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Dave Hakstol is, surprisingly, Seattle Kraken’s first head coach

Kathryn Tappen, Patrick Sharp, and Anson Carter react to the surprise that former Flyers bench boss Dave Hakstol is the first coach in Seattle Kraken history and assess the team's expectations as an expansion franchise.

Well, few saw this coming. The Seattle Kraken has named Dave Hakstol as their first head coach on Thursday.

During the interview process, Rick Tocchet emerged as one of the favorites to become the Seattle Kraken’s first head coach. For many, that was already a perplexing choice. Did Tocchet really enjoy that much success? Didn’t it seem like the Kraken were leaning in an analytics-driven direction with their front office and team?

Well, they did get a pretty movie-trailer-friendly intro for Hakstol, who apparently decided to release the goatee:

Dave Hakstol

Kraken surprisingly name Hakstol as first head coach

Similarly, the Kraken hiring Hakstol is quite the head-scratcher.
From 2015-16 through a portion of the 2018-19 season, Hakstol coached the Flyers. The results were largely underwhelming. Under Hakstol, the Flyers went 134-101-42 in the regular season. They made two playoff appearances, failing to win a single series.

Not too surprisingly, the Kraken mostly focused on Hakstol’s experiences as a successful NCAA coach for North Dakota with this graphic:


Following his time as Flyers head coach, Hakstol spent time as a Maple Leafs assistant. But it seems like Hakstol truly made an impression on Francis when the two were together with at the 2019 IIHF World Championship.

Francis seemed to indirectly acknowledge Hakstol’s growing pains as Flyers head coach, indicating that it readied Hakstol for this challenge.

“As a first-time coach in the NHL, you have to learn the league.” Francis said. “It is fast-paced and a challenge to adjust on the fly. I think with the first situation in Philly and the years with [head coaches Mike] Babcock and [Sheldon] Keefe, Dave is comfortable with understanding the league.”

Whether Hakstol is the right call for the Kraken or not, it was important to get their first head coach hiring in place. The team can now focus on the expansion draft, free agency, and the 2021 NHL Draft -- and Hakstol can put in his two cents.

Is Hakstol the sort of head coach who can lead the Kraken to a strong start as an expansion team? They’re betting that it will go better than his time with the Flyers.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.