The case for Kevin Dineen to be the first head coach of the Seattle Kraken

The case for Kevin Dineen to be the first head coach of the Seattle Kraken

The San Diego Gulls were eliminated by the Bakersfield Condors Monday night in the AHL’s Pacific Division playoffs thanks to a 2-1 overtime decision. Head coach Kevin Dineen’s club had a strong year, finishing first within the division in points but officially in third place due to points-earned percentage – a sign of this strange Covid hockey season. With Dineen’s season over, could he be a stealth candidate to become the first head coach of the Seattle Kraken?

He’s ‘stealth’ in that he’s not been the name thrown out by the majority of media and message board heroes. Those names include the likes of Gerard Gallant, John Tortorella, and even Joel Quenneville, thanks to a recent rumor. It’s also been reported that former Arizona Coyotes bench boss Rick Tocchet is going to be interviewed by the Kraken for the top job.

Seattle general manager Ron Francis has remained tight-lipped on who he is considering, only to offer that the Kraken are in no hurry and would likely not hire anyone until they have a better understanding of how the field looks.

Most of the contenders being speculated about would have to get fired, or were just fired, or ‘agreed to part ways’ – which is the nice way of being fired. So, why not go with someone who is coming off successful seasons, like Dineen?

Francis has said over and over that he prefers a coach who has prior NHL experience to join the Kraken in year one. Dineen checks that box and many others, and he could end up in the mix to be the first head coach for the Kraken.

Kevin Dineen’s coaching path

Dineen, 57, is most known for his time as an NHL player, appearing in 1,188 games between the Hartford Whalers, Carolina Hurricanes, Philadelphia Flyers, Ottawa Senators, and Columbus Blue Jackets. He scored 355 goals over his career before retiring in 2003.

It didn’t take him long to get back into hockey, as he was hired as the head coach of the AHL’s Portland Pirates in 2005. Portland was the affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks and Dineen would spend six successful seasons guiding the future Ducks.

During his tenure, he never suffered a losing season and won 45-plus games in four of his six seasons. That got the NHL’s attention, and in 2011 the Florida Panthers brought him in as head coach. His first NHL season was a good one as the Panthers won 38 games and won a division title for the first time in a decade.

They lost in the first round, however, and would struggle the following season. Dineen would be let go 16 games into his third season, ending his NHL stint with a 53-62-28 record. After Florida, Dineen took a job leading Canada’s women’s national team and would lead them to a gold medal during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Kevin Dineen, head coach of San Diego Gulls
Kevin Dineen has been the head coach of the San Diego Gulls since 2019. Photo credit: San Diego Gulls

Later that season he found himself back behind an NHL bench, as an assistant with the Chicago Blackhawks. He would spend the next five seasons with the Blackhawks, picking up a Stanley Cup ring in 2015.

The Ducks would bring Dineen back in 2019 to head up their new AHL franchise in San Diego. With the Gulls the past two seasons, he’s done well with two winning campaigns and a 56-36-1-8 record.

Kevin Dineen is tied to the Seattle area

Having local ties isn’t the top credential to becoming the first Kraken coach, but it doesn’t hurt. Dineen is very connected, not only to Ron Francis – the two played together in Hartford and Carolina – but to the city as well.

Dineen’s father, Bill Dineen, played for the Seattle Totems from 1964-1969 and Kevin spent his early years living in Queen Anne. Bill would later coach Kevin with the Flyers, but before that he was an amateur scout with the Hartford Whalers.

It was the elder Dineen who scouted and drafted Ron Francis to the Whalers.

Francis has shown no hesitation in bringing in people he knows to the Kraken organization. He had worked previously with assistant general manager Ricky Olzyk and head of scouting Robert Kron. He played with Dineen and there is a familiarity with the family.

Could that be a deciding factor when considering coaches?

Dineen also had his games called by Kraken television play-by-play broadcaster John Forslund.

Why would Dineen make a good coach for the Kraken?

Dineen checks off a lot of the boxes that Francis and the Kraken are going to be looking for in a head coach.

