Ron Francis: Future of Dave Hakstol, Seattle Kraken coaching staff under evaluation

Seattle Kraken general manager Ron Francis speaks with reporters at a season-ending press conference on April 22, 2024 at the Kraken Community Iceplex in Seattle, Wash. (Curtis Crabtree / FOX 13 Seattle)

Seattle Kraken general manager Ron Francis said the future of Dave Hakstol and the entire team's coaching staff remains under evaluation as the front office does its autopsy on a disappointing season that finished well outside the playoffs.

Francis wouldn't confirm that Hakstol would be back for a fourth season as head coach when asked directly during his season-ending press availability on Monday.

"You're going to read into it one way or the other, but this is the process we do every year and that's what we're in right now," Hakstol said.

"It's part of the process we go through now, right? As I talked about earlier, meeting with the coaching staff, the management team, all that stuff and assessing it, so we're still in that process now."

The Kraken struggled offensively for most of the year and completely fell apart after a crushing loss in overtime to the Vegas Golden Knights on March 12 that effectively ended the team’s playoff chances. Seattle managed to go just 6-12-2 over their final 20 games of the season to finish with 81 points in the standings. They were also shutout seven times this year.

It was a significant step back from a 2022-23 campaign that saw the team make it to Game 7 of the second round against the Dallas Stars.

Francis said they are currently doing their assessments into the reasons the season didn't go as anticipated. He noted that they are the only team to finish in the top 10 of the league defensively that didn't make the playoffs, which was heavily influenced by a significant dip in shooting percentage and goals scored from the playoff campaign of a season ago.

He also said their injury luck was far more problematic this season.

"You know, there's certain things, and like I talked about, the defensive aspect of the game we were really good. So there's kudos for that," Francis said. 

"This was kind of a unique season, and that's what we kind of got to dig through. I mean, last season -- everybody has injuries, I'm not using that as an excuse -- but like our first major injury happened after the All-Star break when (Andre) Burakovsky tore his groin. Before that we had guys out for one game, maybe two games. This year, it was totally different in that regard. We lost (Brandon) Tanev in game one and he was out for like the next 12 games. Some things that we don't talk about, like (Jordan) Eberle ended up breaking his hand in game four, but he continued to play for the next six weeks with a broken hand. We lost Burakovsky after getting six and he played in one game between then and December 29. So there was a lot of things that affected our chemistry as a team and as a lineup."

Even despite those issues, the Kraken were five games over. 500 following a win over the Winnipeg Jets on March 5 just days ahead of the NHL trade deadline. But the team would lose to the Jets at home on deadline day three days later, and lose to the Vegas Golden Knights three days later as their plummet began.

The low points came with a dreadful 5-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on March 24 that saw their losing streak reach eight games. The Kraken fell behind a bad Montreal team 4-0 in the first period and couldn’t recover. Hakstol expressed his significant frustration following the loss.

"This game comes down to 20 guys battling hard, competing hard, working for one another and doing it from start of shift to the end of the shift and next group goes out," Hakstol said. "… "If you want me to go through each one, good and bad, I'll do that. But throw a blanket over it. That's what it comes down to. And we've got to make a really hard choice in here."

"You play this game with passion, you play it with heart, you play it for the guy next to you and we're not doing that right now and that's more than disappointing."

The team was in a chasing position all season after a bad start to the year in October. The Kraken managed to win just two of their first nine games (2-5-2) and had to try and dig out of that early hole in the standings. An eight-game losing streak in December was offset by a nine-game winning streak in January to get the team back tied for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. However, the nine-game winning streak was followed immediately with four straight losses as illnesses hit several players simultaneously. A loss to the moribund San Jose Sharks entering the All-Star break was a big setback as well.

The Kraken did deliver some strong performances against many of the league’s best teams. They managed a pair of victories over both the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins, who finished the year as the top-seed in each conference. Seattle also beat the Florida Panthers, Winnipeg Jets, Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning. However, they couldn’t consistently beat teams in the lower half of the standings. They lost twice to the Sharks, Canadiens and Arizona Coyotes, and also suffered losses to the Ottawa Senators and Chicago Blackhawks as well, all of which were teams that finished behind Seattle in the standings.

"I thought we were streaky, so I mean that that leads to being inconsistent," Francis said. "You know, I think some of the times we went into the losing streaks it was kind of an injury here or there, but we have to find a way to sort of pull ourselves out of it. Some of it deals with the chemistry or lack thereof and we couldn't stay with set lines where last year we had sort of lines running and everybody knew each other and how it went, and we were kind of constantly, it seemed, sort of plugging a guy here or there to do it differently. But certainly, we want to get back to the full identity we had last year in being a team that when people talk about this, they say we play fast and we play hard and that's our goal."

The Kraken finished with the eighth-worst record in the NHL with 81 points after a 34-35-13 campaign. They have a six percent chance of getting the No. 1 overall pick in the NHL Draft Lottery, which is set to be held in early May.


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