VOORHEES, N.J. — Dave Hakstol is back in the NHL.
The former Flyers head coach was hired by the Maple Leafs on Saturday as an assistant coach. Hakstol's new job comes six and a half months after he was fired by the Flyers.
Hakstol will work under accomplished head coach Mike Babcock.
"I'm excited to have the opportunity to join the Maple Leafs coaching staff," Hakstol said, via the Maple Leafs' official team website. "I look forward to building relationships with the players and getting to work with the entire group."
Toronto, loaded with talent, is coming off back-to-back seasons of 100 or more points but consecutive first-round playoff exits. The Maple Leafs feature plenty of youth in Auston Matthews (21 years old), Mitch Marner (if he's back; 22), Kasperi Kapanen (22), William Nylander (23) and Andreas Johnsson (24), to name a handful of guys.
Hakstol came to the Flyers fresh out of the college ranks from North Dakota. He was regarded as a coach who could mold younger players given his success with the Fighting Hawks.
In Philadelphia, Hakstol went 134-101-42 with a pair of first-round playoff exits over parts of four seasons. His fate as head coach became heavily ominous when former general manager Ron Hextall was suddenly fired in late November. After a disastrous road trip in December and with the Flyers (12-15-4) in last place of the Metropolitan Division, allowing the NHL's second-most goals per game (3.74), new general manager Chuck Fletcher relieved Hakstol of his duties.
"I came away tremendously impressed with Dave as a human being, but to my eyes, there was a disconnect between what he was preaching and how the players were playing," Fletcher said at the time. "As the leader of the team, that responsibility falls on him and I felt at this point, we needed a new voice.
"Dave tried, Dave was prepared, Dave's smart, Dave's a good coach."
Hakstol has the qualities that make you think he will be better off as an assisant coach at the NHL level. He is a detail-oriented, tireless worker.
"Dave Hakstol is one of the hardest-working people I know," Hextall said. "He's got a lot of respect around the league. You'd be shocked when I talk to my colleagues how much respect he has. He's a good coach."
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