Hoo-hoo, hahahahaha. The Seattle Kraken have hired their first coach. Bahahahaha. It’s Dave Hakstol.
Hakstol is most recently of the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he was an assistant coach for two years, helping them to… (checks notes)… two straight years of playoff exits to inferior teams.
This is a man whose NHL track record is not good. Even by hockey’s standards of dull, unimaginative coaching hires, this one is notable. Given the way this season went for the Flyers (along with the Sixers’ collapse), the hire was practically the highlight of the season.
At North Dakota, Hakstol’s alma mater, he had a legitimately impressive record, leading the school to seven Frozen Four appearances in 11 years. (There’s a longstanding rumor among the Flyers faithful that Ron Hextall hired Hakstol based on the recommendation of his son, Brett Hextall, who played for him at UND.)
Thing is, as soon as Hakstol left to coach the Flyers, North Dakota won the national title in 2016. The Flyers recruited UND’s star player, Drake Caggiula, who played for Hakstol for three years, but he chose to go to Edmonton instead. It probably didn’t help that Philly invited Caggiula to visit them while they hosted the Washington Capitals in a first-round game they lost, 6-1.
The Flyers lost that series, and they lost the other playoff series Hakstol coached, 2018 against the Pittsburgh Penguins in six. The Pens scored 28 goals in that series, thanks to a combination of terrible goaltending and Hakstol’s insistence on matching up burnt-to-a-crisp Val Filppula against Sidney Crosby. It was almost as if Hakstol and Pens coach Mike Sullivan had reached an agreement on it before the series.
Among some other Hakstol lowlights:
- Shayne Gostisbehere, who went from being the most dangerous 3-on-3 defenseman in the league while finishing second in the Calder voting in 2016, found himself sitting in the press box in the first month the year after. Ghost later admitted he had to stop caring about getting yelled at and just play his game.
- Meanwhile, Hakstol’s beloved fourth line of offensively inept grinders, Chris VandeVelde, Pierre-Édouard Bellemare, and Ryan White, were dubbed “The Untouchables” as the line was kept intact while other, more skilled players were shuffled in and out of the lineup. One of the reasons he gave for VdV and Bellemare staying in the lineup was that they were important penalty killers, while the Flyers iced one of the worst PK units in the league.
- He loves his gritty vets.
- Hakstol never met a goalie he couldn’t overwork. In his fourth and final season with the Flyers, the team used a record eight goalies. Hakstol ran an aging and brittle Brian Elliott into the ground, starting him 25 of 26 games in 2017-18. Elliott promptly got hurt. Anthony Stolarz, coming off two surgeries, played nine straight games, In Hakstol’s fourth and final season with the Flyers, the team used a record eight goalies, although he was only there for 31 games.
Seattle, you’ve got a cool name and logo. Good luck trying to maintain interest throughout the Hakstol error.