Dave Hakstol describes his leadership, what drew him to Seattle Kraken
It’s hard to picture the start of the inaugural season for the Seattle Kraken.
Maybe it’s the disbelief of professional hockey returning to Seattle after so many years, or perhaps because fans are still eagerly awaiting to see which players will make up the team, or maybe it’s just the sweltering June heatwave that has Washington state feeling like October is so far away.
But it’s happening, and the pieces are quickly coming together in 2021. That continued when one of the most important pieces was announced Thursday: the hiring of head coach Dave Hakstol as the first-ever head coach of the Seattle Kraken.
I could start this out with a basic primer – like telling you the 52-year-old Hakstol has been an NHL head coach once before, with the Philadelphia Flyers, where he saw mixed results in a three-year span. I could tell you about Hakstol’s more successful college coaching career, during which time he coached the North Dakota Fighting Hawks men’s hockey team to seven NCAA Frozen Fours in 11 years.
Or I could let you hear it from Hakstol himself.
The Kraken’s new head coach joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy just hours after the news broke of his hire. Here’s some of what he had to say:
We all know the work doesn’t stop here when it comes to a new franchise. What’s the first thing on your to-do list over these next few weeks?
“There’s been so much of the foundation that’s already been put in place by a lot of great people here before me arriving today. But for me, the first and the next step really is working to fill out our staff. Hopefully sometime between now and as we work towards the expansion draft. That’s the next thing on the list.”
A friend of mine got in touch with some of your former players. One phrase used to describe you was “born leader.” How do you lead?
“Well, I want to start by leading by example. I think that’s the best way to do it. You can talk all you want but you really have to show up and do the work and be part of showing the way by your actions. And that’s really where it all starts for me. I’m a pretty honest guy; I’m pretty straightforward and I’ve always tried to be that way with my players. I want to be prepared. I want to be my very best so I can help them do their job. And that’s at the end of the day as a coach what I feel my most important job is: to help our players be at their very best and come together as a group and be able to produce then as a team and as a group.”
Are there any rules you have as a core of your program?
“I don’t know if these would count as rules, but I love guys with great energy who like to have fun. I love guys that have a way of being themselves, having a great personality but still being able to have a touch of humility in everything that they do in and around their teammates. And probably one of the biggest, I love selfless guys. Guys that want to do what’s right for the team and really be part of that. You’ve got to give up a little bit of yourself sometimes to be part of a really great team, and I think those are some real important elements.”
How do you feel about tapping into hockey analytics? Or are you an old-fashioned guy?
“It’s a combination of the two. It’s the traditional test to the eye, and knowing and understanding how human of a sport this is, and then you have the combination of the awesome tool with analytics. There’s so much you can gain in terms of insight, whether it be into individuals or your team in different areas of the game, through analytics. It’s a very useful tool and we’re fortunate to have one of the top staffs coming right out of the gate in the national hockey league in terms of analytics, and it’ll be a tool that we use in conjunction with everything else that’s provided for us.”
We know this had to be a two-way decision. So why Seattle? What drew you to this role?
“First off, our introduction to Seattle here over the last couple days has been nothing short of phenomenal. Everybody that we’ve come across and had the chance to meet in person has been phenomenal. Just the energy of the city is tremendous. In terms of the organization here, I think anybody and everybody in the hockey world, and even outside of the hockey world, that’s paying attention to what’s happening here in Seattle with the Kraken organization would be excited to have an opportunity to be part of this. It starts with the people — you mention Tod (Leiweke) and Ron (Francis), and obviously beyond that, the ownership group – the vision that they have all had and the steps that they’ve taken to ensure that that vision comes together is spectacular. I’m thrilled to be part of it, I’m grateful for the opportunity, and I’m excited to be part of the community here in Seattle.”
Listen to the full interview with Hakstol at this link or in the player below.