First off, he has NHL experience. His two years in Florida were a mixed bag with his second season not as fruitful as the first. That second season the Panthers suffered a number of injuries and were not able to overcome that adversity in a season shortened by labor issues. After those lessons, he continued to learn on the bench in Chicago under Quenneville, one of the best coaches in the league.

Every other year he’s been a head coach was a success with zero losing records. Dineen has been able to coach competitive teams at every level.

His AHL record is impressive. And that bodes well for the coach of an expansion team that will rely on young players and a roaster pulled together in the mash-up that the Expansion Draft will produce. Dineen is known for his deft work with young players to help them develop into NHLers.

In the AHL, rosters are constantly revolving and despite that turnover, Dineen’s clubs win hockey games, which is the bottom line. This past season’s Gulls roster had 21 players who were new to San Diego and the Ducks franchise. That sounds a lot like how an expansion team will look.

Will Kevin Dineen be the guy the Kraken turn to? We will have to wait and see, but he has the credentials and track record that make him a true contender. He may not be the big name in the room right now but might end up being the best name and ultimately, the first head coach of the Kraken.

Who will be the Seattle Kraken’s first head coach? Take a look at the candidates

Who will be the Seattle Kraken’s first head coach? Take a look at the candidates

While general manager Ron Francis tries hard to keep his coaching search under wraps, it’s very likely that his top choices to become the Seattle Kraken’s first head coach are still under contract somewhere else. 

Back in November, Kraken ownership reportedly gave the front office permission to hire a coach whenever it felt ready. Last month Francis said he expects a decision by the end of the second quarter and is patiently waiting to see in “the next month or two” who will be available (coaches looking for work, on expiring contracts or “other situations that may be looking to make a change,” i.e., soon to be fired). Clearly, if Francis’ first choice had already been available, the Kraken would have hired him by now.

Another quality that’s not necessary, but will certainly help, is Francis’ close ties and familiarity with coaching candidates. After playing 23 seasons in the NHL and working another 13 years in NHL front offices, Francis has accumulated quite a lengthy list of connections. 

Just look at some Kraken hockey operations personnel, for example. Assistant GM Ricky Olczyk and pro scout Mark Hunter worked for the Hurricanes when Francis held front office roles in Carolina. Assistant GM Jason Botterill worked alongside Francis on Hockey Canada’s management team for the 2019 World Ice Hockey Championship. Director of player personnel Robert Kron, director of amateur scouting Norm Maciver and pro scout Stu Barnes were NHL teammates with Francis. Pro scout Jon Goodwin was Francis’ junior hockey teammate on the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds.

It’s been said we’re all linked to everyone else by six degrees of separation. But if you want the plumb NHL job as the Seattle Kraken franchise’s first head coach, good luck if you’re more than one degree removed from Francis.

Unfortunately for the Kraken, these notable Francis connections won’t be available: Florida Panthers coach Joel Quenneville, Edmonton Oilers coach Dave Tippett, Washington Capitals coach Peter Laviolette, Philadelphia Flyers coach Alain Vigneault and Minnesota Wild coach Dean Evason.

Inasmuch as it would be refreshing to hire a new face instead of the usual suspects who end up being recycled around the league, Seattle will need a seasoned coach who can command respect and get results from a veteran-laden lineup. Comments by Francis back this up, and it would take an incredible audition and interview for a coach without NHL head coaching experience to blow away the Kraken.

The Stanley Cup Playoffs begin Saturday, and it would be nice to get the new coach involved on player assessments well ahead of the July 21 Expansion Draft. So here’s a rundown of the Kraken’s coaching candidates, divided into three groups: Francis connections, backup plans and longshots. NHL head coaching records are in parentheses.

Friends of Francis

Rod Brind’Amour (120-66-20 in three seasons with Carolina)

Brind’Amour coached the Hurricanes to the Eastern Conference finals in 2019, the conference semifinals in 2020 and first place in the Central Division this year. Carolina’s 80 points are tied with Vegas for most in the NHL through Tuesday night. He is the first Hurricanes coach to make three consecutive playoffs and is a front-runner for the Jack Adams Trophy as coach of the year. Yet, Carolina has bewilderingly dragged out negotiations on a contract extension and might lose him after this season.

