Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Seattle Kraken’s Dave Hakstol returns to Philly, grateful for the chance he had and wiser than in his first coaching stint

Hakstol brings his expansion Kraken to Philly on Monday, his first appearance as an opposing head coach since he was fired by the Flyers in 2019.

Seattle Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol, center right, talks with assistant coach Jay Leach in the second period of an NHL game against the Nashville Predators on Thursday. Seattle notched the first win in franchise history that night.
Seattle Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol, center right, talks with assistant coach Jay Leach in the second period of an NHL game against the Nashville Predators on Thursday. Seattle notched the first win in franchise history that night.Read moreMark Humphrey / AP

It’s been a hectic and, in some ways, a strained year for Dave Hakstol, the head coach of the expansion Seattle Kraken, who will face his former team, the Flyers, on Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

Hakstol is now living in Seattle while his wife, Erinn, has stayed back in Grand Forks, N.D., because their two teenage children, Avery and Brenden, are attending school and their parents didn’t want to disrupt things.

“My daughter goes to school in Minnesota full-time, and my wife and son are back and forth between Seattle and Grand Forks,” Hakstol said in a phone interview Friday. “We’re busy, but we’ve got a great rhythm. It’s a little bit crazy, but it’s good. They come out quite a bit and they’ve been loving it.”

Hakstol coached the Flyers from 2015 until December of 2018, and later was a Toronto Maple Leafs’ assistant coach for two seasons before being named the Kraken’s first coach. Seattle is off to a 1-1-1 start (all three games have been decided by one goal), highlighted by its first win in franchise history, a 4-3 victory Thursday in Nashville.

“The players and everyone were excited about it,” Hakstol said. “The first one is probably the toughest one to get in this situation, so it was nice to get it early.”

“It’s huge,” Jared McCann said, after collecting a goal and an assist in the win. “It’s something we’ll always remember.”

Respectable top line

McCann centers a respectable top line that includes wingers Jaden Schwartz and Jordan Eberle. Brandon Tanev, a relentless left winger who played for the Penguinsthe previous two seasons, leads the Kraken with three goals through three games.

Seattle made a splash by signing free-agent goaltender Philipp Grubauer in July. He had a 1.95 goals-against average and .922 save percentage while recording a league-high seven shutouts last season for Colorado, and he should keep the Kraken competitive.

Hakstol’s team, which doesn’t have nearly the same amount of talent Vegas had when it stunningly reached the Stanley Cup Final in its first season in 2017-18, is playing its first five games on the road.

Returning to Philly, Hakstol said, is special for him.

“It’s twofold. It’s a chance to come back and see some very good friends in and around the city, and people that are still with the organization,” he said. “I always look forward to that. And you flip to the other side, there’s the business of coming in to win a hockey game in a tough building. I’m excited for it and looking forward to it.”

» READ MORE: The good, the bad, the ugly from Flyers' opening-night loss | Sam Carchidi

Hakstol said he will always be grateful to the late Ed Snider, the Flyers’ chairman and co-founder, and their former general manager, Ron Hextall, who is now the Penguins’ GM. They took a chance and hired Hakstol out of the University of North Dakota, which he directed to seven Frozen Four appearances in 11 seasons.

“Mr. Snider and Hexy gave me the opportunity there, and some of the guys [in the front office] are still there and they mean a lot to me and I think very highly of them,” he said.

Asked what he learned about his three-plus years in Philly and if he carried it into Seattle, Hakstol said he gets asked that question frequently.

‘It’s a process’

“It’s just the experience of being in the National Hockey League,” he said. “Until you go through the experiences and challenges in the league, you don’t have the experiences to fall back on. That’s the biggest thing. I had such a good opportunity to grow at North Dakota, and most of those principles continue to apply, but until you apply it at the National Hockey League level, it’s a process. Simply the experience of being there on a day to day basis” makes you a better coach.

During his time with the Flyers, Hakstol had a 134-101-42 record (.560 points percentage) before being fired 31 games into the 2018-19 season. He had been an out-of-the-box hire by Hextall, who made Hakstol the third person to go directly from the college ranks to the NHL as a head coach.

When new GM Chuck Fletcher dismissed Hakstol, he said “there was a disconnect to what he was preaching and how the players were playing.”

Hakstol, 53, can’t say enough good things about hockey-crazed Seattle.

“The city and the organization are awesome. It’s going to be a great NHL city; everyone in the region is really excited for NHL hockey, and I think it has everything you’d want in an NHL city,” he said. “A lot of people in the organization have done a lot of work over time. There have been a lot of moving parts, but it’s all been good.”

Seattle selected winger Carsen Twarynski from the Flyers in the expansion draft, and he is now playing for the Kraken’s AHL team in Charlotte, N.C.

“Obviously I know him a little bit from when he was a younger player and was in [the Flyers’] camp and a couple of developmental camps,” Hakstol said.

Hakstol liked what he saw from Twarynski in Seattle’s training camp.

“He’s a hardworking two-way forward,” he said of the Flyers’ third-round selection in the 2016 draft. “He’s a guy who at some point in time will likely be a part of things as we go through injuries and different things throughout the year. I think there’s a good chance for him.”

There’s also a good chance Seattle, which is expected to sell out every game this season, will build a strong NHL foundation and become a formidable franchise.

» READ MORE: In Carter Hart, the Flyers (still) trust