Dave Hakstol Seems to be Following in Gabe Kapler’s Post-Philadelphia Footsteps

Photo Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t look now, but the hottest team in the NHL may be the Seattle Kraken, who went into the TD Garden Thursday night and spanked the league-leading Bruins 3-0, extending their win streak to seven games with six of those victories on the road. Martin Jones had 27 saves in the Boston shutout, yes, the same Martin Jones who went 12-20 with Philly last year en route to a career-worst 3.42 goals against average. Fast forward half a season and he’s 20-5 and looking more than legit.

At the helm is former Flyers coach Dave Hakstol, who didn’t exactly light it up here. He took the Kraken through their expansion season and was seen to be a hot seat candidate at the beginning of the year, but now he has Seattle at 25-12-4 and his name is appearing on coach of the year lists. Hakstol is now closer to the Jack Adams than the unemployment line.

There’s a bizarro world parallel here. Hakstol may be Gabe Kapler 2.0. Talk about two guys who didn’t fit in Philadelphia, then went elsewhere and flourished. Gabe was NL Manager of the Year with the Giants and Hakstol seems to have figured it out for a team that hasn’t even turned two yet.

Were these guys the right hires for the Flyers and Phillies? Did they just not jive with the city? Or did they need to get their feet wet with their first head coaching jobs before figuring it out?

There’s probably some truth to each of those thoughts.

Kapler was a quirky California guy, and coconut oil masturbation didn’t exactly resonate with the steak and potatoes portion of Phillies fans. Old school blue collar types. But he also started trusting his gut more and got away from analytics as he exhibited in San Francisco a feel for managing that needed some time to develop. The Kapler of 2023 isn’t the same guy that pulled Aaron Nola after 68 pitches or whatever the hell that was from however long ago.

Hakstol, meantime, had the personality of a paper bag, at least outwardly. Here was a decorated college coach moving to the east coast to take his first NHL gig, in a city with a rich hockey history that didn’t know a backslide was coming in the post-Ed Snider era. Hakstol’s Flyers always finished with more wins than losses, but didn’t get out of the first round in two playoff appearances. He was fired in 2019, took a step back as a Toronto assistant, then went to the other coast to take a completely different NHL head coaching job. Maybe things would have worked out differently here had that Maple Leafs gig preceded the Flyers job, instead of vice versa.

Interestingly enough, the guys who replaced Kapler and Hakstol didn’t fare much better. Alain Vigneault got the Flyers to the second round before it all went to shit, and Joe Girardi’s firing was the catalyst for a World Series run. Now we’ve got Rob Thomson and John Tortorella running the show, one guy managing a title contender and the other trying to figure out which Flyers will be part of the future and which won’t.

Proof, perhaps, that the grass isn’t always greener.

 

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