Recent reports have the two sides getting closer to an agreement, and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman has said Brind’Amour won’t re-sign unless his coaching and training staff also get new deals. But the longer these negotiations take, the chances increase for the Kraken to swoop in and land the best man for their job. 

Brind’Amour was Francis’ teammate on the Hurricanes from 2000-01 to 2003-04 and succeeded Francis as Carolina’s captain. He was also an assistant coach for Carolina when Francis held various front office roles, including GM and director of hockey operations.

John Stevens (171-148-43 in seven seasons with Philadelphia and Los Angeles)

In his second season as head coach, Stevens took the Flyers to the 2008 Eastern Conference finals but hasn’t won a playoff round since. 

As an assistant coach in L.A., Stevens helped the Kings win two Cups and became a highly sought-after head coaching candidate. After the Kings fired him from his head coaching duties early in the 2018-19 season, Stevens has been an assistant coach with the Dallas Stars for the past two seasons. 

Stevens helped the Stars reach the Cup Finals last season, but they missed the playoffs this year. He’s been in charge of the forwards and the team’s 5-on-5 offense, which ranks 21st in the NHL with 101 goals.

Stevens was a member of the 1990-91 Hartford Whalers along with Francis.

Todd Nelson (17-25-9 in one season with Edmonton)

Nelson played only three NHL games, but one of them was alongside Francis on the 1991-92 Penguins. 

After playing many years in the minor leagues, Nelson paid his dues coaching in the American Hockey League and United Hockey League. Nelson served as a head coach for eight seasons in the AHL, winning the Calder Cup championship in 2017 with the Grand Rapids Griffins. 

His only NHL head coaching job was on an interim basis for the Oilers after Dallas Eakins was fired 31 games into the 2014-15 season. 

Nelson just completed his third season as an assistant coach for the Dallas Stars where he works on the power play with fellow assistant Derek Laxdal. The Stars’ power play ranks fifth in the NHL (23.6 percent) this season.

Rick Tocchet (178-200-60 in six seasons with Tampa Bay and Arizona)

Tocchet was a formidable power forward in his playing days but hasn’t had close to the same success behind the bench. His only playoff appearance came during last year’s pandemic bubble where the Coyotes lost in five games to the Colorado Avalanche in the first round (though they beat the Nashville Predators in the play-in round).

Arizona dumped Tocchet on Sunday after four seasons. His reputation for what Friedman describes as “one of the best around at handling players that are not easy to reach” could get the attention of his former teammate on the 1992 Stanley Cup champions. Francis and Tocchet played together on the Pittsburgh Penguins from 1991-92 to 1993-94 and in juniors with The Soo.

Paul Maurice (761-670-125 – and 99 ties – in 23 seasons with Hartford/Carolina, Toronto and Winnipeg)

Winnipeg was cruising nicely through most of this season, but a recent slump that had the Jets losing nine out of their past 11 games raises questions about Maurice’s job security. A quick playoff exit against the potent Edmonton Oilers just might bring an end to Maurice’s eight-season run in Winnipeg. 

Among active NHL coaches, only Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper has been in his current job longer than Maurice. Fair or not, the shelf life of hockey coaches doesn’t last very long. 

Maurice is well-respected around the league, has his players’ backs, and won’t have to wait long for a new job if he hits the market. He coached Carolina when Francis returned to play for the Hurricanes/Whalers organization from 1998-99 to 2003-04.

Mike Vellucci

Vellucci, now an assistant coach for the Penguins, coached the AHL Charlotte Checkers to the 2019 Calder Cup title. He also won an OHL championship in 2006-07 with the Plymouth Whalers where he coached for 13 seasons.

Francis and Vellucci were teammates on Hartford in 1987-88, and Vellucci served as assistant GM and director of player development in Francis’ front office with the Hurricanes from 2014 to 2017.

Plan B coaching options

Gerard Gallant (270-216-51 – and four ties – in nine seasons with Columbus, Florida and Vegas)

Gallant is high atop most everyone’s Kraken coaching list after he took the Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Final in their first season. 

Knowing how to squeeze the most out of a first-year expansion team is invaluable. But he’s been unemployed for a little more than a year. If the Kraken really valued and wanted Gallant, they could have landed him by now. Being perceived by some as unwelcoming toward analytics doesn’t help his case with the progressive-minded Kraken either.

