On Monday morning when it was announced that Dave Hakstol would become the next Flyers head coach, SportsRadio 94 WIP host Angelo Cataldi asked hockey experts Keith Jones and Al Morganti what they knew about the new coach. They both answered that they knew basically nothing about him.
This response should not reflect badly on either Jones or Morganti, who may well be the two brightest hockey minds in the Philadelphia media. This was a hiring that came completely out of the blue, and as the search for a new coach took place over the past month, virtually no one even knew who Dave Hakstol was. And absolutely no one predicted that he would be named the 19th head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers. So with that in mind, I would like to offer a few key things Flyers fans should know about our new head coach.
He may well be the “Chip Kelly” of college hockey
Hakstol is a winner, and he has the resume to prove it. In his eleven years as head coach at North Dakota his team has made it to the Frozen Four (the NCAA hockey championship) seven times. In addition, he has a career .692 winning percentage and has never had a losing season. He has also been an eight-time finalist for the Spencer Penrose Award as college hockey’s top coach. In addition, Hakstol had no less than 20 players come through his program that have gone on to skate in the NHL, including Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks, T.J. Oshie of the St. Louis Blues, and Chris VandeVelde of the Flyers. Ron Hextall’s son, Brett, who is now on the Phantoms has also played for Hakstol at North Dakota.
Hakstol is considered to be a true innovator and a superb college coach, but comes with no professional experience. And despite an impressive list of accomplishments he has never won a championship. Sound like anyone else we know?
Hakstol Likes an Offensive Defense
In his playing days at North Dakota and in the International Hockey League, Hakstol was a stay at home defenseman. But at North Dakota his coaching style has often been just the opposite. He likes his guys at the blue line to jump up into the play and score. On last year’s Flyers, there were really only two defensemen who seemed capable of this kind of play – Mark Streit and Michael Del Zotto. It will be very interesting to see of any of the young potential defensive stars the Flyers have will fit in with this type of approach.
Not only do Hextall’s and Hakstol’s names sound similar, they also have something else in common.
Anyone who watched Ron Hextall play for the Flyers will remember the tremendous intensity he brought to the game. Hakstol is also known for having that same level of intensity. This approach to the game that the two men share was most likely a key factor in this hiring. “He pushes players. He gets the most out of his players,” said Hextall.
Interestingly enough, one of the things that plagued the Flyers this past season was a lack of intensity. For example, they were a feeble 8-18 in overtime games, and even worse, they lost 12 straight games against non-playoff teams at the end of the season.
Whether a new coach with a new approach can get the team to “bring it” throughout a long 82 game schedule and beyond remains to be seen. But clearly Hextall and Hakstol will be on the same page with their approach to the game.
A New Era Begins
In May of 2014 the Hextall era began as he took over the duties of General Manager. Now, one year later, the Hakstol era has also begun. It remains to be seen if the new coach can transfer his expertise to the NHL game, and if the team can adopt the intense competitive personalities of their GM and coach. But if everything falls into place, the Hextall/Hakstol era could turn out to be a great one, and Dave Hakstol could become a household name in Philly.