up in the rankings. Falling to Al Ahly of Egypt, however, keeps the Sounders at No. 6.
You know it’s a good time for Seattle sports when a playoff participant doesn’t crack the top half of the rankings. But the city’s most popular team still has copious work to do to get back to the NFL mountaintop. Quarterback Geno Smith stunned his doubters by leading this group to a 9-8 record while earning a Pro Bowl nod — and five rookie starters shined throughout the season. Still, there are holes to fill — the offensive line and pass rush, to name a couple. And until coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider properly address those needs, the Seahawks will remain a middling team.
Another tough call based on sample size. The Kraken finished with the NHL’s third-worst record in their inaugural season last year but are now tied with the Kings at the top of the Pacific Division despite having played four fewer games than them. The oddsmakers might not be convinced — sportsbooks are giving Seattle the 15th-best odds to win the Stanley Cup at +3000. But the Kraken boast the best rookie in the league in Matty Beniers and a bright prospect in Shane Wright — demonstrating they are set up for the present and future.
3. OL Reign
Their 2022 attendance numbers were better than Huskies men’s hoops are now. When you finish with the best record in the NWSL, those sorts of things tend to happen. No, the Reign didn’t win it all — they fell in the semifinals for the second consecutive season. But with most of last year’s key players returning — including Megan Rapinoe — this group is primed to make a run at their first title.
When was the last time there was this much anticipation for the M’s going into the season? From Cal Raleigh homering this team out of its playoff drought, to the epic playoff comeback vs. the Blue Jays, to the Griffey-esque rookie season of Julio Rodriguez, Mariners fever came to a boil in 2022. And now with most of the core back (Mitch Haniger won’t be roaming right field) — the team that won 61 of its final 94 games last season looks to build on that success. A surefire bet? No. The M’s have to stay healthy — something their pitching staff did for most of 2022. That said, they have the talent to not only get back to the playoffs, but make a deep run.
1. Huskies football
Was there much doubt for this one? Washington won its last seven games en route to going 11-2 last year and finished No. 8 in the country. The Dawgs are also returning quarterback Michael Penix Jr. — who led the nation in passing yards per game last season — along with his top two receivers and a host of other impact players. The fact that offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb turned down the OC job at Alabama without getting a raise tells you what he thinks this team on Montlake can do. Huskies receiver Jalen McMillan predicted a national championship next season after the Alamo Bowl. You never know. In the meantime, his team tops this local list.
Welcome to the discussion.
Posting comments is now limited to subscribers only. Become one today or log in using the link below. For additional information on commenting click here.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.