Seattle Kraken fire head coach Dave Hakstol after 3 seasons

Apr 29, 2024, 11:35 AM | Updated: 1:29 pm

NHL Seattle Kraken Dave Hakstol...

Seattle Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol coaches in his 500th NHL game on Feb. 29, 2024. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Seattle Kraken will have a new head coach next season, as the team announced Monday morning that Dave Hakstol has been relieved of his duties.

Hakstol has been head coach for the Kraken since their inaugural NHL season in 2021-22.

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“I thank Dave for his hard work and dedication to the Kraken franchise,” Kraken general manager Ron Francis said in a press release. “Following our end-of-the-season review, we have decided to make a change at our head coach position. These decisions are never easy, but we feel this is a necessary step to help ensure our team continues to improve and evolve. Dave is a good coach and a terrific person. We wish him and his family all the best. We will begin our search for the Kraken’s next head coach immediately.”

The Kraken were a surprise postseason team in 2022-23, and Haktsol’s team did more than just reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Seattle won a first-round series over the 2021-22 champion Colorado Avalanche, then took the Dallas Stars to seven games in the Western Conference semifinals. But in 2023-24, the Kraken took a step backwards, finishing sixth in the eight-team Pacific Division with a 34-35-13 record for 81 points in the standings. Seattle was officially eliminated from playoff contention in the first week of April.

Hakstol, 55, registered a 107-112-27 record with Seattle, weighed down by the team’s expansion season (27-49-6). Before joining the Kraken, Hakstol went 134-101-42 as Philadelphia Flyers head coach from 2015-19.

A name to watch as the potential next Kraken head coach is Dan Bylsma, who has had success coaching the team’s AHL affiliate, the Coachella Valley Firebirds. NHL insider Elliotte Friedman of Sportnet in Canada said last week on his 32 Thoughts podcast that his “theory” is that the Kraken were “thinking about” Bylsma as their next head coach.

Bylsma, 53, played in the NHL with the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks, and he previously was head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins from 2008-14 and Buffalo Sabres from 2015-17. He led the Penguins to a Stanley Cup title win in 2008-09, becoming just the second coach to win an NHL championship in the same campaign in which he was a midseason replacement. He also won the Jack Adams Award as the league’s most outstanding coach in 2010-11.

Todd McLellan and 2019 Stanley Cup winner Craig Berube are among the experienced NHL head coaches available, pending more movement around the league in the coming weeks.

The Kraken also announced Monday that assistant coach Paul McFarland will not return next season.

“We would also like to thank Paul for his contributions to our hockey team and wish him and his family well moving forward,” Francis said.

Francis said in a press conference last week that evaluations were ongoing about whether Hakstol or any of his coaching staff would return for the 2024-25 season.

“There’s a lot of things we have to look at and factor in, and we’ll continue to do that in the next few weeks,” Francis said at the time.

Dave Hakstol’s time with Seattle Kraken

Hakstol was rewarded with a two-year extension after last season that kept him under contract through the 2025-26 season. But Seattle was unable to maintain the style of play that led to its success last season and couldn’t overcome significant injuries to Andre Burakovsky, Brandon Tanev and Philipp Grubauer early in the season. Seattle also played most of the final portion of the season without top defenseman Vince Dunn due to a neck injury.

Seattle started this season 8-14-7 including an eight-game losing streak, before a big turnaround in late December and January that pushed the Kraken back into the playoff conversation. But the Kraken went just 13-16-3 after the All-Star break and a painful overtime loss at home to Vegas on March 12 brought an end to any reasonable playoff aspirations.

Scoring goals was a problem that the Kraken couldn’t solve all season. Seattle was 29th in the league in goals scored, 29th in shooting percentage and 18th on the power play, negating a season of strong defense and goaltending.

Hakstol was a surprise choice when Seattle hired him to be the first coach in franchise history. His first stint as a coach in the NHL started strong in Philadelphia in 2015-16 with two playoff appearances in his first three seasons. But it fell apart in the fourth season and he was fired 25 games into that year with the Flyers at 8-11-6 and just 22 points.

It was a rough inaugural season for Seattle as the team dealt with the expectations of trying to match what Vegas did in its expansion season while balancing COVID-19 restrictions that impacted much of that first season. Seattle finished at 27-49-6 in that first season but rebounded in Year 2 when the Kraken finished with 100 points, toppled defending champion Colorado in the first round of the playoffs and took Dallas to a Game 7 in the Western Conference semifinals.

This post includes sections from an Associated Press article by Tim Booth.

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