Hakstol stops Sunday practice with fiery, blunt message

Colorado Avalanche v Seattle Kraken

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 17: Head coach Dave Hakstol of the Seattle Kraken looks on during the third period against the Colorado Avalanche at Climate Pledge Arena on October 17, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)Photo: Steph Chambers / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images

At approximately 11:40 am on Sunday morning, the Seattle Kraken, visibly with several players doubled over with shortness of breath, broke file from a formal 40-minute practice session at Kraken Community Iceplex, one that might have been scuttled under the event of a win on Saturday night against the Edmonton Oilers. 

Instead, it was game on – all because the Kraken went out of Saturday night meekly with a season-low 18 shots on net against an Edmonton Oilers team that beat them 4-1 with an already fired head coach walking, and snapped their four-game losing skid. 

“We don’t deserve to have days off especially when we’re going to play like that,” said Jared McCann. 

The reason: a shooter’s mentality, one that has defied the Kraken game plan and was visibly called out from their own head coach. 

Three things we learned at practice on Sunday: 

1.     Dave Hakstol’s fire and brimstone speech: Roughly halfway through practice, Hakstol halted a drill and the team gathered near the center ice red line. What followed was a moment that the normally stoic Hakstol delivered with a pin-drop tense, minute long, terse, blunt, and at times profanity-laced message that directly held the team accountable for the lack of a shooting mentality. 

“Direct and honest as we look at ourselves,” said Hakstol. “Individually, and collectively, we have work to do, to be where we want to be on a consistent basis.” 

Specifically, that mentality relates to home games, where the Kraken are 2-4 and have fallen short of taking advantage of a swarming, crowded, and ear-blistering environment at Climate Pledge Arena that became nationally renowned during last year’s playoff run. The Kraken, at 5-7-3 overall, have lost three of the last four games on home ice – all in losses where they recorded no more than 20 shots on goal and have been outscored 14-5. 

That identity – a continuous swarm of chaotic forechecking, pace, and shooting – was the signature of a team who led the league in five-on-five goals last season and used a deep offensive lineup to their advantage. 

“At home we’ve been inconsistent with it,” said Hakstol. “Without being able to do it, shift after shift every day, this is a tough league to string wins together. I sat here the other day said ‘we’ve done a really good job of gaining points in the majority of our last six to eight games. That’s true. But in between, we’ve had the games where we haven’t been competitive on the points. And those points have gone free to our opponent. That can’t happen to get in a position we want to be in.” 

“The things we worked on today had execution on the breakout, execution getting up ice, checking to get the puck back. All these small areas of execution – with the most important being puck possession, and the will to come up with pucks more than our opponent.” 

One of the first words out of McCann’s mouth on Sunday was “hard” to describe practice, and added to Hakstol’s point inside the Kraken dressing room, where shots are a by-product of the effort the Kraken generate to keep control of the puck.

“I say it all the time, it’s cliché, but when you’re not scoring goals and not getting shots on net, you’ve got to throw everything at the net,” said McCann. “It’s the kitchen sink.” 

2.     Jordan Eberle back in practice wearing a non-contact jersey: Perhaps a positive sign of the serious leg injury Eberle suffered during last week’s road trip was his presence before and during practice in a red-colored, non-contact jersey, and visibly moving up ice with assertive pace without an awkward or modified stride. 

Hakstol has said his official prognosis as “day to day”, but the exact timeline for Eberle to return could still at least be a few days away with the Kraken needing to fill in the gaps during a busy week, where they will play four times in the next six days. 

Eberle’s season has started slowing with just one goal and three assists in 13 games but is still a principal part of the team’s top six forward corps, and the elder statesman on the roster who has worn an assistant captain’s “A” on his jersey for three straight years. 

3.     Mix and match appreciation dayPerhaps if you checked social media ahead of the Seahawks game or whatever suited your Sunday afternoon fancy, you may have noticed a bit of a tangled and twisted approach to the forwards and defensemen. 

For starters, Devin Shore, with a goal and an assist in nine games this season, was sent down to the Coachella Firebirds of the American Hockey League. Jaycob Megan, who has yet to play in the regular season, was paired with Adam Larsson. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare slid in between Yanni Gourde’s usual spot, who had been effective anchoring Eeli Tolvanen and Oliver Bjorkstrand. 

Based on the Shore transaction, there will be at least minimal shuffling ahead for this week. But the tea-leaf reading may stop there. Vince Dunn (normally paired with Adam Larsson) and Gourde were both out of practice Sunday, Hakstol said, each for a maintenance day. 

The Kraken return to play on Monday, 7pm PT (93.3 KJR-FM / Kraken Audio Network) against the Colorado Avalanche at Climate Pledge Arena. 

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