Seattle Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol is not wasting any time with filling out his staff. Less than two weeks since he was named the expansion team’s first ever head coach, Hakstol has reportedly decided on who will become Seattle’s first assistant coach. Mark Divver of the New England Hockey Journal reports that Jay Leach has accepted the assistant position with the Kraken, leaving behind his post as head coach of the AHL’s Providence Bruins.
Although this will be Leach’s first experience at the NHL level, he is far from an outside-the-box hire. Leach, 41, is in fact considered one of the top up-and-coming coaches in the pro game and just recently was a finalist for the Arizona Coyotes’ head coach vacancy. The head coach for Providence for the past four seasons and an assistant with the AHL Bruins and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins prior, Leach has learned under the likes of Mike Sullivan, Bruce Cassidy, and Kevin Dean. A former pro defensemen with 70 NHL games played over 12 seasons, Leach also brings that playing experience and a deft knowledge of the defensive aspects of the game to his coaching resume.
In his time leading Providence, Leach has helped to develop current Bruins such as Matt Grzelcyk, Jeremy Lauzon, Jakub Zboril, Connor Clifton, Trent Frederic, Karson Kuhlman, Jack Studnicka, Jeremy Swayman and more, as well as other NHLers like Jordan Binnington, Anders Bjork, Danton Heinen, Ryan Donato, and Gemel Smith. With the upcoming Expansion Draft likely to yield a number of young, fringe NHLers among those exposed, Seattle could very well end up selecting more than a few players with high potential but room to grow. Having a coach experienced in winning with young players while improving those individuals could prove to be invaluable. Leach’s connection to Lauzon, Zboril, Clifton, and Kuhlman, all of whom are expected to exposed by the Bruins, makes it even more likely that Seattle selects a young player off the Boston roster.
As for the Bruins, this is their second major coaching loss in less than a week. Assistant coach Jay Pandolfo was announced as the new Associate Head Coach at Boston University on Friday and now Leach is gone just a few days later. Leach had been an ideal candidate to replace Pandolfo on Boston’s bench alongside mentors Cassidy and Dean, but the organization will have to look elsewhere. Even though former players-turned-staffers Trent Whitfield, Chris Kelly, and P.J. Axelsson are also internal candidates for one job or the other, the Bruins now seem very likely to go outside of the organization to address at least one of their two key vacancies.