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Reports: Dave Hakstol to the Kraken

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We’ll know for sure this afternoon.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

Multiple reports are coming in today that Maple Leafs assistant coach Dave Hakstol will be the name on Seattle GM Ron Francis’s lips today at 1 p.m. eastern time, when the Kraken are set to name their first head coach.

In his most recent podcast, Elliotte Friedman clarified earlier remarks on HNIC that the Leafs were not looking to move on from their assistants, but would if those assistants were offered jobs out of interviews taking place that would mean promotions.

Dave Hakstol was formerly the head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers, but more meaningfully for an expansion team, he was head coach at the University of North Dakota for many years.

A noted hockey historian and fan familiar with the North Dakota teams over the years said this:

Which is likely the prevailing opinion on a coach that didn’t succeed well with the Flyers. Not that anyone else has since, of course. Hakstol is often accused of causing his teams to be dull offensively on purpose, but on the Leafs, his job was mainly the defensive end of things, an area where they saw improvement. Coincident with Hakstol’s hiring was a dramatic improvement in the defencemen on the team, of course.

The Kraken are set to make their announcement today, and while it has not officially been stated this will be the head coach announcement, that cat is out of the bag. If this Hakstol report is correct, and it sure seems to be, the Leafs will need to find someone new to join the bench crew.

Hakstol was hired while Mike Babcock was still coach, and kept on when Sheldon Keefe was promoted off the Marlies. If there’s a change coming, we should all expect Kyle Dubas to first look close to home and go with someone he’s already worked with. A.J. MacLean, currently an assistant coach with the Toronto Marlies has worked under Keefe going back to his days in the Soo.

Contracts for staff in the NHL run to June 30, so there will soon be opportunities to interview other experienced coaches looking to move teams if that’s what the Leafs decide to do.

When we know more, we’ll update you.

Small update:

What’s interesting about this fact is that spring 2019 was right after Dave Hakstol went to Sweden to see what he could learn there. That’s the sort of thinking that Seattle seems to be after: people not afraid to learn and try new things.

Hakstol, who was let go by the Philadelphia Flyers on December 17th, is in Sweden to find inspiration and “learn new things”. Through contacts with the coaches’ union NHL Coaches’ Association, Hakstol came in contact with Rikard Grönborg. He was invited to spend close to a week in Stockholm during Beijer Hockey Games, a tournament that is a part of the Euro Hockey Tour that includes Sweden, Russia, the Czech Republic and Finland. In Stockholm, Hakstol gets to follow the Swedish coaching staff in all their meetings and on the ice during practices.

Since 1996 when he finished his own career as a player, Dave Hakstol has been coaching at various different levels. At first in the USHL, then followed by 15 seasons in the NCAA at Univerisity of North Dakota, where he was in charge of players like Zach Parise, T.J. Oshie and Jonathan Toews. For the past three-plus years, he was the bench boss of the Flyers.

Rikard Grönborg has been a name often bandied about as a potential North American coach, so watch that space, I think.

And now it’s official: