Philly Sports Live

Reasons Why We Should Believe In The Flyers New Head Coach, Dave Hakstol

The NHL draft is now under two weeks away, and the Flyers have options. But that’s not the only set of changes that will be coming up for the team as they prepare to face off against the Islanders and other teams later this year — they have a new head coach, Dave Hakstol, and he has been attracting commentary from all sides.

Fortunately for the Flyers, Hakstol looks solid: he’s survived during a tough hockey market, he clearly knows the art of adapting his coaching style to his team roster, and he’s managed to turn around teams in a short order. A recent profile of Hakstol provides some eye-opening tidbits about the man, with implications for how he will perform with the team.

He’s known for unassuming first impressions

“Who is this guy?” is a reaction many people have had to Hakstol in the past, including his later roommate and assistant coach Dane Jackson during college. Yet he usually ends up impressing; and playing next to Jackson he ended up making an instant impact and even was voted team captain by his second year.

Flyers fans reacted like Jackson with a “who?” when the announcement came — many had been hoping for Mike Babcock — but considering his track record, that isn’t a bad thing. Hakstol also got a resounding “who?” from the University of North Dakota but became captain of the Sioux year later.

His coaching career started with an impressive turnaround

Especially good news for Flyers fans, though it might mean it’s wise to buy tickets now before prices go up (you can get tickets at Ticketbis) — his first position coaching began with a remarkable turnaround. It started when he took a coaching job in Sioux City, coaching a team that was in disarray when he got there — yet by the second year the team had improved and was 35-18-0, building both winning teams and strong relationships.

All this despite what Hakstol has described as a move into coaching “out of nowhere,” which saw him quit playing in the International Hockey League and giving up his goal of playing in the NHL to move into coaching.

Hakstol has the conviction he needs to survive

The Flyers won’t be a good team this upcoming season without a miracle, and it’s almost a given that Hakstol will be a target for fans and the media as soon as anything goes south. Yet Hakstol’s first Grand Forks season was rough too — it included the death of his own father, a slow start, and hockey fans making demands that might legitimately be seen as tougher on their own team than anything Flyer fans might make

Hakstol has observed that one simply had to be “able to mentally handle” the pressure, and of course it’s easier said than done. He learned quickly during his first year of Sioux City that it took having a plan and the will to do things one’s own way, and “real strong conviction.” Yet he had just that, and so did his staff, and indeed it paid off — his team back then went on to make it into the national championship game. (Unfortunately, they lost despite outshooting Denver by 45-24 in that game.)

This is exactly the conviction he’ll need to have once media and fans start second-guessing Hakstol’s decision making, even if the Flyers don’t make a Cinderella run into the Cup Final during his first season as a coach in the NHL, but he will need that conviction in any case.

Hakstol is adaptable

Hakstol is known for relying on assistant coaches to help him, and he views his coaching staff as a single unit.

His former assistant coach, Jackson, has noted that simply because Hakstol played a defensive style and was a stay-at-home defenseman, he doesn’t necessarily coach that way.

Hakstol “will look at anything,” Jackson has observed, and he likes to challenge his staff. He does not simply want to hear what people think he wants to hear, he wants to hear what they really think — even if it means disagreeing with him.

He also wants to avoid a cookie-cutter approach, instead preferring to “delve into things,” Jackson notes, not keeping them in a certain way simply because they’ve always been that way but figuring out ways to improve the team and looking at many different thing.