A Look Into 3 Potential Candidates to Coach the Seattle Kraken

Seattle Kraken celebrate win at Climate Pledge Arena
Steph Chambers / Getty Images

As the dust settles on the announcement of Dave Hakstol’s release from the Seattle Kraken, news surrounding a new head coach for the franchise has been at a standstill. As the Kraken searches for Hakstol’s replacement, they must look for someone with a proven track record and the ability to build up young talent. 

Though the franchise has been quiet, a few candidates’ names have been thrown around within the hockey community, each offering unique values. 

Dan Bylsma

Dan Bylsma, the current head coach for the Coachella Valley Firebirds, the Kraken’s AHL affiliate team, has been a common name mentioned in potential candidates since Hakstol’s release was announced. Bylsma had had an impressive coaching career, with his most significant accomplishment in 2009, when he led the Pittsburgh Penguins to win the Stanley Cup, making him the 14th coach and second mid-season replacement to win a Stanley Cup in their first season. He went on to coach the Penguins for six seasons and landed a spot in the playoffs every season. Bylsma also coached the Buffalo Sabres for two seasons (2015 – 2017) and was an assistant coach for the Detroit Red Wings from June 2018 to May 2021. 

Dan Bylsma smiling in front of Coachella Valley Firebirds background
Kraken Canada via X

In June 2022, Bylsma was named the first-ever head coach of the Coachella Valley Firebirds, leading them to success during the two seasons he’s coached. During the 2022-23 season, Bylsma and the Firebirds made it to the final round of the Calder Cup Playoffs, where they lost to the Hershey Bears (a Washington Capitals affiliate). Currently, the Firebirds are in the Pacific Division Finals with a two-game lead on the Ontario Reign. 

Though there has been a lot of talk surrounding Bylsma’s potential to move up to the Kraken, he has yet to show much interest. This could be to avoid distraction during the Calder Cup Playoffs, or he may not be interested in moving. However, his familiarity with the future Kraken players and impressive coaching record makes him a solid choice for the Kraken. 

Todd McLellan

Another experienced head coach on the market is Todd McLellan, who was dismissed by the Los Angeles Kings in February of this year after being with the franchise since 2019. McLellan has been coaching teams since 1993, when he was first hired as the North Battleford North Stars coach in the Saskatchewan Junior League. From then on, he continued to move up in the ranks, coaching for WHL, AHL, and eventually NHL teams. 

In 2005, McLellan made his NHL debut as Mike Babcock’s assistant coach for the Detroit Red Wings. While with this team, McLellan handled the Red Wings forwards, managed the team’s power plays, and reported player performance to Babcock. While under McLellan’s direction, the team had one of the top-ranked power plays in the NHL and went on to win the Stanley Cup during the 2007 – 08 season. At the end of the 2007 – 08 season, McLellan was named the new head coach of the San Jose Sharks and led the team to their first-ever Presidents Trophy with 117 points to finish the regular season. He coached the team until the end of the 2014 – 15 season, when they agreed to part ways.

Todd McLellan coaching an NHL team
NHL via X

In 2015, McLellan coached the Canadian team at the World Championship. That year, the team won the title for the first time since 2007 with a perfect 10-0 record. A few days later, he was named head coach of the Edmonton Oilers. This first season with the team was all about rebuilding, as the Oilers finished their previous season with 70 points and the title of the league’s second-worst record. The following season, the Oilers had over 100 points for the first time since the 1980s, and in 2017, the team made the playoffs for the first time in 11 years.

The 2023-24 season proved challenging for the Kraken. Their defense was strong, but they struggled with inconsistencies in goaltending and offense, which calls for some evaluation during this offseason. The team’s offensive struggles were particularly evident, with a lack of scoring depth and difficulty in generating high-quality scoring chances. McLellan’s strong track record and ability to rebuild teams and foster growth make him a strong candidate for the Seattle Kraken, who are still trying to find their identity and address these issues. 

Jay Leach

Jay Leach is the current assistant coach for the Seattle Kraken, which would make him an easy choice. Leach has been with the Kraken as an assistant coach since 2021 and has been essential in helping shape the team’s defense. 

However, Leach doesn’t have much coaching experience, and he was only introduced to coaching for the NHL when he joined the Seattle Kraken franchise. His coaching career began in 2014 when Leach became an assistant coach for the Adler Mannheim of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) and helped lead them to their sixth DEL Championship. A year later, in 2015, Leech was appointed assistant coach for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins), though this only lasted one season. In 2016, Leach joined the Providence Bruins (Boston Bruins affiliate) as an assistant coach and stayed with them until he moved to the Seattle Kraken. 

Jay Leach talking to coach
AHL via X

It’s no secret that he has helped improve the team’s defensive performance; however, it’s unsure how he would address the team’s offensive issues. Even though his head coaching experience with the NHL is non-existent, his familiarity with the Kraken’s dynamic gives him a unique advantage.

With teams such as the Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres, and Toronto Maple Leafs all naming new head coaches, fewer options are becoming available for the Seattle Kraken. It’s been made evident that the team needs work, and with so much that needs to be decided on when it comes to building the team (such as who to sign, who to let go, etc.), a choice will need to be made sooner rather than later.

We Got The Jack Inside The Rink

In episode 8 of the Inside The Rink podcast, Matty and Smitty are joined by new co-host Conrad Jack. After the long hiatus, we get back to hockey with a PACKED episode!Matt Rempe & the Devils vs. Rangers Line BrawlCould the Vancouver Canucks squander a playoff opportunity? Have the Winnipeg Jets finally figured out their lines?Flyers Head Coach John Tortorella is a sound byte MACHINEOvechkin is on his way to 895, Who is next?McDavid joins elite company with 100 Assists in a seasonRyan Hartman was suspended 3 Games, was it worth 3 games??Can Auston Matthews hit 70 Goals this season?The Eastern Conference Wild Card race is heating up, who lands the two playoff berths?For all of your hockey news and more from the show, visit us at insidetherink.com and watch us on YouTube! How to support us and our sponsors:TicketmasterColumbia Sports ApparelESPN+ SubscriptionFanaticsDraft Kings – CODE ITR
  1. We Got The Jack
  2. Episode 7. Player Safety First!
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  5. Episode 4. Ottawa’s On Fire

One thought on “A Look Into 3 Potential Candidates to Coach the Seattle Kraken”

  1. Don’t go McLellan, he’s a good person but a mixed coach. Bruce Boudreau might be a good option.

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