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Bylsma has unfinished business before heading to Seattle |

Patrick Features Writer

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

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

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

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

The hire 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 Kraken's extension gave Bylsma 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 partnership with the Florida Panthers.

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

Since then, Bylsma has accomplished two tasks that NHL front offices want to see in 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 moving into familiar territory given the Firebirds' now-Kraken franchise. After a strong performance in last year's finals, Joey Daccord it has become a common sight in Seattle. Forward Yes Kartye, voted the AHL's outstanding rookie in 2022-23, blossomed with the Firebirds and is now a full-time player in Seattle. The protector Ryker Evans he returned with the Firebirds this season, but ended up playing 36 games with Seattle this season after earning a spot on the AHL All-Rookie team for 2022-23. A rookie forward Shane Wright showed strong growth this season and earned eight appearances with the Kraken. Two more rookies ahead, Logan Morrison again Ryan Wintertonthey showed strong hope playing in Bylsma.

“As I have been in the organization for the past three years, I have been a witness to the way this organization is moving, the young players who have entered the organization, and the draft plans that have taken place,” said Bylsma.

Bylsma's development contact with the Firebirds made an impression on Seattle management.

“The way he's worked with the veterans and the younger kids will bode well for our team here,” Kraken general manager Ron Francis said. “When you look down the line, we have a lot of good pieces coming up, and Dan and his staff have shown that they can develop young players and veteran guys, so it's important to make this decision.”

With that development came a lot of wins. 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 their first two seasons. Seattle management knows Bylsma can win again at the NHL level: He was promoted to Pittsburgh during the 2008-09 season after starting that campaign as head coach with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, leading the team to the Stanley Cup championship. He also won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's top coach in 2010-11, and served as the head coach of the United States men's hockey team at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Reviewing his approach to yesterday, Bylsma reflected on looking at the Charlotte opportunity three years ago as an opportunity to retool his coaching style.

“You might wonder why maybe my path led me to Charlotte,” Bylsma said. “Really, I thanked Ron when he gave me the opportunity to coach again. I had taken a few years off from being a head coach and I really decided that I wanted to continue being a head coach again, and that's what led me to Charlotte.

“I was looking at the CV, I'll say that… To prove to Ron that I'm going to be a guy who's going to be a great coach.”

Developing in the AHL over the past three seasons, Bylsma says he's a different coach than his NHL days.

“Communicating with the players, training the players, developing the players, developing the team is where I think I have improved as a coach,” explained Bylsma. “I think it would be a little bit harder when you get to the National Hockey League to do that, and this time it won't be, that's for sure.”

At this point, coaching a team to a Calder Cup title may be the last thing missing from Bylsma. Before he hits the NHL bench again, he still has a chance to pursue that championship once more.

“We still have work to do,” Bylsma said. features writer Patrick Williams has covered the American Hockey League for nearly two decades at outlets including, Sportsnet, TSN, Hockey News, SiriusXM NHL Network Radio and SLAM ! Sports, and most recently was the host of The Hockey News On The 'A' podcast. He was the recipient of the AHL's James H. Ellery Memorial Award for the league's top scorer in 2016.

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