Sound Of Hockey Podcast Ep. 148 – Featuring Seattle Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol

Sound Of Hockey Podcast Ep. 148 – Featuring Seattle Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol

BIG-TIME GUEST ALERT!

This week, John and Darren talk to the first head coach in Seattle Kraken history, Dave Hakstol. The focus of the conversation is to get Dave’s thoughts on what has transpired over the last week, with the Kraken completing their Expansion Draft, then selecting seven prospects in the NHL Entry Draft, including No. 2 overall pick, Matty Beniers. This is a good insider’s look on what’s happening with the team right now.

Aside from the Hakstol interview, John, Andy, and Darren give their own takes on what has been happening around the Kraken and the rest of the league, including their thoughts on where the Seattle roster stands and where it might end up before opening night. Plus, plenty of general NHL trade talk, signing talk, schedule talk, and free agency talk.

Segments include Goalie Gear Corner, Weekly One-Timers, and Tweets of the Week.

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Seattle Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol on analytics, leadership, and a look at his time in Philly

Seattle Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol on analytics, leadership, and a look at his time in Philly

One thing we already know about the Seattle Kraken is that they know how to keep a secret. A year ago, they announced the team’s name, logo, and jersey design with nary a leak. No stolen mockups made the rounds, and we all experienced the name together.

A week ago, they struck again by hiring Dave Hakstol as the first Kraken head coach. Hakstol’s name was not mentioned by all the self-proclaimed media insiders leading up to the official announcement.

Yet there he was at the Edgewater Inn, sitting between general manager Ron Francis and CEO Tod Leiweke last Thursday.

“We didn’t do anything extraordinary,” Francis said about keeping the hire a secret. “Dave was employed by Toronto, so we didn’t want that being out there and a distraction, as he’s coaching with the Leafs so we just had the conversations, we talked about things and, you know, I think a lot of that credit goes to Dave. He just didn’t talk about it to anybody and when you don’t do that it doesn’t get out there.”

Seems simple enough.

So, what kind of coach are the Kraken getting in Hakstol? What kind of team will he put on the ice?

“If you go through an 82-game schedule and hopefully into a playoff run, resiliency is a huge part of what our team will be about,” Hakstol said. “It’s not always easy. The teams that relish those tough days and want to come back and battle together. Those are the teams that have success. I’ve always said humility as part of the group, humility to hold standards really allows you to respect this game and the game deserves respect … those are some of the different elements that lead us to the opportunity that we have here in terms of building tradition.”

The Seattle Kraken introduced new head coach Dave Hakstol last week (photo Brian Liesse)

Dave Hakstol and numbers

The Kraken have built a robust and highly credentialed analytics staff as part of their hockey operations. Led by Alex Mandrycky, it’s obvious that Seattle will use analytics as a tool towards building, and sustaining, a successful on-ice product.

It seems to reason that hiring a coach willing to embrace and work with analytics would be of importance.

“You know when I was actually being interviewed for my position that was something we came up with,” Francis said. “The ownership group is interested in that and thought that we should make that a part of our processes as we build out our team. So, certainly when we were asking the questions on the coaches, there were questions surrounding analytics and we did that with everybody. It wasn’t the only question, but it was certainly part of the process to make our final decision for sure.”

Not all coaches have embraced analytics in today’s NHL.

It seems counter intuitive not to. Embracing analytics doesn’t mean you turn into a robot, relying on charts to set your line combinations, or make adjustments to your game plan. The data, however, informs the decisions that the coach eventually has to make.

There’s nothing wrong with making tough calls armed with as much information as possible.

“It’s a phenomenal tool for us as coaches to evaluate and to discover and to find different avenues to improve our team,” Hakstol said. “The second piece of that is still a very human game 100% on the ice, it’s played with emotion and passion… So, the combination of the two is valuable. Never forget, this is a game that’s played on emotion and it’s a human game.”

Hakstol’s time in Philadelphia was a mixed bag

Hakstol was just the third coach to go straight from coaching in college to the NHL when he accepted the head coaching gig with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2015. It came after an impressive 11-year run in college with the University of North Dakota.

He spent three full seasons with the Flyers — he was let go 31 games into his fourth year after a 12-15-4 start — and led them to the playoffs twice.

The numbers for those Flyers teams are what you would expect for a middling team that made it into the postseason but lost in the first round. Their underlying metrics were all around 50 percent, including an expected goals forced percentage of 51. His goaltending was perhaps a bit under par with a collection of guys that included Steve Mason, Brian Elliott, and a group of seven additional journeymen who manned the pipes during his last season.

