Seattle Kraken name Dan Bylsma as their next head coach

May 27, 2024, 4:05 PM | Updated: May 28, 2024, 9:52 am

Seattle Kraken coach Dan Bylsma...

Buffalo Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma watches during an NHL preseason game. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

(AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

SEATTLE (AP) — The Seattle Kraken have named Dan Bylsma as their coach, putting the 2009 Stanley Cup winner in Pittsburgh back in charge of an NHL team for the first time since 2017.

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The Kraken scheduled a “special announcement” news conference for Tuesday, after Sportsnet first reported the decision Monday. The team officially announced the hiring of Bylsma on Tuesday morning, roughly an hour before the scheduled news conference.

Bylsma has spent the past two seasons as the head coach of the Coachella Valley Firebirds in the American Hockey League, the top affiliate of the Seattle Kraken, and has them back in the Calder Cup semifinals. He has worked extensively with several of Seattle’s top prospects who the franchise hopes will be making their way to Seattle in the coming seasons.

“Dan is a winner with a proven track record of developing both young and veteran talent, and his leadership will help our team as we move forward,” Kraken general manager Ron Francis said in a press release. “He has had success at every level, winning the Stanley Cup in 2009, earning a Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top coach in 2011, and he led the Firebirds to Game 7 of the Calder Cup Finals last year in the team’s first season. He knows our franchise and has worked with several of our NHL players. We are excited to have him behind the bench and guiding our team next season.”

The press release noted that Francis “interviewed a number of other candidates with NHL experience as head coaches and/or assistants.”

Per the press release, Bylsma will fly back later Tuesday to continue coaching Coachella Valley, who will play Game 1 of the Western Conference final of the 2024 Calder Cup Playoffs on Wednesday night.

“I have a familiarity with a lot of the players and staff here and think we have a chance to build something special together,” Bylsma said. “I’d like to thank everyone with the Coachella Valley Firebirds for welcoming my wife and me with open arms, and I’d like to thank Samantha Holloway and the entire Kraken ownership group, as well as Ron Francis, for trusting me with this opportunity.”

Taking over

Bylsma replaces Dave Hakstol, who was let go after his third season in charge of the Kraken but after Seattle took a significant step back and struggled badly at the offensive end of the ice. Seattle made the playoffs in its second year and earned Hakstol a two-year contract extension, but he was let go before that extension ever kicked in.

More: Seattle Kraken fire head coach Dave Hakstol after three seasons

Before his stint with Coachella Valley, Bylsma spent parts of eight seasons as a head coach at the NHL level with Pittsburgh and Buffalo. He took over midway through the 2008-09 season in Pittsburgh and helped guide the Penguins to the Stanley Cup. Pittsburgh made the playoffs in the five seasons under Bylsma after winning the title, but advanced to the conference final only once in those five trips.

After being fired by Pittsburgh, Bylsma spent two seasons as the head coach in Buffalo before being fired after the 2016-17 season. The Sabres finished seventh and eighth in the Atlantic Division in his two seasons.

Seattle finished last season 34-35-13 and tied for fifth place in the Pacific Division with 81 points. While they were solid defensively and received strong goaltending for most of the season with the combo of Joey Daccord and Philipp Grubauer, the Kraken struggled badly at the offensive end. Seattle was 29th in the league in goals scored, 29th in shooting percentage and 18th on the power play.

Increasing scoring will be one of Bylsma’s main tasks in Seattle. The two teams he led at Coachella Valley had no problem scoring goals on its way to significant success. The Firebirds made the Calder Cup finals in their first season before losing to Hershey in Game 7.

This season, Coachella Valley won the Pacific Division of the AHL and was one of two teams in the league to top 100 points. The Firebirds have advanced to the Western Conference finals, which are scheduled to begin Wednesday.

In both seasons the Firebirds finished in the top three in the AHL in goals scored during the regular season. He also worked with the likes of Daccord, Shane Wright, Ryker Evans and Tye Kartye, all of whom seem likely to be key parts of the future for the Kraken.

Seattle Sports staff made additions to this post.

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