Lots of big-name coaches were available, including Mike Babcock, Dan Bylsma and Todd McLellan.
Instead, Philadelphia Flyers General Manager Ron Hextall went with a relative unknown to most NHL fans, naming the University of North Dakota's Dave Hakstol as the franchise's 19th coach Monday.
Hakstol, 46, is regarded as a no-nonsense coach who sometimes delivers a message with a "scary" stare, according to Flyers forward Chris VandeVelde, who played for him at North Dakota.
Ed Snider, chairman of the Flyers' parent company, Comcast-Spectacor, called it a "gutsy" hiring.
"We need a fresh approach," said Snider, whose team missed the playoffs for the second time in three years and fired coach Craig Berube after the season.
Hextall would not name the terms or length of the deal but said it was a multiyear pact.
Hextall's son, Brett, a winger, played for Hakstol 2008-11, scoring 12, 14 and 13 goals in those seasons. Brett now plays for the Phantoms, the Flyers' AHL farm team.
While watching his son play at North Dakota, "I grew an appreciation for Dave, the way he coached," the elder Hextall said. "I thought about him long before this as a head coach in the National Hockey League. I believe he was destined for it."
They met for parts of four days and were constantly on the phone. "And everything checked out the way that we hoped it would check out," Hextall said. "I had a list of things that I wanted from a head coach and went down the checklist in my mind and every box was checked except for the NHL experience. Quite frankly, for me, that was one that was least important."
Hakstol, an Alberta native, said he prefers a fast-paced style and getting the defensemen involved in the attack. He spent the past 11 seasons at North Dakota, compiling a 289-143-43 record (. 643 percentage). Last season, he directed the team to a 29-10-3 record and a spot in the NCAA Frozen Four.
"I do have a great deal of confidence in what we do, in what my philosophies are, and in the fact that they're going to be successful here," Hakstol said.
North Dakota earned a tournament berth in all 11 of Hakstol's seasons and reached the Frozen Four seven times. Hakstol was an eight-time finalist for national coach-of-the-year honors. He spent four years as an assistant at North Dakota before becoming head coach.
"He's developed young guys and it's pretty cool to see a guy go from college to the NHL," said Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere. He called North Dakota a "mecca" for college players and "where everybody wants to go if you're not from the East."
Said Snider: "I'm hoping in this case, we have another Mike Babcock," adding there was a time in the negotiations when he thought Hakstol might decide to remain at North Dakota. "I'm hoping he will be here for a long, long time."