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News / Sports / National Sports

Kraken fire coach Dave Hakstol after leading franchise for its first 3 seasons

By TIM BOOTH, AP Sports Writer
Published: April 29, 2024, 1:55pm

SEATTLE — A year removed from being honored as one of the top coaches in the NHL, Dave Hakstol ended up taking the fall for the underachievement of the Seattle Kraken.

Hakstol was fired Monday as the head coach of the Kraken after the third-year franchise took a significant step back following a playoff appearance in their second season.

Hakstol was a finalist for the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year last season as Seattle finished with 100 points and reached the Western Conference semifinals in its second year.

But the Kraken failed to match expectations this season and spent most of the year trying to climb back into playoff contention after a terrible start. Seattle failed to build on the success of that playoff run and stunted the momentum the young franchise was trying to build in the league’s newest hockey market.

“It’s never an easy day. It’s never an easy decision. We let a guy who is a good coach and a really good person go and it’s not easy,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “But looking at our organization and just looking at the season, I thought we were a little more inconsistent than we had been, a few too many losing streaks and losing streaks of significant numbers and so we just felt it was time to try a new voice.”

Seattle finished tied for fifth in the Pacific Division after going 34-35-13 with 81 points, and was officially eliminated from playoff contention with two weeks left in the regular season.

Hakstol went 107-112-27 in his three seasons in charge of the Kraken. He was rewarded with a two-year extension after last season when Seattle reached the second round of the playoffs and kept Hakstol under contract through the 2025-26 season.

“We had a real good season last year, went probably better than we expected and our staff did a good job and they got rewarded for it,” Francis said. “This season didn’t go as well as we had hoped and then you got to look at things and try and make decisions at the end of the season. That’s where we ended up at this point today.”

Francis hinted that changes could be coming less than a week after the season ended when he hedged and said a review was underway to analyze the entire coaching staff given the opportunity to confirm Hakstol would get a fourth season.

A week later, Hakstol was out. Francis also said assistant coach Paul McFarland would not return.

Seattle was unable to maintain the style of play that led to its success last season and couldn’t overcome significant injuries to Andre Burakovsky, Brandon Tanev and Philipp Grubauer early in the season. Seattle also played most of the final portion of the season without top defenseman Vince Dunn due to a neck injury.

Seattle started this season 8-14-7 including an eight-game losing streak, before a big turnaround in late December and January that pushed the Kraken back into the playoff conversation. But the Kraken went just 13-16-3 after the All-Star break and a painful overtime loss at home to Vegas on March 12 brought an end to any reasonable playoff aspirations.

Scoring goals was a problem that the Kraken couldn’t solve all season. Seattle was 29th in the league in goals scored, 29th in shooting percentage and 18th on the power play, negating a season of strong defense and goaltending.

Hakstol was a surprise choice when Seattle hired him to be the first coach in franchise history. His first stint as a coach in the NHL started strong in Philadelphia in 2015-16 with two playoff appearances in his first three seasons. But it fell apart in the fourth season and he was fired 25 games into that year with the Flyers at 8-11-6 and just 22 points.

It was a rough inaugural season for Seattle as the team dealt with the expectations of trying to match what Vegas did in its expansion season while balancing COVID-19 restrictions that impacted much of that first season. Seattle finished at 27-49-6 in that first season but rebounded in Year 2 when the Kraken finished with 100 points, toppled defending champion Colorado in the first round of the playoffs and took Dallas to a Game 7 in the Western Conference semifinals.

Todd McLellan and 2019 Stanley Cup winner Craig Berube are among the experienced NHL head coaches available, pending more movement around the league in the coming weeks. Francis said he didn’t have a timeline for trying to settle on a replacement.

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