|From left to right: Holmgren, Hakstol, Hextall, Snider|
The decision was a very unexpected one only because there were many big name coaches with a ton of experience who became available in the off season such as Mike Babcock and Todd McLellan. Dave Hakstol on the other hand has zero NHL experience. He has not coached nor played in the NHL in his career. That however, did not slow Hextall down when considering Hakstol for the job.
"I had a list of things I wanted from a head coach and I went down this checklist in my mind. Every box was checked, except for the NHL experience," Hextall told reporters at the press conference. "And quite frankly for me, that’s the least important.” Hakstol was upfront about his inexperience saying, "I don’t have experience at this level and I’m not going to pretend that I do. I do have a great deal of confidence in what we do. You have to go out and do the work. The bottom line is that I have to go out and do the work. That starts as we walk out of this room today, the preparation, hard work and details, all of those things that produce results."
Despite Hakstol not having NHL experience, he has quite the resume and respect when it comes to NCAA Hockey. Hakstol spent the last 11 seasons as the head coach of the University of North Dakota, one of the best hockey schools in the nation. During Hakstol's tenure as head coach, North Dakota had a winning record in each of those 11 seasons while compiling an impressive 289-143-43 record (.654 winning percentage). Hakstol's team qualified for the NCAA tournament championship every year (the longest stretch in program history and the third-longest streak in college hockey history), won three conference titles, four league playoff championships and seven Frozen Four births. The program he ran in North Dakota was phenomenal and extremely pro-like according to Dave Starman of CollegeHockeyNews:
[Hakstol] brought a pro mentality to an NCAA program and it worked. North Dakota is like a pro program. It's on TV all the time, either on their local network or on CBS Sports Network. It was an annual player in ESPN’s coverage of the NCAA tourney. It played to higher attendance figures than some NHL teams the past decade and played for a fan base so passionate about North Dakota hockey it reminded you of SEC football. I’ve always said playing goal for North Dakota is like playing goal for the Montreal Canadiens, it is that high profile a position in the area....
Dave Hakstol was able to succeed year in and year out despite the constant college turnover mainly because his fast paced system and the fact that he has confidence in himself and his players. This mentality helps him get the most out of his players. One of the main reasons why the Philadelphia Flyers fired Craig Berube a month ago, according to GM Ron Hextall, was his inability to get the best effort from his players. "I think in the end a coach's job is to get the most out of his players," Hextall said in April after relieving Berube of his duties. "And in the end that's the conclusion that I came to, was that that wasn't the case.
"Here's the thing with Dave Hakstol at North Dakota, he didn't just get great recruits," said TSN analyst Ryan Kennedy, "He consistently had success with constantly changing roster."
"He pushes his players," Hextall said of Hakstol. "And gets the most out of his players," while Hakstol stated, "Expectations are simple of myself, my staff, and my players: Accountability to ourselves and our organization."
Ron Hextall knew what was at stake, now Dave Hakstol knows whats at stake. They are taking an organization in a new direction for a rebuild. And who better to hire than a man who has only coached players between the ages of 18-24. Currently the Flyers have 7 players listed on their roster page who are 24 or under and 10 more players who haven't turned 28 yet. Philadelphia also has a lot of prospects who have a chance to possibly make it to the big club next season as well, such as Sam Morin, Shayne Gostisbehere, Scott Laughton to name a few.
Jonathan Toews, TJ Oshie, Matt Greene and Travis Zajac are just a few examples of players Hakstol coached who succeeded at the highest level. In fact Hakstol’s program has produced 20 NHL players and a total of 46 who have played professionally.
Add three more to that list if you include players he coached in the USHL in his time before North Dakota. Prior to his duties at UND, Hakstol coached the Sioux City Musketeers from 1996-2000 amassing a 102-109 record. There he coach Ruslan Fedotenko, Rostislav Klesla and David Hale who combined for a total of 1844 NHL games.
"The way he prepared us, was a lot like an NHL organization, he prepared us on and off the ice and wanted us to act as individuals. He pushed us to be the best players we were," Travis Zajac, assistant captain of the New Jersey Devils told NJ.com. "I hope he does well. He's a great person. He is a big reason of why I'm here today in the NHL."
|Hakstol giving his signature stare|
Dave Hakstol, nicknamed Hak, becomes only the fourth college coach to jump directly to a head coaching position in the NHL and first since 1987 when Herb Brooks, legendary 1980 US Olympic Miracle team coach, left St Cloud State to coach the Minnesota North Stars (in his second stint as an NHL coach). According to Starman:
Hakstol brings the one intangible many others might lack when reaching for the big time — confidence. While not knowing Herb Brooks real well, the times I was in his company for various hockey events I came away with the opinion that Herb was someone who really felt his way was right. I see that in Hakstol and I see someone who is confident his methodology works. For a guy who doesn’t say much, he says everything you need to hear and he says it with conviction. To a pro, that is worth its weight in gold.