Over the three full years he was a coach, the Flyers’ goalies combined for a high-danger save percentage of 79 percent, which was 30th in the league for that time. Hakstol needed a guy to make a save for him.

None of that is to suggest that Hakstol was responsible for the Flyers inability to find a consistent goaltender. That’s long been a hitch in the Flyers’ stride and was so until Carter Hart arrived at the end of Hakstol’s tenure in 2018-2019.

It’s also tough to glean too much information from the stats of those Flyers teams when assessing Hakstol. Even the best coaches require talented players and the Flyers’ struggles this past season, where they failed to make the playoffs with a minus-38 goal differential, suggest that the team’s problems were deeper than coaching.

Hakstol has a chance now to take the lessons learned from that experience, plus two years as an assistant with a good Toronto team, and apply them to the Kraken, something he talked about last week.

There have been many cases of “second chance” coaches who didn’t win big in their first go-around but would get a second shot and end up succeeding. See Gerard Gallant, who had only a first-round loss in four years between Columbus and Florida before taking Vegas to the Cup Final in 2018.  

Or check out Pete DeBoer, who has taken two teams, New Jersey and San Jose, to the Stanley Cup Final and three of the last four conference finals. Before all that he spent three seasons as the Florida Panthers head coach (2008-2011) and missed the playoffs each time.

Hakstol’s track record shows that he knows the game and knows how to win. That’s what led him to be the first Kraken head coach.

Coach Hakstol on team leadership with Kraken

During last Thursday’s press conference, Hakstol talked about the task ahead.

He has to put together a coaching staff and prepare to take a collection of payers thrown together after the Expansion Draft on July 21.

Part of that is finding leadership. There won’t be an established leader when the team first is assembled. The Vegas Golden Knights had the same challenge and famously didn’t have a captain until turning to Mark Stone this past season. Leadership is an important part of a hockey team and with the constant turnover of a college roster, it’s something Hakstol has some experience with.

“There may be that one guy that’s just absolute,” he said. “If that’s the case that usually becomes pretty apparent. With any group that I’ve coached I look at the core group. Our core leadership group. What the number of that group is, I don’t know what that number will be, maybe it’s four, five, maybe six, but its more so than just solely focusing on who the captain will be. It’s focusing on that leadership group.”

Don’t be surprised if there is no official Kraken captain in year one.

Hakstol is Seattle Kraken head coach, Lightning and Habs in Final – Weekly One-Timers

Hakstol is Seattle Kraken head coach, Lightning and Habs in Final – Weekly One-Timers

This felt like the last big pre-we’re-a-real-team milestone, didn’t it? Kraken general manager Ron Francis has been maintaining for MANY months that the organization’s hiring plan for its first head coach was to wait for the end of the NHL season to see what options were available. The second piece of the plan was to have the coach in place by the end of the second quarter of 2021. With just six days to spare before that self-imposed deadline, the team finally did the damn thing and hired Dave Hakstol as the first coach in Seattle Kraken franchise history, just as absolutely nobody anticipated. 

Dave Hakstol hired as Seattle Kraken Head Coach

Why Dave Hakstol was never really considered a candidate to be the first Seattle Kraken Head Coach is anybody’s guess, but the best way we can explain it is… well… nobody ever really asked if Dave Hakstol was a candidate. He certainly ticks the boxes of being somebody with NHL head coaching experience and also somebody who believes that analytics are a useful tool for teams to evaluate and improve. He also—despite being fired by the Flyers after four seasons—had a winning record in Philadelphia and took a relatively young team to the playoffs twice. 

And being that he just wrapped up a two-year stint as an assistant coach in hockey-crazed Toronto, how did Hakstol and the Kraken manage to keep his name out of the rumor mill all the way until Thursday morning? 

“Actually, we didn’t do anything—I would think—extraordinary,” Francis said during Hakstol’s introductory presser on Thursday. “We first talked to Dave last year. I mean, it’s an interesting process because sometimes you talk to teams, and they request that you keep it quiet. At the time, Dave was employed by Toronto so you certainly don’t want that out there as a distraction as he’s coaching with the Leafs.”

Francis added, “So you know on our end, we just had the conversations, we talked about things, and I think a lot of that credit goes to Dave. He just didn’t talk about it to anybody and when you don’t do that, it doesn’t get out there. So, as I said, we had multiple conversations, and it was able to be kept sort of in house until this morning.” 