Mike Babcock (700-418-164 – and 19 ties – in 17 seasons with Anaheim, Detroit and Toronto)

Winning a Stanley Cup with the Red Wings and two Olympic gold medals with Canada speak for themselves. But Babcock’s history of mind games and questionable treatment of some players can’t be brushed aside. That and the $5.875 million per year he’s being paid to not coach the Maple Leafs through 2022-23 will likely be tough obstacles to overcome.

Travis Green (123-130-31 in four seasons with Vancouver)

Green’s Canucks improved every season until a sudden regression had them miss the playoffs this year. Vancouver’s surprising run to the 2020 Western Conference semifinals was probably more indicative of Green’s abilities than this year’s COVID-19 train wreck. Green’s contract ends after this season, and the Canucks’ baffling indecisiveness in re-signing him could end up sending a rising coaching star to Seattle.

Bruce Boudreau (567-302-115 in 14 seasons with Washington, Anaheim and Minnesota)

Boudreau told The Athletic earlier this year that he wants the Kraken job

In his favor, the longtime coach has never had a losing season in the NHL and worked with Kraken director of hockey strategy and research Alex Mandrycky in Minnesota. Boudreau hasn’t won a playoff round since 2015, however.

We’ll have to see if the Kraken want Boudreau.

Claude Julien (667-445-152 – and 10 ties – in 19 seasons with Montreal, New Jersey and Boston)

Julien won a Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2011 and took them to the Cup Final again in 2013. But he hasn’t won a playoff round since 2014 and an emergency heart procedure caused Julien, 61, to miss part of the Canadiens’ 2020 postseason. Montreal fired him 18 games into this season after he couldn’t pull the team out of an early slump.

Rikard Gronborg

If the Kraken really like to do things differently, then hiring Gronborg would fit that model perfectly. The former national team coach for Sweden just completed his two-year deal with the ZSC Lions of the Swiss National League and reportedly has designs on landing an NHL job. New Jersey pursued him last year before hiring Lindy Ruff, and we can expect Gronborg’s name to be linked to more NHL coaching rumors.

Gronborg, who was an assistant coach for the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs in 2004-05, has won two World Championships and 16 medals for Sweden. It’s only a matter of time before he becomes the third European to coach in the NHL.

David Quinn (96-87-25 in three seasons with the New York Rangers)

Fresh off being fired Wednesday by the Rangers, Quinn should land a second chance somewhere after MSG chairman James Dolan got impatient with the team’s rebuild. Quinn’s background in college hockey (Boston University) sets him up better to work with younger players.

Longshots to be Kraken coach

John Tortorella (673-541-132 – and 37 ties – in 20 seasons with Tampa Bay, New York Rangers, Vancouver and Columbus) 

Tortorella won a Stanley Cup with the Lightning and has had impressive results nearly everywhere he’s coached. But his old-school style and abrasiveness wouldn’t be a good fit in a new market. The Kraken coach needs to be on board for selling hockey to new fans, and Torts’ frequent condescending or curt responses to questions from the media won’t help.

Kirk Muller (80-80-27 in three seasons with Carolina)

In one of his first moves as Hurricanes GM in 2014, Francis fired Muller after he missed the playoffs for a third consecutive season. Have assistant and associate coaching gigs with St. Louis and Montreal since then made Muller better suited to lead an NHL team? 

Dave Hakstol (134-101-42 in four seasons with Philadelphia)

Since he was fired by the Flyers, Hakstol has spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach with Toronto. He oversees penalty killing, which ranks 26th (79.9 percent) in the NHL. He never got out of the first round in two playoff appearances with the Flyers, but the former University of North Dakota coach could get another shot at a head coaching job in the NHL.

Hakstol and Francis worked together on Team Canada when Hakstol was an assistant for Alain Vigneault’s coaching staff at the 2019 World Championships. 

Ulf Samuelsson

Francis’ longtime pal from the Whalers and Penguins is now an assistant coach with the Florida Panthers, after he worked two stints as a Kraken scout.

