After several weeks of speculation the Toronto Maple Leafs have hired their newest assistant coach—and it’s no-one who was rumoured to have been up for the position.
Dave Hakstol, who was fired as head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers 31 games into last season, was last seen as the assistant coach of Team Canada at this year’s Worlds. It was Hakstol’s second stint with Team Canada and they’ve taken home silver both times.
He joins Mike Babcock’s coaching staff with an NHL record of 134-101-42 over three and a bit seasons. His longest tenure as a coach was in the NCAA with the University of North Dakota where he spent 15 years, 11 of them as head coach. He’s never been an assistant coach in the league, so there may be a bit of an adjustment period.
Hakstol would appear to be replacing defensive coach DJ Smith, who signed with the Ottawa Senators in May as their new head coach. While Hakstol was a defender during his playing days, Flyers fans may have some things to say about whether or not he knows his stuff in this area.
It should be noted that Hakstol coached Mitch Marner on the 2017 Team Canada squad. Maybe Mitch liked what he saw.
Hakstol’s most recent adventure was in Sweden, where he went to work/learn with the Swedish national team. He got very high praise while over there from Rikard Grönborg, the then head coach of Tre Kronor. The feeling was mutual and Hakstol had a lot of praise for the Swedish organization in the press there and for Grönborg.
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Hakstol asked to come over and learn from the Swedes:
“I received a request from Dave during the winter. We met at a convention during the event [Swedish hockey’s presentation to the NHL Board of Governors last year] and have had contact since then. It is good for us to get impressions and information about NHL and of course we offer again with a presentation of how we work,” says Rikard Grönborg, head coach for Tre Kronor
Hakstol doesn’t have a great reputation because all anyone remembers is the Twitter drama of will they or won’t they fire him from the Flyers. But he is the person outside of an actual Swedish coach, who the Leafs could consider adding as well, who has had the most experience with Swedish defence, and the defensive system they are taught.
The Maple Leafs currently have five Swedish defenders under contract.