Although the Seattle Kraken are set to take the ice as the NHL’s 32nd franchise in less than a year, the team is in no rush to name their inaugural head coach. The team did not hesitate to get a jump on hiring a GM, landing Ron Francis in July of 2019, but now Francis tells The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun that the team is willing to wait on their next major personnel decision.
We don’t know yet the kind of team we may be able to draft, so we’re comfortable kind of sitting back and waiting right now and watching what happens here. There’s still, hopefully, a 2020-21 season getting up and running and playing. Are there guys that end up losing their jobs or looking for other things elsewhere? I just think we have time on this. We’re not in a race to make that decision at this point.
The sentiment makes sense and actually should not come as much of a surprise; the Vegas Golden Knights did not name Gerard Gallant (who is currently available) as their head coach until April of 2017, just two months ahead of the 2017 Expansion Draft. With the high likelihood of another NHL season that could run later into the calendar year than usual, given the delayed start, Seattle would still have many months left before making a coaching decision in order to keep to Vegas’ timeline.
However, Francis does mention that Seattle can begin making roster transactions prior to the Expansion Draft, stating that they will officially become a member of the league with player movement abilities once their final expansion payment in made to the league early next year. That of course raises a chicken-and-egg debate: do they hire a coach and base their early signings and trades on his style or do they make moves and then find a coach who might best fit those players and their 2021 Expansion Draft targets?
With that in mind, LeBrun asks Francis whether he has interviewed any candidates yet for head coach. Francis refused to answer, so make of that what you will. He did hint that the team is starting to get a better idea of who might be available in the expansion draft next off-season and how that could drive the team’s philosophy and whether that pairs with any available head coaches, so a coaching move could be on the horizon.
I think we’re getting closer to having an idea now that we’ve gotten through a little bit of the free agency. There could still be moves before the NHL hopefully gets up and running. Things become a little bit clearer as far as what you think may or may not be available, and then you start having those discussions with teams and try to get an indication on what may or may not be available. So I think once you get more into that process a little bit more, we’ll have a better indication (of their roster approach/philosophy). You always want to win now, but we’ll have to judge the landscape and see where things are and make the decisions that are right both short term and long term.