Samuelsson first left the Kraken to become head coach of Leksands IF of the Swedish Hockey League in 2019-20. He previously coached MODO in Sweden for two seasons and was 39-29-8 as head coach of the Charlotte Checkers, Carolina’s AHL farm team, in 2016-17 when Francis was Hurricanes GM. 

Francis has obviously aided Samuelsson’s coaching aspirations, but can the Kraken GM objectively determine if Samuelsson is ready to be an NHL head coach?

Jim Wilkie is a longtime Northwest journalist, former NHL editor and NHL Insider writer for ESPN.com, onetime GSHL All-Star, and SJHA hockey dad. Follow him on Twitter @jimwilkie.

Do the Seattle Kraken need a head coach with NHL experience?

Do the Seattle Kraken need a head coach with NHL experience?

By Andy Eide

A week after coaching the Washington Capitals to the 2018 Stanley Cup championship, Barry Trotz was spotted getting off a plane at Sea-Tac Airport. The news spread quickly and Seattle hockey fans took to social media, breathlessly speculating he was in Seattle to interview for the head coach job with the yet to be named NHL Seattle franchise.

The excitement was and is understandable.

He was on the market as his contract with the Capitals had expired and is considered one of the best in the business. It didn’t matter to fans that Seattle had not officially been awarded an NHL franchise, nor that it had no general manger to interview Trotz. He had a Stanley Cup ring and that made him attractive.

As it turned out, Trotz was grabbing a connecting flight to Canada and ended up signing with the New York Islanders shortly after.

It happened again this past season when the Toronto Maple Leafs fired Mike Babcock. Another Stanley Cup winner was available and despite his prickly nature, and questionable tactics with players, there were calls for him to be the first head coach in Seattle.

We are a season away from the Seattle Kraken first season and they have yet to hire a bench boss. Finding that first coach could happen at any time and will be the next big hire for the franchise. General Manager Ron Francis said earlier this summer that the team was going to wait until the 2019-2020 season concluded before exploring a coach hire.

Once the Tampa Bay Lightning raised the Cup in October, Seattle went on the clock.

The goal is to win a championship so why not hire a guy with a ring? Babcock is still available but the fall out from his time in Toronto makes him an unlikely candidate. Will his track record of success sway Francis?

While its enticing to get an experienced Cup winner behind the bench, history tells us that the chances another championship is on the way are slim.

In fact, since 1968 only one coach has won the Stanley Cup with more than one team. Scotty Bowman won the Cup with the Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Detroit Red Wings and nobody else comes close.

Unfortunately, Bowman has retired from coaching and is not available.
As investment bankers will warn, past performance does not predict future earnings so at some point a coach will match Bowman and win the Cup with multiple teams. The odds are long however and perhaps Seattle should cast a wider net for its coach.

It’s expected that Francis will look to an experienced coach who has been behind the bench of an NHL team in the past. Due to the nature of being an expansion team, that makes sense. The team Francis pulls together at the expansion draft will have to learn how to play with each other so having a leader who doesn’t have to also learn how to be an NHL coach is a plus.

But does an experienced coach promise better success than a guy coaching in the league for the first time?

Of the 31 current coaches in the NHL, 20 had been head coaches in the league prior to holding their current position. That includes Lindy Ruff in New Jersey and Peter Laviolette in Washington, both of whom were hired in the offseason .

Only two of those coaches have won the Stanley Cup with their current teams (St. Louis’ Craig Berube and Pittsburgh’s Mike Sullivan) while 13 have made the playoffs. Both Trotz with the Islanders and Peter DeBoer with Vegas have coached their current team to the conference finals – both of which occurred this past postseason.

DeBoer is one of three of the experienced coaches who have reached the Final with two different franchises, getting there with the Devils in 2012 and San Jose in 2016. Philadelphia had a good season with the experienced Alain Vigneault behind the bench and he made previous Final runs with Vancouver in 2011 and with the New York Rangers in 2014. Laviolette has yet to coach a game for the Capitals but he won the Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 while losing the Final with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010 and Nashville in 2017.

Having an experienced coach can lead to success in terms of making the playoffs and reaching the Final. During the last ten Stanley Cup Finals, only one team was coached on either the winning or losing side by a guy in his first stint as a head coach.

