NHL insider: Why Dan Bylsma was chosen as Kraken coach

May 28, 2024, 2:46 PM

Seattle Kraken coach Dan Bylsma...

Head coach Dan Bylsma of the Pittsburgh Penguins after a 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs game. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

(Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The Seattle Kraken have ended their search for a new head coach, officially making Dan Bylsma the second bench boss in team history.

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Fresh off the news, Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk caught with longtime NHL insider Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet in Canada on Tuesday morning to uncover some of the details on the move.

Here’s a look at what Friedman shared.

Coach has connection to young Seattle Kraken talent

Kraken fans will know Bylsma as head coach of the team’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Coachella Valley Firebirds. In fact, Bylsma still has that role, as he was set to fly back to California in time to coach the team Wednesday in the first game of their Western Conference final series.

Friedman said Bylsma’s relationship with the future of the Kraken franchise, most notably 2022 first-round NHL Draft pick Shane Wright, had a lot to do with general manager Ron Francis’ decision to promote Bylsma.

“The moment I heard there was going to be a coaching change, I had people say to me, ‘Watch out for Bylsma.’ He’s got big support in the organization,” Friedman said. “I think some of the people on Ron Francis’ staff were big fans of Bylsma’s work in Coachella Valley, and while (the Kraken) definitely had a process and a few people were interviewed, I think that his support inside the organization won out. Particularly I would guess with a prospect like Shane Wright – you know, Shane Wright’s an important player for the Kraken and he gained a lot of confidence playing for Bylsma, and I would believe that as much as anything else would have been a huge feather in his cap organizationally.”

Up and down in the NHL

In NHL circles, the 53-year-old Bylsma is a memorable name because of his time with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He led the Penguins to a Stanley Cup title win in 2008-09, making him just the second coach to win a championship in the same campaign in which he was a midseason replacement. He led Pittsburgh to six playoff appearances and won the Jack Adams Award as the league’s most outstanding coach in 2010-11.

His last stop in the NHL, however, didn’t go as well. After spending 2008-14 with the Penguins, Bylsma went to Buffalo, lasting just two seasons with the Sabres.

Why the differing levels of success with those two teams?

“In Pittsburgh, Bylsma had great players, and he came in at the right time,” Friedman said. “They were struggling under their previous coach, and to his credit he basically got in and said, ‘OK, what do we need to do in the short-term to make it work?’ He listened to what they had to say, he put in some of his stuff and they won a championship, and I think that’s incredibly hard to do in the NHL. Buffalo to me … that was an organization at the time that was not set up for success, and I think they’re working to try to fix it, but I don’t think at that time any coach was going to be able to be successful.”

Back in the league

Bylsma has been the coach at Coachella Valley since the franchise started play in the 2022-23 season, leading the Firebirds to back-to-back playoff appearances. Why did the Kraken decide it was time for him to return to the NHL?

“It’s been a long time since (the Sabres tenure) for Bylsma. After he left Buffalo, I think some people thought that that he was never going to get another chance,” Friedman said. “But to his credit, he got into the (Seattle organization). This is why it’s so important, I think, to get into an organization as a head coach somewhere, because if you do a good job with a team’s prospects as he has, people will notice. And like I said, he had big support in the organization. There were people who really backed him and they believe what he did in Coachella Valley made him deserve another chance.”

Listen to the full Brock and Salk conversation with Sportsnet NHL insider Elliotte Friedman in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post. Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk airs from 6-10 a.m. weekdays.

More on Seattle Kraken and new coach Dan Bylsma

Dan Bylsma rediscovers the joy in coaching, lands Kraken job
Seattle Kraken name Dan Bylsma as their next head coach
Coaching carousel spins fast in NHL: Job security just doesn’t exist
Where the Seattle Kraken are picking in the NHL Draft

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