As the Seattle Kraken prepare for their first season of play in the National Hockey League, the team was missing one key component: a coach.
There was speculation for months as to who would command the bench during their inaugural season. Veterans of the game, current coaches, and off-the-board picks were thrown around. Today, the Kraken officially announced their first-ever head coach, and he comes with a ton of experience.
Dave Hakstol was officially announced as the teams’ coach and is a former assistant coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs during the past two seasons. Hakstol also coached the Philadelphia Flyers for three-and-a-half seasons.
Hakstol made a name for himself behind the bench coaching with the University of North Dakota in the NCAA. Hakstol also coached the Sioux City Musketeers in the USHL.
During his time as a head coach in the NHL, Hakstol racked up a 134-101-42 record, all with the Philadelphia Flyers. His tenure with the Flyers resulted in two first-round exits.
Under the Fighting Sioux, Hakstol helped North Dakota remain a college hockey powerhouse, helping the program capture a national championship as well as multiple Frozen Four finishes.
According to reports, GM Ron Francis and Hakstol have a great relationship, which was formed during a car ride in Slovakia. Both men have experience with Hockey Canada and Francis appreciated Hakstol’s attention to detail.
Hakstol’s name wasn’t exactly a hot pick to become head coach, however. “On our end, we just had the conversations, we talked about things and I think a lot of that credit goes to Dave,” Francis said. “He just didn’t talk about it to anybody, and when you don’t do that, it doesn’t get out there.”
Former head coaches Rich Tocchet met with Seattle on multiple occasions. The team also considered Don Granata, Kevin Dineen, and Gerard Gallant, the first coach of the Vegas Golden Knights.
The 52-year-old from Drayton Valley, Alberta has a unique opportunity ahead of him. It isn’t often that a head coach has zero pieces to work with. Hakstol and his front office will work toward the NHL Entry Draft, as well as the NHL Expansion Draft. Seattle will have the same opportunity to select players from other clubs in the NHL, although the Vegas Golden Knights are currently exempt from leaving a player unprotected.
The expansion draft will take place on July 21st and teams have until July 17th to submit their list of protected players.
Seattle will join play during the 2021-2022 season and is the National Hockey League’s 32nd franchise.
Hakstol has been coaching hockey for 26 consecutive seasons, ranging from the USHL to NHL. Thirty of Hakstol’s players at North Dakota would go on to play in the NHL, including Jonathan Toews and T.J. Oshie. Hakstol was also named a finalist for national coach of the year in eight of his 11 seasons with North Dakota.
Hakstol will have the opportunity to build his own coaching staff, according to the press release on Kraken’s official website.