With the expansion draft, free agency, and commencement of the 2021-22 season barreling down the pike, the Seattle Kraken have some important decisions to take care of before taking the ice, with one of the most pressing being who will take the reins behind the bench for Seattle’s return to the NHL.
On his most recent podcast, prominent hockey insider Elliotte Friedman threw out three names under consideration for the job, all possessing connections to the NHL in some capacity.
Let’s take a look at the contestants.
Tocchet seems to be the frontrunner, with Friedman reporting that the former NHL All-Star and Stanley Cup champion was scheduled to meet with Kraken brass for the third time soon to discuss his hiring.
While the Scarborough, Ontario native had a distinguished NHL career (952 points in 1144 games), his head coaching resume does not inspire confidence in his ability to command a locker room.
In stops with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Arizona Coyotes (with whom he mutually parted ways following Arizona’s elimination from playoff contention this season), Tocchet posted a winning percentage of 40.6% across 6 seasons, with his teams reaching the playoffs only once during his tenure.
He was an assistant for the Pittsburgh Penguins in their back-to-back conquests of the Cup and was heralded for his ability to rein in and appease abrasive players in the locker room.
For a Seattle group that will undoubtedly feature players cast aside and deemed surplus to requirements for one reason or another, Tocchet’s interpersonal communication could be a valuable asset for the franchise.
The second candidate is Joe Sacco, a retired NHL player of over 700 games and a former Jack Adams finalist for coach of the year with the Colorado Avalanche in the 2009-10 season.
After Sacco’s success in his first season in which he took the Avalanche to the playoffs, the team missed the postseason in each of the following three campaigns, leading to the franchise relieving him of his coaching duties.
Sacco’s NHL coaching record is slightly better than Tocchet’s, as he achieved a 44.2% winning percentage over 294 games, but he has not held a head coaching position since 2014. The Medford, Massachusetts native is currently working as an assistant with the Boston Bruins, with whom Sacco reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2019 before losing to the St.Louis Blues.
Although his experience as a head coach in the NHL is limited and not the most recent, Sacco can boast the experience of being under the tutelage of one of the league’s best in Bruce Cassidy, who can claim a 56.4% winning percentage in the NHL across stints with the Capitals and Bruins, the aforementioned Stanley Cup Final appearance, a Presidents’ Trophy for clinching the best record in the league in 2019-20 and a Jack Adams Award for his efforts.
If hired, Sacco could relay his experiences as an assistant under an immensely successful franchise and coach and instill winning habits from the outset.
The third and final candidate is Tony Granato, another former NHL veteran with coaching experience in the NHL and the NCAA. He completed parts of two head coaching stints with the Avalance winning 48.3% of his games, the most recent of which came in 2009, after which Joe Sacco was hired to replace Granato as Colorado’s bench boss.
His performance at the NCAA level has been unspectacular, as Granato has accumulated a pedestrian record of 82-82-13 over five seasons with the Wisconsin Badgers.
Wisconsin has also made a solitary appearance in the NCAA Division 1 Hockey tournament in that time. However, Granato did win the Big Ten Conference Coach of the Year Award twice in 2017 and 2021.
Granato can call upon a lifetime’s worth of connections in hockey circles and has experience coaching younger players in the collegiate circuit, making him a decent fall-back option if Tocchet is passed over by general manager Ron Francis.
It is notable that, with a group of established NHL coaches available on the market, including Mike Babcock, Claude Julien, and Bruce Boudreau, among others, the Kraken are interviewing coaches who have demonstrated poor NHL results or were head coaches in the league nearly a decade ago.
The candidates do not necessarily coach with a distinctly unique style, and it is unclear what type of competitive advantage these potential hires would bring to the franchise.
Personally, I would have gone in a different direction. However, only time will tell if the team is correct in their approach.