Bylsma with unfinished business before heading to Seattle |

Bylsma with unfinished business before heading to Seattle |

Bylsma with unfinished business before heading to Seattle | TheAHL.comPatrick Williams, Features Writer

It’s only Wednesday, and it’s already been an eventful week for Coachella Valley Firebirds head coach Dan Bylsma.

Make that Seattle Kraken head coach, too. Yesterday the Kraken made it official, naming Bylsma their new head coach.

After the press conference in Seattle to introduce Bylsma, he was back on a flight to California to continue the Firebirds’ pursuit of the Calder Cup.

“I still have some other things to do in Coachella Valley,” Bylsma said. “What we’ve built in Coachella Valley with the community, the fans and the team is a large part of me being here today.”

The hiring brought Bylsma back full-circle to the NHL after three seasons in the AHL with the Kraken organization. When they entered the NHL in 2021, the expansion Kraken entrusted Bylsma with much of the day-to-day care of their prospects at the AHL level as an assistant coach with the Charlotte Checkers in a shared affiliation with the Florida Panthers.

When the Kraken launched their own AHL affiliate last season, they turned to Bylsma to lead the Firebirds as their head coach.

Since then, Bylsma has accomplished the two tasks that NHL front offices want to see from an AHL affiliate: develop young talent and do so in a winning environment.

Seattle finished 34-35-13 this season – missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs after advancing to the second round last year – but Bylsma will be walking into a familiar environment given the Firebirds graduates who are now with the Kraken. After a standout performance in last year’s playoff run, Joey Daccord has become a regular in net for Seattle. Forward Tye Kartye, voted the AHL’s outstanding rookie in 2022-23, blossomed with the Firebirds and is now a Seattle full-timer. Defenseman Ryker Evans is back with the Firebirds this postseason, but he ended up playing 36 games with Seattle this season after taking a spot on the AHL All-Rookie Team in 2022-23. Rookie forward Shane Wright showed strong growth this season and earned eight games with the Kraken. Two other rookies up front, Logan Morrison and Ryan Winterton, have shown strong promise playing for Bylsma.

“Being in the organization for the last three years, I’ve been witness to the path this organization’s on, the young players that are coming into the organization, and drafts that have happened,” Bylsma said.

Bylsma’s development touch with the Firebirds made an impression on Seattle management.

“How he worked through both the veterans and the young kids will bode well for our team here,” Kraken general manager Ron Francis said. “If you look down the road, we have a lot of good pieces coming, and Dan and his staff have shown that they can develop young players as well as veteran guys, so that’s important in making this decision.”

With that development has come plenty of winning as well. Bylsma went 94-32-11-7 (.715) in his two regular seasons as the Firebirds became the second club in AHL history to reach 100 points in each of its first two seasons. Seattle management knows that Bylsma can win at the NHL level as well: Promoted to Pittsburgh midway through the 2008-09 season after starting that campaign as the head coach with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, he took the team to a Stanley Cup championship. He also won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s outstanding coach in 2010-11, and served as head coach of the United States men’s hockey team at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Reviewing his path to yesterday, Bylsma thought back to viewing the Charlotte opportunity three years ago as a chance to retool his approach to coaching.

“You could wonder why maybe my path led me to Charlotte,” Bylsma outlined. “Really, I was grateful to Ron at the time of just giving me the opportunity to coach again. I had taken a few years off being a head coach and really decided that I wanted to give one more go at being a head coach again, and that’s really what led me to Charlotte.

“I did have an eye on C.V., I will say that… Proving to Ron that I would be the guy to be the head coach.”

Developing himself in the AHL these past three seasons, Bylsma says that he is a different coach now since his NHL days.

“Connecting with the players, coaching the players, developing the players, developing the team has been where I think I’ve improved as a coach,” Bylsma explained. “I think it can be a little bit difficult when you get to the National Hockey League to do that, and this time around it won’t be, that’s for sure.”

At this point, coaching a team to a Calder Cup title might be the last item missing for Bylsma. Before he steps behind an NHL bench again, he has a chance to pursue that championship one more time.

“We’ve still got some work to do,” Bylsma said.