Seattle Kraken announce Dan Bylsma as new head coach

Bylsma, a former NHL head coach and Stanley Cup winner, has been coaching Seattle’s AHL affiliate.

  • Shayna Goldman, Rob Rossi and Pierre LeBrun, The Athletic
  • Tuesday, May 28, 2024 12:08pm
  • SportsKraken

The Seattle Kraken announced Dan Bylsma as the organization’s coach Tuesday.

“Dan is a winner with a proven track record of developing both young and veteran talent and his leadership will help our team as we move forward,” Kraken general manager Ron Francis said in a statement. “He knows our franchise, has worked with several of our NHL players, and we are excited to have him behind the bench and guiding our team next season.”

Bylsma has coached the Coachella Valley Firebirds, Seattle’s AHL affiliate, since 2022. His last NHL head-coaching experience stint came with the Buffalo Sabres in 2016-17 when his team went 33-37-12 in their second consecutive losing season.

The Kraken fired Dave Hakstol, the only coach in the franchise’s brief history, on April 29 after Seattle failed to make the postseason. Hakstol led the Kraken to one playoff appearance during his three-year tenure in Seattle.

Bylsma spent six seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins before his time with the Sabres. He led the Penguins to a Stanley Cup championship during his first season at the helm in Pittsburgh in 2009 and won the Jack Adams Coach of the Year Award in 2011.

Bylsma has a 320-190 record as a coach with a .615 winning percentage.

Bylsma makes sense for the Kraken for a few reasons. First and foremost, he has had a relationship with the franchise as the Firebirds coach for the last two seasons. There, he developed a relationship with young players in Seattle’s pipeline who are pivotal to its long-term success.

And Bylsma’s coaching style seemed to click with those players, considering the Firebirds’ success over the last few seasons — a run to the Calder Cup Final last year, and a trip to the Western Conference final this year, that kicks off Wednesday.

Bylsma took the Kraken’s AHL job because he desired another shot at running an NHL bench and “it (was) obvious the American League is the best path.”

He said he learned “a lot about today’s players” while as an assistant with Detroit following his short tenure as head coach with Buffalo. One thing he learned is “there’s more than one way to play” — a nod to criticism that his system grew stale in Pittsburgh after he won the Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2009.

Bylsma still favors an attacking style that allows skilled skaters to make plays. He also still prefers wingers who can create space with speed and physicality.

But the stretch passes that were his hallmark in Pittsburgh — and never worked with Buffalo — are no longer the main element of his offense. His teams at Coachella varied their attack based on personnel, a signal that Bylsma is less rigid.

Bylsma has a strong relationship with Kraken associate general manager Jason Botterill, who held the same role in Pittsburgh when Bylsma was hired to coach its AHL affiliate.

The biggest task for Bylsma with the Kraken will be finding a way to bolster their offensive attack. Roster construction and a lack of elite star power up front have something to do with their underwhelming offense this year.

But some individual stumbles and the power play’s failings have fallen on coaching. So now with a head coach in the fold, the next question is who will fill out the rest of the staff in Seattle, as assistant Paul MacFarland who ran the power play was also let go with Hakstol.

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