As far as introductory press conferences go, it really was a good one. Hakstol carries himself as somebody who perfectly fits the mold of what the Kraken were seeking. He looks and sounds like a coach who has been here before, and he’s excited for—but also humbled by—the opportunity to lead an expansion franchise as its first-ever bench boss. 

Dave Hakstol speaks at his introductory press conference. Photo: Brian Liesse.

We at Sound Of Hockey were certainly surprised by the hire, but we dig it. Let us know what you think about Dave Hakstol as the first Seattle Kraken head coach! 

Stanley Cup Final matchup set

Sure, everybody had the Tampa Bay Lightning and their “$18-million-over-the-cap” payroll in the Stanley Cup Final. But there cannot have been too many brackets out there that featured the Montreal Canadiens as one of the two last teams standing. 

It’s hard to even explain how the Habs have gotten to this point. They still are not and never have been the best team in this tournament, but they’ve played the style of hockey that gets it done in the playoffs and have done so to near perfection. Outstanding team defense. Clutch scoring. Elite goaltending. That’s the formula. 

Meanwhile, the Bolts return for a chance at a second-consecutive swig from Lord Stanley’s Cup. 

It’s funny how the tides of public perception turn so quickly when your team wins. It felt like everyone was pulling for Tampa Bay in last year’s bubble, and now they feel like this evil empire, just toying with the hearts and minds of hockey fans everywhere. 

Following suit in the semifinals, America really appeared to be cheering for the Islanders, who were impressive again this season. Barry Trotz’s troops gave everything they had to try to find an equalizer in Friday’s Game 7. But remarkably, potential future Seattle Kraken Yanni Gourde’s short-handed tally early in the second period was enough to skate Tampa Bay back into the Final. 

Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final gets underway Monday at 5 P.M. on NBC Sports, not the main network. Based on their schedule, it would appear that local news, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy!, and American Ninja Warrior take precedent over the Stanley Cup Final. NBC has officially mailed it in. We are very ready for the NHL’s new TV partners to take over. 

Another hockey team hiring hockey people

Look who’s back in the fold for the Canucks!

Man, I sure hated these guys in my formative years as a Minnesota Wild fan, but now that I live so close to Vancouver and have had a glimpse at how much they mean to that city, I get it. It really does make a lot of sense for Henrik and Daniel Sedin to be employed by the team with which they became so synonymous over their playing careers. 

The Sedins have been hired as special advisers to the general manager, which gives a real “Assistant TO the Regional Manager” vibe. Hopefully for Vancouver fans, the twins can kickstart the team’s seven-year plan, which is now entering its eighth year. 

Twitter had a couple funnies about the simultaneous hirings that we thought were worth sharing. 

Celine Dion shuns her homeland

As the NHL Stanley Cup Semifinals reached their respective boiling points this week, Celine Dion may have pushed the city of Montreal over the edge, had the Habs not ultimately won the series. 

The Quebec native and French Canada’s favorite daughter appeared in a pre-game hype video on the Jumbotron (do we still call them Jumbotrons?) at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas sporting heavy makeup, a Vegas hockey helmet, and [gasp!] a Golden Knights jersey.

How could you, Celine? 

There are some conspiracy theories out there that the photo was doctored, but we will continue to investigate this very important topic.

Anyway, the Canadiens won the game and eventually the series, so Habs fans’ hearts will go on. 

Around the boards

The local WHL squads released their full schedules this week for the 2021-22 season. Both the Everett Silvertips and Seattle Thunderbirds will play their home openers against the Portland Winterhawks on Oct. 8 and 9 respectively. The Silvertips Preseason Classic, which did not take place in 2020-21 will return this season, starting on Sept. 10. 

Congratulations to our good friend, Ryan Hardy, who was hired by the Toronto Maple Leafs to join their front office in a role to be determined. Hardy built the Chicago Steel of the USHL into an absolute powerhouse organization and is a hilarious and generally awesome dude. Well deserved. 

Darren Brown is the Chief Content Officer at Sound Of Hockey and the host, producer, and editor of the Sound Of Hockey Podcast. He is an inconsistent beer league goalie who believes that five players have to make a mistake before the puck gets to him. Follow him on Twitter @DarrenFunBrown or email darren@soundofhockey.com.

Dave Hakstol hired as first head coach for the Seattle Kraken

Dave Hakstol hired as first head coach for the Seattle Kraken

SEATTLE – After keeping the name under wraps amidst a tempest of rumor and speculation, the Seattle Kraken announced Thursday morning that Dave Hakstol would become the first head coach of the expansion franchise.