Hakstol becomes the latest piece in Hextall's rebuilding process. Hextall could have made a run at the big names to try to win immediately but instead he hired a man who will grow with his young team. "I was never going to hire the people's choice, the popular choice," Hextall vehemently stated at the press conference. "I was going to hire the best coach for this franchise. He was our target all along."
When asked if he considered possible assistant coaches in the NHL for the job, Hextall said, "If you had said to me you can bring in an NHL assistant coach or you can bring in a guy who was a head coach in college for 11 years, I’d take the head coach every time.”
This is when Hextall made himself clear that he wants a leader behind the bench. Without taking a shot at former GM Paul Holmgren or ex coach Craig Berube, Hextall made it obvious that this was something their last coach lacked. Berube, who was hired by Holmgren, was an assistant coach to the Flyers before being upgraded to the head coaching position. Berube struggled to maintain consistency all season and with an extremely young team (only two players were over the age of 32), they needed their coach to be a leader. And since he failed to get his team, one that made the playoffs the previous year, to produce, he clearly lacked in that department, which led to his dismissal.
Hakstol's system according to experts focuses on controlling the center lane of the ice while being very fast paced. Dave Starman, a leading college hockey analyst, describes Hakstol's system:
His teams go at the net, shoot for rebounds, make plays, and really emphasize the defense being an active part of the offense.
His use of weak side [defensemen] to pinch and extend plays is a huge component to their offensive success, and defensive as well, as they don't retreat and regroup as much as other teams did.
Dave Hakstol built his teams to play with skill, pace, purpose, physicality, and passion.
This style will should help the struggling Flyers defensive corp. Michael Del Zotto, Mark Streit and Andrew MacDonald will all most likely see their offensive production increase which will lead to more shots and goals helping the Flyers, who were 22nd in the league in goals per game this season, score more. Also upcoming prospects Shayne Gostisbehere and Travis Sanheim, who already play that style should thrive when they eventually see their time in the NHL.
"He's developed young guys and it's pretty cool to see a guy go from college to the NHL," Gostisbehere told Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Dave Hakstol is also a solid communicator who preaches hard work as well as teamwork according to Travis Zajac. "He was easy to talk to. He's honest. That's the most important thing. He's not going to sugar coat anything. He expects the most out of you," Zajac told NJ.com. "He cares about his players and he wants you to succeed. He put everything he believed in North Dakota. He felt all of the tradition there and he kept that going for us. I think he'll bring that kind of mentality to Philly. He knows what that NHL organization means to the fans and to communities."
|Hakstol becomes the 19th coach in Flyers history|
More 'Hak' FACTS & QUOTES:
- Coached 7 Hobey Baker finalists
- Coached 11 players who were named All-American
- Stephane Pattyn (UND player Hakstol coached over the last four seasons) took to Twitter: "Huge congrats to coach Hakstol. One of the greatest mentor, leader, coach and man I have ever met. @NHLFlyers got a heck of a coach."
- Analyst Billy Jaffe said on Twitter: "Have known Dave Hakstol a while. He will earn respect quickly & adapt where needed. Smart, structured & polished. Shrewd hire by @NHLFlyers"
- During the Dave Hakstol era, UND won more games than any program in the nation - two more than Boston College, 12 more than Michigan.
- Was an 8 time finalist for Spencer Penrose Award (top college coach)
- In Hakstol's last five seasons with UND his team was a combined plus 178 averaging plus 35.6 per season. His team ranked number 1 in his final season with a plus 44.
- 2015 UND Stats:
- Goals Per Game: 3.25 (9th in NCAA)
- Goals Against: 2.21 (11th)
- PowerPlay %: 20.36% (12th)
- Penalty Killing %: 84.02% (24th) - scored 12 short handed goals
- Tied for most wins in league with 29
- Erik Fabian, UND defenseman who was coached by Hakstol for 4 seasons told Grand Forks Herald his favorite 'Hak' story, looking behind all the stern stares:
- Erik Fabian remembers getting swept by Maine at home during his senior season. The coaching staff wasn’t particularly pleased with the team’s play. After talking to the media, Fabian started walking down the hallway back to the locker room when he spotted Hakstol. “He’s in the hallway and all of the sudden he sees [his daughter] Avery, who must have been a year old at the time,” Fabian said. “He instantly lights up, picks her up and gives her a big hug and a kiss. That sums him up in a nutshell. You would never think that man could smile after that game, but he did. That’s my favorite Hak story.”
- Also mentioned in the Grand Forks Herald article by Brad Elliott Schlossman are more serious and touching moments that Hakstol would never discuss:
- Hakstol took a terminally ill patient on a charter flight with the team to go to a road trip once. He has done the same with a special needs student, who was a big fan of the team.
- There was the time that two of his players went to Colorado to be with their mother, who was in her final days. After she passed away, the players walked out of the hospital room and the first person standing there was Hakstol.