Monday, May 18, 2015

Hextall makes u-turn, hires UND's Hakstol

Flyers fans awoke or arrived at work on Monday morning to the surprise announcement that Dave Hakstol, who resigned his post with the University of North Dakota, was named the club's next head coach.

The 46-year-old Hakstol arrives in the NHL from an 11-year stint as head man at the college hockey powerhouse, and is fresh off back-to-back trips to the Frozen Four in Philadelphia and Boston. After succeeding Dean Blais at the position, Hakstol led the Fighting Sioux to a record of 289-141-43 and was a two-time WCHA Coach of the Year.

"Dave brings a wealth of head coaching experience and success to the Philadelphia Flyers organization,” said Flyers GM Ron Hextall. “He’s a proven winner and we are pleased to have him become part of the Flyers family.”

Hakstol's tenure in Grand Forks included three regular-season conference championships and four playoff conference crowns, seven trips to the NCAA semifinals, and a national runner-up finish to former WCHA rival Denver in the 2005 title game. He managed to lead the Sioux to the postseason in-conference and nationally in each of his 11 seasons.

In addition, Hakstol coached Phantoms forward Brett Hextall and guided such future NHL talent as Jonathan Toews, Zach Parise,  T.J. Oshie, Brock Nelson, Matt Greene and Drew Stafford, and, of course, was the guiding force behind current Flyers' fourth-liner Chris VandeVelde and 2010 draft pick (and as yet unsigned) forward Michael Parks who just finished his four-year college tenure last month.

“I am extremely excited to be named the Philadelphia Flyers new head coach,” said Hakstol. “Through the process here with Ron [Hextall] and everybody in the Flyers organization I have gained even more of an understanding of the history and tradition of this organization and I’m very proud to become part of the Philadelphia Flyers today.”

Hakstol's collegiate coaching career ended in Boston last month, as Boston University claimed a 5-3 decision in a national semifinal, with freshman Jack Eichel producing the game's first and last goals in that contest.

The move to take a coach -- any coach -- from Division I college hockey is a definite landmark for the franchise. Back in 1978, Ed Snider made overtures toward BU's Jack Parker to take over when Fred Shero retired, but were unsuccessful. Andy Murray, an assistant under Paul Holmgren in the late 80s, eventually helmed Western Michigan long after leaving here, while Holmgren himself played only a season at the University of Minnesota before hitting the pros.

Hakstol is the first head coach of the 18 men appointed to the position, who didn't at least have previous coaching experience in Canadian juniors or a professional minor league before ascending to the post in Philadelphia.

It's also a point of contention, but the following men who became a Philly bench boss did not have previous NHL head coaching experience before taking the post: Keith Allen, Vic Stasiuk, Fred Shero, Bob McCammon, Pat Quinn, Mike Keenan, Holmgren, Craig Ramsay, Bill Barber and Craig Berube.

Bill Dineen succeeded Holmgren but coached in the World Hockey Association at Houston and New England while all three Howes played for him. 

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