Lessons learned with Flyers valuable for Seattle coach Hakstol

Seattle Kraken coach Dave Hakstol, who ran the Flyers’ bench for three-plus seasons, addresses the media after Monday morning’s skate at the Wells Fargo Center. (Photo by Wayne Fish)
      PHILADELPHIA – The so-called thousand-mile journey of a National Hockey League coaching career begins with a single step and so it was with Dave Hakstol some six years ago.
      Fresh out of coaching the University of North Dakota team and billed as someone who had the hockey smarts to become the first coach in 35 years to successfully make the jump from college hockey straight to the pros, Hakstol had his ups and downs over his three-plus year tenure here.
      In a sense, he learned what works at this level and what doesn’t. Ultimately, it didn’t work out in Philadelphia but that didn’t stop Toronto from hiring him as an assistant coach for a couple years, nor did it dissuade Seattle Kraken GM Ron Francis from giving him another chance as the expansion team’s first head coach.
      “The experience (with the Flyers) was extremely valuable,’’ Hakstol said after a morning skate prior to Monday night’s Flyers-Seattle game at the Wells Fargo Center. “Just going through the experiences that come with being in the league is extremely valuable. Obviously you apply some core beliefs. . .the experience of it and the purpose that it brings is extremely important.’’
      Hakstol did pass some familiar faces in the hallway but there is not a lot of time for pleasantries in a competitive situation.
      “Brief conversations on game day but nice to shake hands and say hello,’’ Hakstol said. “I don’t think either way there was a lot of luck wished to be affected but I was able to meet with a couple players this morning.’’
      Hakstol had been back to the WFC a time or two with Toronto before Monday morning’s return visit with the Kraken. It might still takes some getting used to.
      “A couple years ago I took a wrong turn,’’ he said. “I took a turn toward a wrong door but I’ve got it down now.’’
      Flyers coach Alain Vigneault mentioned the other day that he had experience working with Hakstol at the World Championships and came away impressed with his knowledge of the game. There appears to be mutual respect there.
      “He (Vigneault) loves a good martini, I’ll tell you that,’’ Hakstol kidded. “Everybody has their own way. He’s extremely well prepared, very set in his core beliefs. He communicates that really well. For me, those things stand out.’’
      Vigneault was asked if his first trips back to places he previously coached were emotional experiences.
      “That first time you play against your former team, anybody who tells you it’s not special isn’t being truthful,’’ Vigneault said. “After the first time it becomes just another game. Points are hard to get, you focus on that.’’
      Travis Konecny had some good seasons under Hakstol so there are good feelings still in place.
      “It will be fun,’’ Konecny said of the reunion. “It’s different when you see him on different teams when you had him for so long. It’s exciting for him, it’s pretty cool for him to have that job now. Hopefully everything goes well for him, just not tonight.’’
      >Ristolainen still out
      Vigneault had injured defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen working out at the morning skate but the Flyers called up Nick Seeler from the Phantoms to play in Monday night’s game. Vigneault is still hedging on when Ristolainen might be ready.
      “He’s getting better,’’ Vigneault said. “He’s day-to-day but it turned out to be almost a week now.’’
      >Hayes involved
      Although Kevin Hayes (abdominal surgery) will be on injured reserve for at least a couple more weeks, he’s at least skating with his teammates now in low-impact drills.
      Vigneault agreed it’s good to see him out there.
      “Kevin’s been in everything,’’ Vigneault said. “In the gym, doing his rehab, working out, going out on the ice, all our meetings. He’s been a real part of this team, he’s wanted to stay close and help the new players come in.’’
      News came out recently that the death of Kevin’s brother, Jimmy (an NHL player), was drug-related. Vigneault addressed the topic of whether more education for the players is needed regarding this subject because a number of players are involved with painkillers, etc.
      “We all saw the news yesterday,’’ Vigneault said. “Our thoughts and support go with Kevin and his family. There’s no doubt we could all do a little more (to keep players informed). But I don’t think this is (just) a hockey-related problem, it’s a society problem. When we know someone (with a problem), we should try to do a little bit more.’’
About Wayne Fish 1501 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.