As of last week, the Seattle Kraken have officially become the 32nd team to join the National Hockey League. That was not the only other big news that came on the Kraken front today. With the team officially being inaugurated into the league in July, general manager Ron Francis and his crew have been given the approval to start signing players. On top of the player news, Francis is officially now approved to attend general manager’s meetings.
Before Francis gets too ahead of the organization, the first order of business will be to hire a bench boss and staff. With the Kraken’s major news today, it will be imperative to add the right coaches as soon as possible in order to start creating the structure and mold of the blue and teal lineup.
Going After Gerard Gallant
The first name on the list that Francis and the Kraken should be targeting is Gerard Gallant. Gallant already has prior experience in developing and building an inaugural franchise. He was hired by the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017. In his first year as the head coach of the Golden Knights, he tallied a record of 51-24-7. For an inaugural club, these were excellent numbers as no inaugural team ever has hit the 50 win mark in their opening season. As Gallant awaits his next NHL position, he has been recently named head coach of Team Canada for the IIHF World Championships in May (From ‘Ex-Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant to coach Team Canada,’ Las Vegas Review-Journal, 04/28/21).
The Golden Knights did have a lot of success through their expansion draft, but this should not overshadow the work that Gallant did as their bench boss. He showed in the 2017-18 playoffs that his team’s style of game was going to be successful in making a run at Lord Stanley. With a team that was considered to be made of skilled, hardworking players who liked to grind it out, the Golden Knights carved up the Western Conference en route to a Stanley Cup matchup with the Washington Capitals.
The Golden Knights ran into a destined Capitals lineup where it seemed everything was clicking for Ovechkin and his teammates (From ‘The Washington Capitals, After Years of Frustration,’ Win the Stanley Cup, The New York Times, 06/07/18). Although Vegas came up short in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final, Gallant’s Golden Knights set the record and became the first team in NHL history to win 13 playoff games in their inaugural year.
Moving into year two, Gallant once again struck gold and found the recipe for the Knights’ success. With keeping most of the team intact, he managed to push the team to another winning season, capping it off with a 43-32-7 record. His team dominated most of the first round before losing a heartbreaking game seven in overtime. Regardless of the first-round exit in the 2018-19 playoffs, he led his squad to two winning records, and back-to-back playoff runs in the organization’s first two years of existence.
Moving In On Muller
If you ask most Kraken fans and organizational members if they would be okay with this type of success in their opening years, there would not be too many complaints. As always, though, when it comes to on-ice success, it is a cumulative effort by the staff, which is why the Kraken organization should be looking at ex Montreal Canadiens assistant coach Kirk Muller. There are very few assistant coaches in the NHL who have not only the playing experience but the resume that Muller has as a coach. He also had a long and successful NHL career playing 1349 games and tallying 959 points while doing so.
As a coach, Muller has over 16 years of experience, being an assistant for the Canadiens for 10 of those. He also split sometime in between as a head coach with the AHL Milwaukee Admirals and Carolina Hurricanes from 2011-2014.
In 2014, Muller joined the St. Louis Blues as an assistant for two years following his time in Carolina. During the two years in St. Louis, he showed he was still a great leader among the players which brought him back to Montreal as the associate head coach behind Michel Therrien and Claude Julien. Muller was a part of the Montreal staff at the start of the season. Montreal started off the season with a hot 7-1-2 start, and putting 44 goals away in the process (‘Montreal Canadiens fire Claude Julien and Kirk Muller,’ Montreal Gazette, 02/24/21).
Following a tough 2-4-2 stretch, Muller was let go of his position with the Canadiens in a desperate attempt by Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin to put the team back on track. The attempt actually did more damage than good as Montreal has continued to struggle without the offensive-minded coach tending to the team’s offensive needs. Muller was not the root of the firing but was a pawn who was seen as a part of Julien’s staff. Make no mistake, he has been around the NHL for 16 years, for a reason. His work as a forwards and a power-play specialist coach would be a major asset for Gallant and his staff.
Furthermore, with the major news of the Kraken officially joining the NHL as of today, it becomes crucial Francis locks down his staff in the coming weeks. If the Kraken are looking to find similar success to what was seen in Vegas in their expansion years, then they are going to need staff with experience and who has been in the position before. With Gallant’s elite experience with expansion organizations and Muller’s extensive coaching experience in the NHL, this could be the recipe for the ultimate success in Seattle.
Francis is going to have some major decisions to make in the next month and a bit, but his first order of business will need to be to find the right coaching staff. The Kraken fan base will be rabid in the early stages, but one thing is for sure, Gallant and Muller can weather that storm.
Carson MacRae is a member of The Hockey Writers, covering the Seattle Kraken expansion team. MacRae played just about every level of hockey including signing a minor pro deal. Unfortunately, he was not able to have a long professional career as he suffered an injury to his knee. Luckily, MacRae found a new love in writing about sports and used his education at the University of Guelph to further advance his skills. MacRae currently also writes for Ohio State’s football program apart of Rivals Sports and BuckeyeGrove.com providing insight to the programs current and future recruiting.