One of the more interesting things about last season’s Kraken coaching staff was the limited NHL playing experience within its ranks.
That changed Monday when the team announced that former longtime NHL winger Dave Lowry has been added as a fourth assistant to Dave Hakstol’s staff. Lowry, 57, tallied 164 goals over parts of 19 seasons with five NHL teams, reaching the Stanley Cup Final with Florida in 1995-96.
He spent part of the past two seasons as an assistant with the Winnipeg Jets — where his son, Adam, is a forward — before taking over the head job on an interim basis in December when Paul Maurice resigned unexpectedly. After coaching the Jets to a season-ending victory over the Kraken, Lowry and the rest of the Winnipeg staff were let go before Rick Bowness was hired in July as the new bench boss.
Through the hockey grapevine, Lowry heard the Kraken were looking to add to their staff with somebody who could go “behind the bench” alongside Hakstol to help him during games.
“It was exactly what I was doing when I went to Winnipeg,” Lowry said Monday. “When I went to Winnipeg, they had their head coach [Maurice], they had Charlie Huddy who worked with the [defensemen], and they had Jamie Kompon who worked with the forwards. And I kind of floated in between.
“On the bench, I would watch forwards, I would watch [the defenseman], and I would offer suggestions. I would go through different players during the course of the game. And that was exactly what Dave [Hakstol] was looking for. It was something I was comfortable doing, and I look forward to the opportunity of doing it in Seattle.”
The Jets’ penalty-killing unit improved nearly 10% after he took over behind the bench last season. Winnipeg’s goals per game — another area in which the Kraken need significant improvement — rose from 2.96 to 3.09.
Kraken general manager Ron Francis, in a team statement Monday, praised Lowry’s “long and successful NHL playing career” and “significant” coaching experience in the NHL and junior ranks. Lowry also was an NHL assistant for three seasons with the Calgary Flames, two more with the Los Angeles Kings and stints in the Western Hockey League and with Canada’s gold medal-winning national junior squad in 2015.
Still, it’s his time as an NHL player over 1,084 regular-season games and another 111 in the playoffs that separates Lowry from the rest of the Kraken staff. Kraken assistant Jay Leach had been that staff’s only member with NHL playing experience, compiling 70 games with five teams.
Hakstol’s playing career topped out in the minor professional International Hockey League. Assistant Paul MacFarland played Canadian college hockey, and former goaltending coach Andrew Allen made it as far as a handful of American Hockey League games.
Allen was let go from coaching duties at season’s end but rehired last week to his previous job as a Kraken goaltending scout. His replacement as goaltending coach, Steve Briere, got as far as the minor pro ECHL as a player.
Though some of the most successful coaches in NHL history — including Scotty Bowman, Ken Hitchcock, Barry Trotz and Mike Keenan — never even played minor pro hockey, it was somewhat unusual to have such little NHL playing experience spread across the entirety of the Kraken’s staff.
In fact, the Kraken coaches’ combined 70 games of NHL playing experience before Lowry’s hiring ranked last in the league.
Lowry said his is definitely an “experience” hire, though he mentioned looking forward to learning from “a young staff” in Hakstol and the other coaches. Hakstol and MacFarland, he noted, both recently coached together in a high-pressure NHL market in Toronto, while Leach established himself for several seasons as coach of the Boston Bruins’ AHL affiliate.
“Obviously, the game’s about trends,” he said. “These guys have new ideas, and that’s the exciting part.”
The timing of the Lowry move comes after the Kraken spent much of the summer reworking their player ranks into a group that should be poised to add significantly more offense this season. The team recently picked up Columbus Blue Jackets winger Oliver Bjorkstrand for two draft picks via trade after signing free-agent winger Andre Burakovsky from the Colorado Avalanche and offensive-minded defenseman Justin Schultz from the Washington Capitals.
Beyond that, the team expects to add centerman prospect Matty Beniers to the lineup full-time. Fellow center Shane Wright, who surprisingly fell to them at No. 4 overall in last month’s draft, will likely start the season with them as well.
Though he lives in Hakstol’s native Alberta, Lowry didn’t really know the Kraken coach before calling him for an exploratory discussion. Lowry said he was intrigued enough for a follow-up conversation and came away feeling aligned with the Kraken staff’s goals.
“In our business, when you talk to somebody you can always tell by the passion in their voice,” Lowry said. “You can tell by the way that they think the game, the way that they want coach the game, the way that they want to run their team. When you talk to somebody like that, you get off the phone and you’re excited.”