Seattle Kraken fire head coach Dave Hakstol after three seasons

The Seattle Kraken fired head coach Dave Hakstol on Monday after three seasons on the bench following a disappointing campaign for a team that reached the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs a season ago.

General manager Ron Francis said last week that Hakstol's performance was under evaluation after the team regressed heavily offensively from their playoff campaign of 2022-23.

"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.

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 15: Seattle Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol during the third period against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on February 15, 2024 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Winslow Townson / Getty Images)

"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."

Francis ultimately decided a change was needed.

"I thank Dave for his hard work and dedication to the Kraken franchise," Francis said in a statement. "Following our end-of-the-season review, we have decided to make a change at our head coach position. These decisions are never easy, but we feel that this is a necessary step to help ensure our team continues to improve and evolve. Dave is a good coach and a terrific person. We wish him and his family all the best. We will begin our search for the Kraken’s next head coach immediately."

Additionally, assistant coach Paul McFarland will not return to the team next season either.

"We would also like to thank Paul for his contributions to our hockey team and wish him and his family well moving forward," Francis said.

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. 

A win over Vegas would have allowed the Kraken to keep pace in the playoff chase into the final weeks of the season. Instead, Jonathan Marchessault scored with 16 seconds remaining to force overtime and Jack Eichel delivered the winner in the extra period for the Golden Knights in a critical 5-4 loss. Successive losses to Washington, Nashville and Buffalo truly sealed the team’s fate in a losing streak that would eventually reach eight games.

"You may lose, you may win, but we want to feel good about a 60-minute effort where we went out there and put everything on the line. It's been kind of inconsistent throughout the whole year and that's kind of been frustrating," forward Jordan Eberle said after the loss to the Sabres on March 18.

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 Golden Knights three days later as their plummet began.

The final dagger for Hakstol may have come in 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."

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. Another area when Seattle struggled this season was in overtime. Their 13 losses in overtime are fourth-most in the league behind the Montreal Canadiens (16), New York Islanders (16) and Boston Bruins (15). 

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.

"It shouldn't be hard (to have the effort)," forward Oliver Bjorkstrand said after the loss to Washington on March 14. "We're fighting for a playoff spot, so yeah it shouldn't be hard."

"I thought we were streaky, so I mean that that leads to being inconsistent," Francis said last week. "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.

Despite only being at the helm three seasons, Hakstol was the sixth-longest tenured head coach in the NHL. Only Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper (2013), Pittsburgh’s Mike Sullivan (2015), Colorado’s Jared Bednar (2016), Carolina’s Rod Brind'Amour (2018), and Toronto’s Sheldon Keefe (2019) have held their positions longer. Hakstol moved into sixth following the firing of Don Granato by the Buffalo Sabres earlier this month.


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