Ranking the Top 5 Candidates to Be the Kraken's Head Coach
The Seattle Kraken will make their NHL debut in 2021-22. Their roster will take shape during the expansion draft slated for July 21.
Who will become the Kraken's head coach during their inaugural season and beyond remains a mystery. General manager Ron Francis was coy about that decision during an April 14 Zoom meeting with the media. He said his intention remains to make that hiring by "the end of the second quarter of this year," which is late June.
Francis also said his preference is for candidates with NHL coaching experience. That's because of how quickly the coach will have to bring everyone together before the season begins in October.
The Kraken GM could have his eye on unemployed coaches or perhaps one or two working for other NHL teams. He will need permission to speak to anyone under contract with other clubs.
Here's a look at the top five candidates to become the Kraken's head coach. NHL experience and coaching records factored into this compilation.
5. Rick Tocchet
Rick Tocchet is in the final season of his contract with the Arizona Coyotes. He's done a good job with a young roster in difficult circumstances given last year's front-office upheaval, which saw Bill Armstrong take over as general manager. On Tocchet's watch, the Coyotes upset the Nashville Predators in last year's qualifying round and are jockeying for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Honda West Division.
Tocchet won one Stanley Cup during his 18 seasons as a player before turning to coaching. His first head-coaching gig was with the Tampa Bay Lightning from 2008-09 to 2009-10. He went on to spend three seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins as an assistant coach (2014-15 to 2016-17), helping them win two Stanley Cups before joining the Coyotes.
Armstrong could re-sign Tocchet given the Coyotes' promising improvement. However, if the Coyotes GM decides a change is needed behind the bench, perhaps Francis will put in a call to his old Penguins teammate.
4. Rod Brind'Amour
In the final season of his three-year contract with the Carolina Hurricanes, Rod Brind'Amour has done a fine job turning that club into a Stanley Cup contender. He could also have similar success with Seattle.
Francis has a personal connection with Brind'Amour. They were teammates with the Hurricanes from 1999-2000 to 2003-04. The latter was also an assistant coach during Francis' tenure as Hurricanes GM from 2014 to 2018.
Brind'Amour's solid record as the Hurricanes' head coach (115 wins, 64 losses, 17 overtime losses) will likely earn him a contract extension. If those discussions break down, however, Brind'Amour could become the favorite to coach the Kraken.
3. Bruce Boudreau
Bruce Boudreau has a reputation as a colorful character. He was an extra in the 1977 cult classic Slap Shot, while his talkative nature earned him a gig with NHL Network. He's also spent 13 seasons as an NHL head coach and sports experience in building rosters, winning the Jack Adams Award in 2008 with the Washington Capitals as the league's best coach.
Boudreau helmed the Capitals from 2007-08 to 2011-12, turning a club that was building around then-young stars Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom into a dominant franchise. Fired by the Capitals during 2011-12, he was quickly hired by the Anaheim Ducks, going on to lead them to four straight Pacific Division titles. He also spent four seasons coaching the Minnesota Wild.
With a record of 567 wins, 302 losses and 115 overtime losses, Boudreau has proved he can help clubs quickly achieve regular-season success. His outspoken personality could also help the Kraken sell their product to Seattle sports fans.
2. Claude Julien
The most experienced coach on our list, Claude Julien boasts an impressive resume that could prove enticing to the Kraken. He's enjoyed success throughout his 18 seasons as an NHL bench boss, with a career record of 667 wins, 445 losses, 10 ties and 152 overtime losses.
Julien's best years came during his tenure with the Boston Bruins from 2007-08 to 2016-17. He won the Jack Adams Award in 2009 and guided the Bruins to the Stanley Cup in 2011 and the Cup Final in 2013. Notable Bruins such as Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Tuukka Rask became stars under his coaching.
Taking over a rebuilding roster in Boston and shaping it into a winner within four years was an impressive accomplishment by Julien. His ability to work well with veterans and young talent could make him a good fit in Seattle.
1. Gerard Gallant
No one on this list knows better than Gerard Gallant what it takes to coach an expansion team. He guided the Vegas Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Final during their inaugural campaign in 2017-18, earning the Jack Adams Award for his efforts.
Gallant was fired midway through his third season with Vegas, but that doesn't detract from his fine work in turning the Golden Knights into a playoff club. He finished with a record of 118 wins, 75 losses and 20 overtime losses. Before that, he had six years of NHL coaching experience with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Florida Panthers.
Knowing what it takes to quickly bring together an expansion roster should give Gallant a leg up over the other candidates. He would also bring that unique experience to bear when dealing with the local press and the fans. His presence could also make it easier for the Kraken to handle the high expectations they could face to replicate the Golden Knights' success.