Hakstol, 52, spent the last two seasons as an assistant with the Toronto Maple Leafs after four-plus seasons as the head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers. Once in town, he and his family were introduced to the Seattle media at a press conference held at the Edgewater Hotel.

“It’s been a little bit of a whirlwind, but what a great whirlwind,” Hakstol said.

The Kraken did an outstanding job keeping Hakstol’s name a secret. Over the past few months, names like Rick Tocchet, Joel Quenneville, Gerard Gallant, Kevin Dineen, Tony Granato, and Joe Sacco had emerged as potential candidates to take the job. Nobody mentioned Hakstol’s name until Thursday morning.

It’s surprising because Seattle general manager Ron Francis says that the team’s first discussions with the new coach began last summer. The seed may have been planted long before, however.

“In 2019 with Hockey Canada, I was part of the management team and Dave was part of the coaching staff,” Francis said. “We got to spend four weeks together over in Austria. I got to know him as a person and kind of watch his work ethic and how he operated… as we went through the process, he was certainly a guy that I had an interest in talking to.

“He’s been in the league for six years, he’s worked with some different coaches in getting a lot more experience. I like the way he communicates his message and I know he cares about his players. So all those things made it the right choice for me as a coach.”

Hakstol’s coaching career began in the USHL when he took over mid-season for the struggling Sioux City Musketeers in 1996. The team only won eight games that first year, but Hakstol would quickly turn the franchise around, and over the next three campaigns he had a 96-53-11 record.

He would leave the USHL to become an assistant coach for his alma mater, the University of North Dakota, in 2000. He spent the next three seasons as an associate coach before being named head coach in 2004. For the next 11 years, Hakstol guided North Dakota to winning records, topping a .600 winning percentage every season, while reaching the Frozen Four seven times.

That led to Hakstol being hired in 2015 by the Philadelphia Flyers, making the jump from college to the NHL. In Philadelphia, Hakstol brought the Flyers to the playoffs twice – in 2016 and 2018 – before being let go early into the 2018-2019 season. He compiled a 134-101-42 overall record with the Flyers.

“I think there’s a lot of guys who have gotten that second chance and really take advantage of it,” Francis said.

New Seattle Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol answers questions Thursday. (Brian Liesse photo)

Hakstol’s second chance comes after two seasons of looking at the coaching position from a different angle.

After spending time as an assistant in college, he again lived the assistant life for two NHL seasons under Mike Babcock and Sheldon Keefe in Toronto. That experience will be added to his prior time as a head coach as he takes over in Seattle.

“It definitely brings a different perspective,” Hakstol said of his Toronto experience. “You know, it’s a different routine and rhythm within your daily organization, no question about that, but it’s also a little different perspective with the players. I had an opportunity to work with two outstanding coaches with both Mike and Sheldon in Toronto as well as the other assistant coaches that were there. The people surrounding you, you take a piece from.”

With the July 21 Expansion Draft a month away, he plans on hitting the ground running. Hakstol will put together a coaching staff and begin to prepare for players coming on board. There will not be a lot of time, as after the Expansion Draft the team will have just a couple of short months before training camp opens in September.

What is Hakstol going to do now that he’s officially the first coach of the Kraken?

“Don’t waste a day,” he said. “There’s a ton of work to do and we don’t have any time to waste there. It’s not waiting until training camp to begin putting our team together, it’s building relationships with players immediately (after the Expansion Draft) so we have to be ready to go.”

Seattle Kraken head coach update – Weekly One-Timers

Seattle Kraken head coach update – Weekly One-Timers

The dominoes are falling. With the Expansion Draft just over a month away and the semifinals of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs in full swing, things really are heating up in the search for the first head coach of the Seattle Kraken.

Seattle Kraken head coach search

It has long been stated by Seattle Kraken general manager Ron Francis that the head coach hiring process hinges on who might be available after the conclusion of the NHL season. He has also held firm that the team hopes to have a coach in place by the end of the second quarter of the year.

Sure, there are still four teams playing, but the chances of the remaining coaches—Barry Trotz, Jon Cooper, Pete DeBoer, or Dominique Ducharme—becoming available are nil at this point. In a way, we’ve really crossed the “season is over” threshold, because the field of available coaches is set, barring any additional firings in the coming days. And as for the “second quarter” timeframe? Well, I’m no calendar expert, but I believe the second quarter ends in 12 days.

