McFarland, Leach Join Hakstol Behind Kraken Bench

The Seattle Kraken have added two assistant coaches for Dave Hakstol, who was named the franchise’s first head coach on June 24. Paul McFarland, most recently an assistant with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Jay Leach, most recently the head coach of the American Hockey League (AHL) Providence Bruins, will join Hakstol behind the bench in 2021-22.

Hakstol has confirmed that McFarland will specialize in coaching the forward group and power play, while Leach, a former NHL blueliner, will specialize in coaching the defensemen. The additions of McFarland and Leach come just 15 days before the start of a particularly busy week for the league’s 32nd franchise – they will make their expansion draft selections on July 21 and select second-overall two days later in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft.

McFarland Succeeded Offensively with Florida & Toronto

McFarland’s coaching career began in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with the Oshawa Generals from 2012-14. Assisting current Ottawa Senators head coach D.J. Smith, McFarland worked with current NHL players such as Michael Dal Colle, Boone Jenner, and Scott Laughton. In 2014 he landed his first head coaching job with the Kingston Frontenacs and led the team to their first playoff series victory in 18 years. Over three seasons, McFarland compiled a 111-71-22 record and coached current NHL players Dal Colle, Lawson Crouse, and Warren Foegele.

The Seattle Kraken announce the hiring of assistant coaches Jay Leach and Paul McFarland.

McFarland earned his first NHL coaching job in 2017 with the Florida Panthers. The team emerged as a strong offensive club under his guidance, with players such as Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Evgeni Dadonov, and Mike Hoffman setting career-highs in scoring. Between the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, the team finished 10th in goals-for average (3.10) and sixth in power-play percentage (23.0 percent).

In 2019, both McFarland and Hakstol were hired by the Maple Leafs to assist Mike Babcock – once Babcock was relieved of his duties, both assistants stayed on to work with Sheldon Keefe. That season the Maple Leafs finished third in goals-for average (3.39) and tied for fifth in power-play percentage (23.1 percent).

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with this organization, starting with (Kraken general manager Ron Francis), as part of the expansion process. Anytime you work with somebody with the schedule demands of the NHL, you get to know that person. (Hakstol) and I got along great,” McFarland said in a Kraken press release announcing his hire.

Bob Boughner, Paul McFarland Seattle Kraken Dave Hakstol Jay Leach
Paul McFarland assisted Bob Boughner for two years with the Florida Panthers (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Mark Humphrey)

The 35-year-old McFarland never made it to the NHL but succeeded in his playing career nonetheless. He won the 2003 Memorial Cup with the OHL Kitchener Rangers, who were coached by current Vegas Golden Knights bench boss, Peter DeBoer. McFarland went on to captain his team at Acadia University for three years.

Leach Ran a Stingy Defense in Providence

Leach’s first coaching job came with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in 2015-16, where he joined current Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan. Leach was named interim head coach after Sullivan was promoted to the NHL and spent the following year as an assistant with the Providence Bruins. He then served the next four seasons as P-Bruins head coach, leading the team to an aggregate 136-77-26 record.

While at Providence, Leach, 41, put together a stingy defensive club. In his first three seasons, the team ranked second (2017-18), sixth (2018-19), and second (2019-20) in the league in goals-against average (GAA). The Bruins then finished the 2020-21 season with an impressive 2.40 GAA in a pandemic-altered 25 game season. Current NHL players Charlie McAvoy, Connor Clifton, and Jeremy Lauzon were instrumental to a stout Providence blue line.

Jay Leach Seattle Kraken Paul McFarland Dave Hakstol
Defenseman Jay Leach appeared in 70 NHL games between five clubs, including the San Jose Sharks in 2009-10. (Dan4th Nicholas/Flickr)

Leach’s professional playing career spans four ECHL teams, eight AHL teams — three of which he captained — and five NHL teams; he played his final seven NHL games in 2011 with the New Jersey Devils.

“It is exciting to be part of a brand-new NHL team from the ground up, especially under (Hakstol) and (Francis) in one of the best cities I have ever visited,” Leach said in the same press release mentioned earlier.

Quick Look: Kraken Coaching Staff

The additions of McFarland and Leach to Hakstol’s bench deepen the Kraken coaching staff and locker room personnel. Below are the other individuals who make up that group, along with their most recent roles prior to being hired. Note that Seattle has yet to name a goaltending coach.

  • Nate Brookreson — head of strength and conditioning — North Carolina State University
  • Gary Roberts — sports performance consultant — Gary Roberts High Performance Centre, Tampa Bay Lightning (as player)
  • Mike Booi — head athletic trainer — Washington Capitals
  • Jeff Camelio — head equipment manager — Nashville Predators
  • Tim Ohashi — head video analyst — Washington Capitals

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