He may not be a household name like Mike Babcock, he may not be a Flyers insider like Craig Berube was, and he may have a similar sounding name to Flyers GM Ron Hextall.
But the Flyers, and Hextall found their man Monday morning as the Orange and Black will be led by North Dakota coachDave Hakstol.
“We met parts of four days,” the Flyers’ GM said explaining his hiring process.”We were on the phone a lot, everything checked out the way that we hoped it would check out. I had a list of things I wanted from a head coachand I went down this check list in my mind and every box was checked except for the NHL experience, and quite frankly to me that’s the least important.”
Hakstoll has no NHL experience in his resume, but that could be the only glaring weakness in his body of work.Over the last 11 seasons (289-143-43, .654) he has reached the postseason in every single one. His team reached the Frozen Four seven times during his tenure, the most of any team during that span. In2014-15, he led North Dakota to a 29-10-3 record with a .726 winning percentage and a berth in the NCAA Frozen Four.
He’s a coach who values defense, a weakness for the Flyers last season. He also loves two-way players, and is a teacher as much as he is a signal-caller. Flyers’ president Mike Holmgren said that Hakstoll runs a “pro style offense.”
And perhaps he had the right connections too, as Hextall’s son was coached by Hakstol in college.
“Watching my son over the years I got an appreciation for Dave and the way he coached,” Hextall said.”I believe he was destined for it, he has a lot of pro qualities, he has a lot of experience as a head coach.”
An impressive slate of players have learned and developed under Hakstol in North Dakota, most notablyJonathan Toews,Matt Greene,T.J. Oshie, Travis Zajac,Drew Stafford and Chris VandeVelde.
Clearly he knows how to handle NHL talent. But those were students, and the Flyers are paid professionals.
“There are going to be several adjustments along the way,” Hakstol, the Flyers 19th head coach said.”I think No. 1, I believe in what we do and in the things I do and I’m not going to change that at this level. The delivery of that message may be different at this level. I don’t have experience at the levelIwon’t pretend that I do but I have an awful lot of confidence in being able to relate and communicate with players.”
The Flyers are a proud fan base, and one that is frustrated after having missed the playoffs in 2015. But the pressure and high stakes of coaching in Philly were a draw, not a negative for Hakstol.
“That was one of the big attractions as we talked further and further,” Hakstol, a two-time conference (NCHC)coach of the year, said.”Ultimately the history tradition of this organization is something that’s really special. And with that come a lot of expectations and we all know that full well.”