We at SOH believe that Rod Brind’Amour was the lynchpin of the “wait for who is available” hold-up and was absolutely Plan A for Seattle. Brind’Amour had been in dragged-out contract negotiations with the Hurricanes for months. So we surmised that Francis may have been hoping to lure the newly named Jack Adams Award winner away from the franchise and community to which he is so closely connected, even as it was continuously being reported that Brind’Amour was close to signing a new deal.

Sadly for the Kraken, it was announced on Thursday that Brind’Amour has signed a new three-year deal to stay in Carolina.

What’s Plan B for the Seattle Kraken head coach search?

We at SOH also think it is not a coincidence that news broke on Thursday that Rick Tocchet is being granted a third interview for the Seattle Kraken head coach position.

If Brind’Amour really was Plan A, then certainly Francis and his staff had been thinking through some other options in case Rod the Bod did end up keeping his rippling abs in Carolina.

Rod the Bod
Rod Brind’Amour has rippling abs.

Plan B is now being kicked into high gear. Tocchet, former head coach of the Arizona Coyotes, is an obvious fit for the role as well, so his progress through the interview process comes as no surprise. And what about David Quinn? Could he be given a shot?  

Our own Jim Wilkie did a great rundown on all the candidates back in May, so give that a read to bring yourself up to speed on everyone who could be considered for the position.

Whether it ends up being Tocchet or somebody else, it does feel like a Seattle Kraken head coach hire is imminent.

Other Seattle Kraken news

The Kraken are continuing to demonstrate that they are well aware their market expands beyond the borders of Washington State. This week, the team announced a partnership with Bristol Bay Native Corporation. According to the release, “Bristol Bay will be prominently represented throughout Climate Pledge Arena on hundreds of TV screens and the arena’s LED rings for arena visitors, on the main scoreboards during televised games, at the state-of-the-art Kraken training center, and at one of the arena’s prime marketplaces.”

BBNC is a for-profit corporation that converts those profits into benefits for its shareholders. The mission of the organization is to encourage its shareholders to pursue educational opportunities and to promote and preserve cultural heritage.

“Would You Rather?” Round 2 results

This week, we had a second round of Expansion Draft “Would You Rather?” on soundofhockey.com. I gave John Barr a bit of grief for this one because by including a goalie in the field, even some light Googling could have revealed that Team 3 was clearly the Washington Capitals. But that’s neither here nor there.

Here are the results:

Blackhawks sued again for sexual assault cover-up during 2009-10 season

This is a terrible story, and one that is continuing to develop. The Chicago Blackhawks now face a second lawsuit for not properly addressing allegations of sexual assault by former video coach Bradley Dale Aldrich on a player during the 2009-10 season.

This new lawsuit comes from a former high school hockey player in Michigan and alleges that because the Blackhawks did not act on the aforementioned assault in 2009-10, Aldrich was allowed to remain in hockey circles. Aldrich later assaulted this new plaintiff in 2013 and was eventually sentenced to six months in jail and five years of probation for his crime.

Around the boards

It’s a tumultuous time in college hockey, with several programs—including Alaska Anchorage, Robert Morris, and Alabama Huntsville—either eliminating or suspending their programs. News that Augustana University in Sioux Falls, S.D., is attempting to add a Division I hockey program is certainly welcome.

Stephen Johns has been dealing with severe depression after repeated concussions ended his hockey career prematurely. He has decided to take control over his life and his mental health by embarking on a remarkable journey to rollerblade and road trip across the United States, making a movie about it along the way. Johns aims to “help others facing their own battles,” as he puts in countless “Mental Miles.”  Very cool.

The WHL has announced an October 1 start date, with a full 68-game season planned for all teams. The main caveat to this otherwise normal-looking season for the Dub is that there will be no crossover play between the Eastern Conference and Western Conference. Other than that, Everett Silvertips and Seattle Thunderbirds fans should be fully back in business this fall.

Palate cleanser

Is Jimmy Fallon just pretending to be a New York Islanders fan for attention? Friend of the Sound Of Hockey Podcast, ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski, investigates.

Ralph Maccio does come across as a true Isles fan, though, doesn’t he?

Darren Brown is the Chief Content Officer at Sound Of Hockey and the host, producer, and editor of the Sound Of Hockey Podcast. He is an inconsistent beer league goalie who believes that five players have to make a mistake before the puck gets to him. Follow him on Twitter @DarrenFunBrown or email darren@soundofhockey.com.