HC Dave Hakstol talks Year 2 growth, what’s next for Kraken

May 23, 2023, 2:23 PM

Seattle Kraken Dave Hakstol...

Head coach Dave Hakstol of the Seattle Kraken looks on against the Colorado Avalanche on April 18, 2023. (Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

(Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

After finishing their inaugural season with the third-worst record in the NHL, the Seattle Kraken emerged as one of the league’s top teams in Year 2.

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The Kraken jumped up from 60 points in the standings to 100, good enough to make the playoffs as the top Wild Card team in the Western Conference.

But the Kraken weren’t done there as they knocked off the Colorado Avalanche, the reigning Stanley Cup champs, in seven games before pushing the Dallas Stars to seven games in Round 2. Seattle fell short there, but it’s easy to say that the NHL’s newest franchise had quite the successful second season.

A big part of the team’s success was head coach Dave hakstol, who is a finalist for the Jack Adams Award, which is awarded annually by the NHL Broadcasters’ Association to “the NHL coach adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success.”

On Tuesday, Hakstol joined Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy and discussed what went right this past season and what’s next for the team.

“As you go through the last 20 games of Year 1, those were hard months, but they stuck with it and we saw a foundation,” Hakstol said. “Flip into Year 2, I saw it right from Day 1 of training camp. But I can tell you, Game 6 of the Dallas series, I really felt like hockey’s arrived in Seattle. This is one of the greatest atmospheres that I’ve been part of – regular season or playoffs – anywhere in my time in the league. And just to kind of experience that along with the fans and just feel that passion, that was a pretty cool moment, and a moment that we all want to remember and now make sure that we’re motivated by as we come back next year to try to work to build another successful season.”

While Game 6 of the Dallas series was one of the high points for the Kraken, their season ended in heartbreaking fashion two days later with a 2-1 loss in Game 7.

“Game 7 is a pretty emotional time. You expect to be playing in two days because you expect to win Game 7 and all of a sudden it’s like hitting a brick wall and it comes to an end,” Hakstol said.

Hakstol called the Kraken’s dressing room “pretty emotional” after the loss, and shared what his message to the team was.

“My message was just to make sure everybody takes just a couple minutes to really be proud of the accomplishments and the things that we were able to do and become part of in the city of Seattle,” he said. “Pretty tough to make a lot of sense and really bring it into perspective, but I really wanted the guys to take pride in what they had accomplished.”

Growth in Year 2

Year 1 for the Kraken saw an early-season slide in the standings and eventually a fire sale at the trade deadline.

But the Kraken had a foundation in place for Year 2, and also went out and added some new players to the mix in the offseason

“We saw the progress. We knew that we were a better team,” Hakstol said. “We were a better team on paper with the roster that (general manager Ron Francis) and his staff put together throughout the summer with some of the positive changes, with Matty Beniers coming in, Oliver Bjorkstrand, (Justin Schultz) and a lot of good names joining our roster. But from there, we had to grow as a team and you have to build belief and yeah, absolutely we saw that belief grow throughout the year through some different stretches. And it manifests itself through some good wins streaks but also more importantly through the ability to stay even keel and positive when you lose a couple and turn it around early.”

What’s next for the Seattle Kraken?

“Well, a couple of things come to mind. We have we have to keep growing, that’s No. 1,” Hakstol said. “You really learn a lot in playoff time. That’s when you really learn the true ability, the true character, the true mental capacity of individual players, as a staff, as a team. I felt like we were the best team in the playoffs. The four remaining teams are all very similar in terms of they use their depth, everybody’s got a role and it’s very important. And that’s pretty typical at this time of year. You get to the Final Four, that’s what you would expect.

“So for me, we need to keep growing, mostly we need to keep growing from within and continue growing in terms of adding difference-makers. The more guys that you can add that are impact guys that can make a difference at that critical time of the game, it becomes more (where you’re playing in) the series going on right now.”

The Kraken’s depth was a huge part of what carried them this season, and Hakstol stressed that the team needs to maintain “the team mentality” that they’ve built over the last two seasons.

“And then we just have to continue adding to our roster and continuing to find different ways to affect that outcome at the most critical time of the year,” Hakstol said. “And that means guys stepping up and making the difference in a hockey game.”

How involved will Hakstol be in potential moves this offseason?

“That’s Ron and his staff’s role. I’m really fortunate to be in a situation where I feel Ron and I and his staff and our staff have great communication,” Hakstol said. “We have input, we have great dialogue. That’s one of the things that helps us grow and has helped us become the team that we are now. Ultimately Ron and his staff have done a ton of homework, they will make the final decisions and it’s been a great formula for us at this point, and that’s the way we’re gonna continue.”

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HC Dave Hakstol talks Year 2 growth, what’s next for Kraken