Goaltending was a major shortcoming for the Kraken last season, and the team hopes some of that was addressed with Tuesday’s announcement that Steve Briere has been hired to coach the men between the pipes.
Briere, 45, was let go as goaltending coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs last month after seven seasons with that club, two of them working alongside current Kraken coach Dave Hakstol when he was also an assistant there. The Winnipeg, Manitoba, native replaces Andrew Allen, who was fired at season’s end after Kraken goaltenders Philipp Grubauer and Chris Driedger struggled early and failed to gain consistency until well into the second half of the season.
“When we were interviewing people, one of the things that came into play was that he has more (NHL) experience,” Francis said in a conference call with the media on Tuesday. “I think in our situation, based on how things kind of went last year, that was a key component we were looking for. He’s got experience in the league, he’s had success, and in the discussions with him I liked what he had to say.”
Briere said in a team-released statement: “Any time you have the opportunity to work in the NHL it’s a privilege and I’m beyond excited to get started in Seattle. I would like to thank the Seattle Kraken organization and specifically Ron Francis and Dave Hakstol for believing in me and giving me the chance to help build something special alongside them.”
During his Leafs tenure, Briere coached Frederik Andersen and Jack Campbell to seasons in which they made the All-Star Game in 2020 and 2022, respectively. But he also became a popular scapegoat in recent months for the team’s inability to advance past the first round of the playoffs.
Before joining the Leafs, the former minor-league netminder had experience coaching in the junior and college ranks.
Grubauer posted a career-worst 3.16 goals-against average and .889 save percentage in 55 appearances, and his underlying advanced metrics — such as goals saved above expected — were some of the lowest in the league. Driedger injured a knee in his first appearance of the season, reinjured it soon after and took much of the season to find consistency, finishing with a 2.96 goals-against average and .899 save percentage in 27 outings.
Driedger, who like Briere also hails from Winnipeg, suffered a torn ACL at the recent IIHF World Hockey Championship while playing for Team Canada and will miss a significant part of the coming season. That means the Kraken could acquire another goalie in coming weeks, perhaps during the run-up to the NHL entry draft Thursday and Friday in Montreal.
The Kraken have 12 draft picks, four of them in the second round alone, and could trade some as an incentive to get deals done. Having Briere in place before the draft also allows for his input should the Kraken choose to select a goalie.
Briere also coached goalie Curtis McElhinney to a career year in Toronto in 2017-18. His .935 save percentage that season is tied for second-best in team history among goalies playing at least 10 games. But Toronto has been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in each of the past six seasons, gaining a reputation as a team with goalies who post solid regular-season numbers, only to falter in the postseason.
That and the potential departure of unrestricted free agent Campbell from the Leafs are believed to be among the reasons Briere was let go.