West Coast hockey is about to get a lot more interesting in the upcoming 2021-22 season. Why? Because of the entry of the new team, the Seattle Kraken, into it. The Kraken becomes the 32nd NHL team.
And today, June 24th, 2021 they named their coach, a surprise to some. Dave Hakstol coached the Philadelphia Flyers between 2015 and 2018 and went 134-101-42 over the three seasons.
He then moved to Toronto as Assistant Head Coach from 2019-2021. His responsibility during this past season was defense, where the Maple Leafs were listed as the fifth best team for 5 on 5 hockey across the 60 minutes of play.
I wonder at the added pressure on a Coach when they step into the role of setting up a team with a new franchise. There is pressure enough for a new Coach when they join a team between seasons, but to be starting from scratch must add additional pressure.
Hakstol appears to have plenty of experience working with players, especially at the NHL level. And he joins a group of very strong coaches that already work for the West Coast Teams.
Other West Coast Club Coaches
Travis Green the Head Coach of the Vancouver Canucks is going to be Dave Hakstol’s biggest rival given their proximity. It seems as though the Canucks organization is happy with the job Green is doing as there is talk his contract will be renewed post this 2020-21 season.
Jared Bednar has proven his abilities as an NHL Head Coach by taking the Colorado Avalanche up from the bottom of the NHL ladder to three straight seasons in the Playoffs. The team was best in the NHL 5 on 5 defensively and went on to with not on the Western Conference finals but also the Presidents Trophy.
Peter DeBoer moved from San Jose to the Vegas Golden Knights in 2020 and has taken that team to the second round of the Playoffs. We await the outcome of tomorrow nights game to see if they make it the step further into the finals.
Todd McLellan, the LA King’s Coach was bought in with five years to turn the team around. Did they improve this season? Maybe, and with plenty of time yet to prove he can do it, lets see what the Kings can do next season.
Bob Boughner an ex-Colorado Avalanche player is now the Coach of the San Jose Sharks. He was the interim coach after DeBoer was fired during the 2019-20 season and got his opportunity this season to see what his team could do. Unfortunately, they did not make the Playoffs, which of course is always the teams desired outcome.
Dallas Eakins, Coach of the Anaheim Ducks moved into his role as Head Coach last season, after having been the Ducks AHL Affiliate, the San Diego Gulls head coach between 2015-19. The Gulls made it to the Calder Cup finals during that time. He had experience coaching the Oilers previously so it will be interesting to see how he goes handling the Ducks.
The Arizona Coyotes are currently without a Head Coach after the firing of Rick Tocchet at the end of the regular season.
Each of these Coaches bring a wealth of experience to their roles and have jobs to do with their teams, under immense pressure and they will now become rivals for Hakstol.
Next Stop the Expansion Draft
Whilst the Kraken added their Coach officially to the organization today the next day of dread for hockey fans across the NHL is Expansion Draft Day – July 21.
On that day each of the teams across the entire NHL, except for the Vegas Golden Knights, the golden child, gets to give up players to the newly formed Kraken. Fans are already in the space of speculating which of their favorite players will be lost to this new team.
We watched it all happen several years ago when Vegas entered the League and now it will happen all over again with the Kraken.
Some of the teams are already in discussion with Seattle Kraken regarding negotiation of players for the expansion. It is clear that GM’s such as Joe Sakic have already had discussions with Seattle as have a number of other GMs.
Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down For Expansion
Is expansion great for the game of ice hockey? Absolutely, especially with the addition of another West Coast team. Whilst the East Coast teams would tell you that they are stronger than the teams over here, I beg to differ.
The Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights showed they were THE strongest and best teams in the NHL during the regular season. And the only disappointing part about this COVID ridden season is that both of these teams from the West Coast had to play each other in the second round of the Playoffs.
So as we watch this space waiting to see what the new Seattle Kraken team will look like, we also get to see the changes that will occur within our own favorite West Coast Hockey teams.
Is it October yet?