NHL analyst: Why Seattle Kraken are ‘in good hands’ with Dave Hakstol
The Seattle Kraken made a big announcement on Thursday, naming former University of North Dakota and Philadelphia Flyers coach Dave Hakstol as the first head coach in the history of the franchise.
After a stellar run in the college ranks, Hakstol was hired by Philadelphia in 2015 and spent three-plus seasons coaching the Flyers. During his time in Philadelphia, Hakstol accumulated a winning record and led the Flyers to two playoff berths.
Someone who got to see and talk to Hakstol a good deal during his time in Philadelphia is Keith Jones, an NHL analyst for NBC Sports who serves as the Flyers’ color commentator. He joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy on Thursday to share his thoughts on the Kraken’s hire, and it was clear from listening to Jones that he thinks highly of Seattle’s hire.
“Fortunately I got to know Dave well when he was behind the bench for the Flyers and the Kraken are in good hands with a guy that I think developed a lot of good coaching styles from his first appearance in the National Hockey League,” Jones said. “I think that experience is going to go a long way in helping him get off to a running start with the Kraken.”
Jones shared that part of how Hakstol got his start in the NHL is because former Flyers general manager Ron Hextall’s son Brett played at the University of North Dakota under Hakstol. While Hakstol has a reputation of being a great college coach who has a limited amount of NHL success, Jones doesn’t think that his reputation of working well with young players was the sole reason the Kraken chose him.
“I think it’s beneficial, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that with developing some of the younger prospects,” Jones said. “But I think this is more about recognizing that he’s got a great hockey mind, that he’s been in Philadelphia, which is a tough city to coach in and he gained valuable experience there. … It’s a whole body of work (for why he was hired), but I do think it’s a benefit that he had a successful career at North Dakota and that has served him well in helping younger players adapt to the National Hockey League.”
While Hasktol led the Flyers to two playoff appearances during his time in Philadelphia, they both ended with first-round series losses. Jones said Hakstol’s Flyers tenure was much better than it may initially appear, though.
“I think a lot of it had to do with the timing of where the team was in their progression. I thought he did a really good job with a lot of the younger players on the team that were just basically getting their feet wet at the National Hockey League level,” Jones said. “… They had a young detour that really had some good seasons with Dave Hakstol at the helm. I thought he did a great job in developing younger players.”
According to Jones, the Flyers at that time had a mix of young players and an established veteran core that “had kind of been stuck in the mud” before Hakstol took over. Once he came to town, Hakstol did a good job with what he had, Jones said.
“He was able to push some of the right buttons and I think he would probably admit that there were some lessons learned along the way there, but some of it was out of his control, to be honest with you,” Jones said. “I thought overall Dave did a really good job, but the team itself and the construction of the team wasn’t conducive for a first-time National Hockey League coach to be really successful.”
Through Jones’ experience talking to Hakstol in-depth about his teams and the game, he’s not surprised that Hakstol would come away from an interview process with a head coaching job.
“He believes in what he says and he has a great way of delivering that, which I think would probably be really beneficial to him in an interview setting,” Jones said when asked what he thought sold the Kraken on Hakstol. “When you talk to Dave Hakstol, you come away from it thinking you learned something about the game, you learned something about his philosophy and that he believes in that philosophy. So I suspect that that had a lot to do with him convincing management and ownership that he would be the right choice to get the Kraken off and running.”