Two assistant coach hires announced Tuesday by Kraken bench boss Dave Hakstol expect to be working with players that give second and third efforts and carry “a bit of a chip” with them.
Paul McFarland, overseeing the Kraken’s power-play unit and forwards, and Jay Leach, in charge of defensemen, said Tuesday that the Stanley Cup Playoffs have featured highly competitive, physical teams in both the semifinal and now final rounds. Those teams, they said, deployed players unafraid of doing whatever it takes to win — something both feel can be replicated here following the July 21 expansion draft.
“Everyone talks about working hard, but that’s the first step,” said McFarland, 35, who worked alongside Hakstol as a Toronto Maple Leafs assistant coach in 2019-20 and spent two prior seasons in a similar role with the Florida Panthers. “The second part is having that second and third effort. And sometimes you need those to steal the puck and create turnovers, or to find loose pucks in the scoring area.
“Just speaking to Dave (Hakstol), that’s the way he’s going to want this team to play and obviously it’s our job to support those decisions and help our players and give them the support they need.”
Hakstol, hired last month as the Kraken’s first coach, has said he hopes to have the bulk of his staff in place ahead of the draft.
Leach, 41, a former NHL defenseman who played 70 games with five teams, was head coach the past four seasons with Providence of the American Hockey League, feeding the parent Boston Bruins club with standout blueliners Charlie McAvoy, Jeremy Lauzon, and Connor Clifton and center Trent Frederic. He leaned heavily on competitiveness as a player lacking all-star NHL talent and feels the playoffs are a great example of successful teams having that extra edge in addition to skill.
“So, Dave (Hakstol), I’m sure, has been talking about that sort of player — the guy that if you watch in the playoffs, they rise to the occasion,” Leach said. “They can really bring that competitiveness and focus to a different level that’s tough to match. Those are the teams that ultimately succeed. And certainly, something that attracted me to join Dave on staff was that mentality.”
McFarland, whose playing career topped out at Acadia University in Nova Scotia before coaching with Kingston in the Ontario Hockey League, helped build a Toronto power-play that was the NHL’s fifth best under him, while Florida’s was No. 2 overall his final season there.
“The number one thing in trying to build power-play units is you want to put players in positions where they can have success,” McFarland said. “And in spots where they feel comfortable and they have confidence. And you need to create more than one threat. When teams have more than one threat to deal with on the penalty-kill side, you’re forcing them to make a decision on what they’re going to take away and how.”
Leach’s Providence teams were highly competitive, going 136-77-26 overall and making the playoffs each of his four seasons. And he doesn’t see why the Kraken can’t add that competitiveness and work ethic right away despite choosing players in the expansion draft cast aside by their former teams.
“I do think that the players we’re able to bring in, number one they’ll have a little bit of a chip on their shoulder,” Leach said. “So, naturally, they’ll have that competitive spirit. And I do think that really … resonates throughout the team and it gets guys excited to play every night. So, if you combine that with some goal scoring — which I think will be out there, as you can’t protect everybody — we should have a really competitive team, and we’ll find our way.”