The Seattle Kraken have named the first head coach in franchise history

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The Seattle Kraken have a coach.

The team announced Thursday that Dave Hakstol, 52, will be the first head coach in franchise history. Hakstol is entering his 26th consecutive season as a head or assistant coach across the NHL, NCAA and USHL. Most recently, he was an assistant coach for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Hakstol was a surprise choice for the position, but his relationship with Kraken general manager Ron Francis stretches back to 2019 when Francis and Jason Botterill — now an assistant general manager for Seattle — were part of the management group for Team Canada at the IIHF World Championship. Hakstol was an assistant for the team, and he met Francis during the four weeks in Austria and Slovakia.

“’I got to know him as a person and then kind of watch his work ethic and how he operated and sort of building that respect for what he can do,” Francis said during a press conference on Thursday. “As we went through the (hiring) process, he’s certainly a guy that I had an interest in talking to.”’

Francis said the Kraken first met with Hakstol last summer and interviewed him several more times since then. Hakstol’s experience helped him stand out. Before spending the last two seasons primarily coaching defense in Toronto, Hakstol was the head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers from 2015-19.

He spent the previous 15 seasons coaching the University of North Dakota, 11 as head coach. North Dakota reached the Frozen Four seven times from 2004-2015, the most of any program during that span. Hakstol compiled a 289-143-43 record, winning three regular-season titles conference titles and four Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff championships. He was named conference coach of the year twice (2008-09, 2014-15).

Coaching history

Hakstol led Philadelphia to the playoffs in two of his three full seasons, but the Flyers lost in the first round both times. He finished with a 134-101-42 overall record and was relieved as head coach in December 2018 after a 12-15-4 start to the 2018-19 season.

“He’s got the experience,” Francis said. “(It was) maybe a big jump from college (to the NHL) the first time, but now he’s been in the league six years. He’s worked under some different coaches and gained a lot more experience so we’re comfortable in that regard.”

During Thursday’s press conference, Hakstol said his time in Philadelphia and Toronto helped prepare him for a second stint as an NHL coach.

“Experience is valuable,” he said. “The first time around … I had a great deal of experience working with great players and dedicated coaches, but I hadn’t had the experience working at the National Hockey League level. There’s a different rhythm to the National Hockey League in almost every realm, from the 82-game schedule to the pace of the daily business to on-ice and the pace of the game.

“Experience is very valuable. There are a lot of things that I solidified and really cemented in terms of my philosophies. There are other things where you grow, you learn and you develop. All of those experiences, not just over the past six years, all of my experiences are very valuable in how I’ll apply them moving forward.”

Francis said he believes Hakstol is “ready for his second opportunity.”

“I think there’s a lot of examples of guys that have gotten a second chance and are really taking advantage of it,” Francis said.

Hakstol also served as the head coach and general manager of the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL from 1996-2000 and is a two-time silver medal winner with Team Canada at the World Championships (2019 and 2017). He was a defenseman at the University of North Dakota from 1989-92 and was named the team’s captain for his final seasons He spent parts of five seasons in the International Hockey League.

The process

Francis said the Kraken talked to eight coaches, some more than once. The team reportedly met with former Arizona coach Rick Tocchet multiple times. Other names connected to the opening included Buffalo interim coach Don Granato, AHL coach Kevin Dineen, Sharks assistant coach Rocky Thompson and former Rangers coach David Quinn.

But it was Hakstol — a name that wasn’t circulated — that secured the job. Francis said there was a simple reason the hire stayed quiet: Hakstol just didn’t talk about it.

“You put together a long list of names that you think are potential candidates,”’ Francis said. “’We did start doing interviews last summer and Dave was part of that process then we had more interviews with him as we moved on through the process.’’

Now, Hakstol will play a vital role in what he called a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to build a team from the ground up.

‘’Detail and communication is going to be very, very important,” Hakstol said. “’Not only over the phase of the next few weeks of building the roster but from there, it’s planning for how everything fits together, it’s planning for training camp, it’s preparation for the detail of not just day-to-day but minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour detail that is needed in training camp to bring a group of guys together that haven’t played together before.’’

When it comes to his vision for the Kraken’s first roster, Hakstol said it’s important to find a balance between a team that can compete immediately while also building toward the future and sustainable success. He’ll play a part in all of those conversations, he said.

The NHL Expansion Draft will take place on July 21 followed by the Entry Draft on July 23-24. In addition to building a roster, Francis and Hakstol will also have to complete the remainder of the coaching staff in the coming weeks.

“I wouldn’t be able to give you an absolute timeline,” Hakstol said. “I’ll tell you we’ll get working on it immediately in terms of filling out of the rest of the staff. I would say as soon as possible while getting it right for our group.’’