Kraken coach Dave Hakstol talks to the team during the first-round series against Colorado last month. 

He's probably not going to get an award that acknowledges it, but Dave Hakstol is looking more and more like this season's finest NHL coach.

He may not offer pearls to the press or any hint of self-congratulation, but his work has manifested itself on the ice throughout these playoffs — as it did throughout much of the regular season.

Credit Kraken general manager Ron Francis for adding pieces to the roster, and the players for upping their game. It has been hero by committee for this team all season, and pointing to any one figure as the reason for Seattle's success would be silly.

But the coach deserves his kudos. So give Dave his due.

After Sunday's 7-2 playoff victory over the Stars, Kraken center Matty Beniers fielded a question about the team's depth, remarking that Seattle's star power doesn't match that of a lot of NHL teams but that it plays as soundly as anybody.

Part of this is because of the veteran leadership that pervades this roster — which collectively accumulated plenty of playoff experience before this postseason.

However, it's also a function of Hakstol, the man who's been at the helm of this squad from the moment it took the ice as the 32nd team in the NHL.

How do you collect 100 points for the season without a player who has scored more than 40 goals?

How do you go from having the third-worst record in the NHL in Year 1 to reaching the postseason in Year 2?

And how do you go from a team that didn't knock off a playoff opponent in regulation for the final three months in the regular season, then take out the defending champion Avalanche in the first round and go up 2-1 against the heavily favored Stars in the second round?

You probably have a pretty good coach.

The Kraken's depth has been a point of emphasis all season, as they produced 13 players with at least 13 goals.

Perhaps the wildest stat is that Sunday marked the fifth time this season the Kraken had seven goal scorers in a game (regular season and playoffs included).

Obviously, Hakstol isn't out there putting the pucks past the goalies himself, but he's implemented a structure that his players have embraced from the jump.

"He's done a good job of putting a system in play that we've all wrapped our heads around. (We) had two years to put it in place and started to play well with it," Kraken right winger Jordan Eberle said. "When you don't have maybe that superstar power and you're able to win by committee — (Hakstol has) been able to be the front-runner of recognizing that identity and pushing on us to do it. He's been great."

Great enough that Hakstol was recently named as one of three finalists for the Jack Adams Award for NHL coach of the year. The Bruins' Jim Montgomery and the Devils' Lindy Ruff are the other finalists, with most sportsbooks having Montgomery as the overwhelming favorite throughout the season. Funny enough, you rarely saw Hakstol's name near the top of those oddsmakers' lines for the honor, but here he is now — seemingly standing tallest with Boston out and New Jersey trailing Carolina 2-1.

Not that you're going to hear Hakstol sing his praises. He'd rather take a slap shot to the chin than spend time talking about himself.

His team has shocked the hockey world over the past few weeks by ousting Colorado in seven and twice lighting up Dallas in this second round — something the Kraken's performance against top-notch teams from mid-January to mid-April did not project.

The coach won't take credit for flipping the proverbial switch, though.

"Our mindset hasn't changed all year. You can add up our record against playoff teams at certain portions of the year. You can take the stats, and you can build them however you want to present the case," Hakstol said. "We've been pretty good against playoff teams throughout the season. ... Our win-loss record is good. It's not great, but it's good. Believe me. We'd take it year in and year out."

But what the Kraken are doing now is stretching beyond good and into great. They have enraptured the city with an improbable run that likely has fans thinking about the impossible.

Could they go all the way? Who knows?

Of course, you won't hear that kind of talk from Hakstol. His mind is on Game 4 and nothing else.

Probably wise if the team takes the same mentality.

Following their coach's lead has gotten them this far, and he's earned more and more trust with every victory.

Copyright 2023 Tribune Content Agency.

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