That one coach is Jon Cooper who has lost and won with Tampa Bay. Cooper is one of 11 coaches who are currently working their first NHL bench and of those, eight have reached the postseason. Outside of Cooper, Carolina’s Rod Brind’Amour has guided his club the furthest, reaching the Eastern Conference championship in 2019.

It’s difficult to judge the new coaches as they haven’t coached long enough to make conclusions but it is clear that an inexperienced coach doesn’t necessarily mean your team won’t or can’t be successful.

Colorado’s Jared Bednar and Vancouver’s Travis Green are first time coaches who have young teams overflowing with talent and could be in for successful runs in the near future.

Coaching matters in the NHL. The head coach does more than dump a bucket of pucks on the ice at practice. He has to establish the roster, line combinations, goalie rotations, defensive pairings, power-play strategy, break outs, neutral zone systems, faceoff set plays, the penalty kill, forechecks, and find chemistry among his players. Finding the right match is vital.

Francis will bear a lot of the responsibility here.

Not only will it be his decision as to who steps behind the Kraken bench for game one, but he will pick the players on the roster. A good coach can squeeze wins out of talent but if there is none, that coach will have a hard time winning. Did Joel Quenneville suddenly become a good coach when he got to Chicago and won three Cups after limited success in St. Louis and Colorado? Or was the difference that he had Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews?

Experienced or not, Francis will need to give the Kraken first coach something to work with.

Seattle needs a coach who can work with a mix of players who have not played together before. Former Vegas head man, Gerrard Gallant, is the only head coach who has experienced the modern expansion process. He had success and is available after being fired mid-season this past year.

Could he be a Seattle candidate? Does he want to go through expansion again? Gallant feels like a match, but one has to wonder why Seattle hasn’t talked to him already. Nothing has stopped the Kraken from reaching out and there haven’t been any reports of those talks happening.

Francis has time to make a choice, but the clock is ticking. Will he choose a coach who has been through the NHL grind before? Or will he look to a younger, hungrier, greener coach who’s been a successful as an assistant or head coach in a lower level to lead the Kraken?

We will find out in due time.

Kraken hire Jay Leach and Paul McFarland as assistant coaches

Kraken hire Jay Leach and Paul McFarland as assistant coaches

After reports leaked out Monday that the Kraken were hiring Jay Leach as Dave Hakstol’s first assistant coach, the team made the news official on Tuesday. What was omitted from Monday’s reports, though, was that Seattle was actually hiring not one, but two assistants as Paul McFarland joins Leach on Hakstol’s inaugural staff.

Man, even when we think we know something before the team has explicitly stated it, they still find a way to throw a curveball, proving once again that the Kraken are quite good at keeping secrets.

Here’s what we know about new Kraken assistant coaches Jay Leach and Paul McFarland.

Jay Leach

Leach, a 41-year-old native of Syracuse, NY, joins the Kraken after four seasons at the helm of the Providence Bruins, the AHL affiliate for Boston. Leach was successful in Providence, posting a 136-77-16 record and leading the P-Bruins to first-place finishes in the Atlantic Division in each of the last two seasons. They lost in the first round of the playoffs in 2017-18 and 2018-19, and no playoffs were held in 2019-20 or 2020-21 due to the pandemic.

Boston had reportedly considered bringing Leach up to the big squad for next season to replace recently departed Jay Pandolfo as an assistant on Bruce Cassidy’s staff, but Divver states that the opportunity with Seattle was just too good for Leach to pass up.

Journeyman player

You have to love Leach’s journey to the NHL, both as a player and as a coach. After four years at Providence College, where he was the captain of the Friars in 2000-01, Leach had to grind in every sense of the word to reach the pinnacle.

BOSTON, MA – JULY 08: Bruins coach Jay Leach during Bruins Development Camp on July 8, 2017 at Warrior Ice Arena in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire)

He played in the ECHL for the Mississippi Sea Wolves, Augusta Lynx, Long Beach Ice Dogs, and Trenton Titans. In the AHL, he had stints with the Springfield Falcons, P-Bruins, Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Norfolk Admirals, Portland Pirates, Lowell Devils, Worcester Sharks, and Albany Devils.

