When deciding on their first head coach in franchise history, the Seattle Kraken should consider Nolan Pratt of the Colorado Avalanche. Pratt, who has been behind the Avalanche bench as an assistant coach since 2016, has helped the team become one of the premier defensive squads in the NHL. Although he does not have the head coach experience, he would be a great fit with the Kraken.
A Proven Winner
Pratt would bring a winning attitude to Seattle if selected to be their first head coach. He knows how to compete for and win a Stanley Cup as he was a player on the 2003-04 Tampa Bay Lightning. (from ‘Remembering the Tampa Bay Lightning’s last Stanley Cup tour,’ Tampa Bay Times, 09/30/2020) He was also part of the 2000-01 Stanley Cup-winning Avalanche, but did not participate in the playoffs. Along with the experience of playing 592 NHL games, hiring Pratt would be a smart move by Seattle. He knows what it takes to win a Stanley Cup as a player, and can pass on that knowledge to his new team.
In addition to his Stanley Cup, Pratt is also a Calder Cup champion. He was behind the bench as an assistant coach when the Lake Erie Monsters won the Calder Cup in 2016. During that playoff run, Lake Erie finished with a record of 15-2 and averaged 2.235 goals against per game. Pratt knows how to win at every level. Although he may have not been the head coach, his contribution to the team helped push them to be as successful as they were.
Turning Colorado Into a Defensive Powerhouse
Pratt has been with the Avalanche since the 2016-17 season. Since then, the defense has continued to improve. During his first season with the team, Colorado finished the season 30th in goals against per game. The next season, the team — whose defensive group did not change much — finished 14th in the league.
Fast forward to this season, Colorado is now ranked second in goals against per game. Not only are the goals against down, but so are the shots against. Over his five seasons with the team, the Avalanche have seen a decrease of 6.2 shots per game against and lead the league this season averaging 25.6 per game. Year over year, the team is improving defensively and is now one of the premier defensive groups in the league.
Special Teams Work
The other key part of Pratt’s work with the Avalanche is on the penalty kill. In his first season, Colorado finished with a 76.6 percent penalty kill, ranking 29th in the league. This season, the team is at 82.7 percent, which ranks ninth. They are also ninth in power-play goals allowed with 24 in 139 penalty kill scenarios. The simple fact is that the team continues to get better every year with Pratt in charge of the defense. He has turned them into consistent Stanley Cup favourites, especially this season.
No Head Coaching Experience Is Not a Deal Breaker
The one problem with Pratt is that he has never been a head coach at any level. Seattle may be looking at a coach with some experience to lead their new franchise, but this should not eliminate him from the selection process. There are a couple of examples of current NHL coaches who made the transition to NHL head coach without being a head coach at another level. The first is Rick Tocchet.
Tocchet was first an assistant coach with teams like Colorado, Phoenix, and Tampa Bay before being getting his first head coaching opportunity in 2008-09. That year, he replaced Barry Melrose early in the season. Although his tenure only lasted for one and a half seasons, he did not have any previous experience before taking the job.
Although Tocchet is a good example, the best argument can be made by looking at the success Rod Brind’Amour has had. Before being named head coach in 2018, he was an assistant coach with Carolina from 2011-2018. Before that, he spent one year after retirement as a director of player development. Brind’Amour learned from behind the bench from coaches like Paul Maurice, Kirk Muller, and Bill Peters before becoming the head coach of the Hurricanes.
Like Pratt, Brind’Amour put in his time and is now one of the most successful coaches in the NHL. Since Brind’Amour has become the head coach in Carolina, the Hurricanes have the sixth-most points in the league along with the second-best power play. Coaches do not need head coaching experience to be successful. They just need the right training and a chance to succeed.
A Great Choice for Seattle
In conclusion, Pratt would be an excellent candidate to lead the Kraken next season. His championship pedigree along with his ability to turn a team into not only one of the best defensive units, but overall teams in the NHL, should put him up for consideration for the head coaching position. Pratt deserves a chance to be a head coach, and Seattle may be the best opportunity for him.
Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks team. His work can also be found at area51sportsnet.com where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.