In what can only be described as shocking, Kingston Frontenacs General Manager and Head Coach Paul McFarland has left the team to join Head Coach Dave Hakstol’s coaching staff with the NHL expansion franchise, the Seattle Kraken. McFarland joins Jay Leach as one of two Assistant Coaches with the new team. Leach leaves behind his job as Head Coach of the Boston Bruins American Hockey League affiliate in Providence Rhode Island.
“We’re very excited to add two talented hockey minds in Paul and Jay to our inaugural staff,” said Hakstol in a Kraken press release. Hakstol is well acquainted with McFarland as they coached together as assistants with the Toronto Maple Leafs during the 2019-20 season with Mike Babcock, and then Sheldon Keefe who replaced Babcock after he was fired 23 games into the season.
The Frontenacs have promoted Kory Cooper into the role of GM. Cooper’s first task will be finding a new Head Coach. Copper has served as McFarland’s assistant since September 11, 2020. A goalie and a native of Winsloe P.E.I., Cooper was originally drafted by the Belleville Bulls where he played three season before finishing his outstanding OHL career with the Sudbury Wolves. He then went on and played nine seasons in the minors, which was highlighted by winning rookie and goaltender of the year in the Western Professional Hockey League for the 1998-99 season. He has a solid hockey background, which includes stints as a goalie coach in the OHL, American Hockey League (Belleville), and the ECHL.
Despite this being Cooper’s first time in the General Manager’s chair, he has solid relationships throughout the OHL and is a contemporary of Ottawa GM James Boyd and P.E.I. Islanders Head Coach Jim Hulton. McFarland has agreed to stay on as a consultant until the end of August to help Cooper transition into the role and select a new Head Coach. Cooper is personable, well respected throughout the hockey world and will be a good face of the organization, a role in which former GM Darren Keily was uncomfortable.
In separate press releases, the Frontenacs said all of the right things about this being an exciting opportunity for both McFarland and Cooper. The league is, in part, designed for such an occurrence that sees young coaches and executives move up in the business of the game. That said, this is a bad look for the franchise. McFarland came back to Kingston where he had served as the Frontenacs Head Coach from 2014 through the end of the 2017 season before moving up to the NHL as an Assistant Coach with Florida and Toronto. In hiring McFarland for the dual role as Coach and GM, there was talk of a 180-degree shift in team culture and revamping the front office in order to ensure consistent success in years to come, and so on.
In his dual role, McFarland was the key figure in the player recruitment process. Yes, there is a priority selection process, however, today’s players and their families have more options than ever when it comes to development leagues to play in. McFarland would have made commitments to these players and families that he was going to be here guiding them during their time in Kingston and beyond, whether it be post-secondary or professional opportunities.
This is not to take away from an incredible opportunity in the NHL for Paul McFarland. It’s just a bad look given that players will be heading to Kingston to start the season in about 90 days.
In his time here, McFarland made some key decisions in taking Matthew Soto from Oakville with the team’s first selection in last months priority selection. Soto has the potential to be a very entertaining player and has some observers comparing him to Brad Marchand. In another astute move, McFarland chose Finish goaltender Leevi Merilainen in the CHL Import Draft on June 30. Merilainen was selected by the Ottawa Senators in the fourth round (170th overall) in last summer’s NHL Entry Draft and immediately fills a huge need for the team.
Kingstonist will have more Frontenacs coverage in the days and weeks ahead.
Tim “The Coach” Cunningham has played every sport ever. His inside knowledge can be heard and seen on radio, television and in print across Canada. Follow him on twitter at @TheCoachTC.