Leach got a two-game cup of coffee in the NHL in 2005-06 with Boston, two more games in 2007-08 in Tampa Bay, and later had more robust stretches with New Jersey, Montreal, and San Jose.

In all, Leach played 180 career ECHL games, 499 AHL games, and 70 NHL games during his 11-year pro career.

Journeyman coach

Leach began his coaching career in 2014-15 with Adler Mannheim of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga in Germany, where he served as an assistant under Geoff Ward. He then joined Mike Sullivan’s staff in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton the following season, and when Sullivan was promoted to Pittsburgh, Leach assumed the head coaching role with the AHL club on an interim basis. During Leach’s one year with the WSB Penguins, current Seattle Kraken assistant general manager Jason Botterill was running the AHL team as the AGM for Pittsburgh.

The next stop for Leach was back in Providence where he played college hockey and several seasons of his pro career. He joined the P-Bruins as an assistant to Kevin Dean in 2016-17, but after that one year and a dramatic run to the AHL’s Eastern Conference Finals, Dean was promoted to become an assistant with the NHL Bruins. Leach was tabbed as Dean’s replacement as full-time head coach to start the 2017-18 season, where he has remained until now.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am for the opportunity to join the Kraken,” said Leach. “From the ownership group to Ron Francis to Dave Hakstol, it is truly an incredible opportunity to work with them. I’m looking forward to the Expansion Draft, free agency, and training camp as we start to see the team come to fruition.”

This will be Leach’s first time coaching at the NHL level. He will be responsible for overseeing Seattle’s defense.

Paul McFarland

You don’t have to look too far to find the connection between McFarland and the Kraken, as he served alongside Hakstol as an assistant in Toronto in 2019-20. At just 35 years old, he has quickly risen through the coaching ranks and proven himself every step of the way.

The Richmond Hill, Ontario, native was most recently serving as general manager and head coach of the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL. Ironically, he did not coach a game on this stint, as the team’s season was canceled due to the pandemic, but he did coach a full season for Kingston in 2016-17 when the Frontenacs went 33-26-9.

McFarland spent two seasons running an outstanding power play for the Florida Panthers before joining the Maple Leafs. He was also an assistant with the Oshawa Generals from 2012 through 2014 and was head coach of Team Canada at the U-18 Hlinka Gretzky Cup in 2017.

It is expected that McFarland will run the Kraken’s forwards and power play.

Playing career

What makes it even more impressive that McFarland has already reached this level of coaching is that he did not really come close to the NHL as a player, a credit to his abilities behind the bench.

After four seasons in the OHL with the Kitchener Rangers and Windsor Spitfires, McFarland went on to play four seasons of U Sports hockey for Acadia University, where he was the captain of the team from his sophomore season onward.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled to have the opportunity to be part of the Seattle Kraken organization,” said McFarland. “It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I look forward to working with Dave again, the rest of our staff, and our players.”

Assistant coaches are more good finds for the Kraken

The Kraken continue to uncover diamonds in the rough with every hire they make. Leach and McFarland have great track records as both assistant and head coaches, and they are both regarded as having bright futures at the NHL level.

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.

Sound Of Hockey Podcast Ep. 142 – The Kraken Coach Convo

Sound Of Hockey Podcast Ep. 142 – The Kraken Coach Convo

With a couple head coach hirings happening around the NHL this week, the Sound Of Hockey guys are left pondering Seattle’s plan for filling that position. This week’s episode of the Sound Of Hockey Podcast really digs into that topic, with John giving the hot take that he believes Rod Brind’Amour coming to the Kraken is more likely than people may think.

If you’ve been on the edge of your seat waiting to find out what happened in John and Darren’s beer league championship, you’ll get a recap here. You’ll also get a fair dose of discussion about the opening games of the Stanley Cup Playoff Semifinal rounds, which are well underway.

Other topics this week include the concerning decline in USA Hockey membership, Owen Power potentially returning to college, and some general Kraken tidbits.

Bits include Sound Of Hockey’s Three Stars. Segments include Weekly One-Timers and Tweets of the Week.

SUBSCRIBE! ENJOY! REVIEW!

iTunes

Stitcher

Spotify