The Seattle Kraken will make their NHL debut in 2021-22. Their roster will take shape during the expansion draft slated for July 21.
Who will become the Kraken’s head coach during their inaugural season and beyond remains a mystery. General manager Ron Francis was coy about that decision during an April 14 Zoom meeting with the media. He said his intention remains to make that hiring by “the end of the second quarter of this year,” which is late June.
Francis also said his preference is for candidates with NHL coaching experience. That’s because of how quickly the coach will have to bring everyone together before the season begins in October.
The Kraken GM could have his eye on unemployed coaches or perhaps one or two working for other NHL teams. He will need permission to speak to anyone under contract with other clubs.
Here’s a look at the top five candidates to become the Kraken’s head coach. NHL experience and coaching records factored into this compilation.
5. Rick Tocchet
Rick Tocchet is in the final season of his contract with the Arizona Coyotes. He’s done a good job with a young roster in difficult circumstances given last year’s front-office upheaval, which saw Bill Armstrong take over as general manager. On Tocchet’s watch, the Coyotes upset the Nashville Predators in last year’s qualifying round and are jockeying for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Honda West Division.
Tocchet won one Stanley Cup during his 18 seasons as a player before turning to coaching. His first head-coaching gig was with the Tampa Bay Lightning from 2008-09 to 2009-10. He went on to spend three seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins as an assistant coach (2014-15 to 2016-17), helping them win two Stanley Cups before joining the Coyotes.
Armstrong could re-sign Tocchet given the Coyotes’ promising improvement. However, if the Coyotes GM decides a change is needed behind the bench, perhaps Francis will put in a call to his old Penguins teammate.
4. Rod Brind’Amour
In the final season of his three-year contract with the Carolina Hurricanes, Rod Brind’Amour has done a fine job turning that club into a Stanley Cup contender. He could also have similar success with Seattle.
Francis has a personal connection with Brind’Amour. They were teammates with the Hurricanes from 1999-2000 to 2003-04. The latter was also an assistant coach during Francis’ tenure as Hurricanes GM from 2014 to 2018.
Brind’Amour’s solid record as the Hurricanes’ head coach (115 wins, 64 losses, 17 overtime losses) will likely earn him a contract extension. If those discussions break down, however, Brind’Amour could become the favorite to coach the Kraken.