Nashville Predators: John Hynes Restored Hope for the Season

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 30: Former Head Coach of the New Jersey Devils, John Hynes now Head Coach of the Nashville Predators, looks on from behind the bench during the game at the Prudential Center on January 30, 2020 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 30: Former Head Coach of the New Jersey Devils, John Hynes now Head Coach of the Nashville Predators, looks on from behind the bench during the game at the Prudential Center on January 30, 2020 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images) /

There’s no way around how rough this season got at times for the Nashville Predators, but John Hynes eventually restored hope.

I’ll be the first to admit that I was skeptical when the Nashville Predators decided to cut bait with Peter Laviolette midseason with still a lot of regular season hockey to be played.

Some of that skepticism still exists, but it’s quickly started to evaporate with the way John Hynes gradually instilled his philosophies and got the team back on track.

A lot of the frustration from this season for the Predators came from a talented team not living up to their talent level on the ice. Players that have all of the skill and talent you can hope for, but it just did’t translate.

Hynes brought back hope

It took a little while, but eventually the Predators started playing much better and showing more consistency. This didn’t always translate to a win, but the quality of play definitely started to increase.

Not just the quality of play, but also the demeanor of the team. Veteran leaders on the team like Kyle Turris, Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg started showing more drive, while the always reliable Roman Josi continued to play at a high level.

Then Ryan Ellis finally returned on February 21st, a struggling Nashville defense finally got another proven leader back.

More from Predlines

Hynes had a tall order ahead of him after taking over for Laviolette in early January. The team was rapidly descending into oblivion and in serious danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

We’re not accustomed to missing the playoffs here in Nashville, and Hynes had to quickly figure out how to stop the leak before the ship completely sank.

It’s safe to say he did that, but there’s obviously a lot that’s unknown thanks to the NHL pausing the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After Hynes took over the Predators went 16-11-1, which isn’t lights out, but is far better than what they were displaying in November and December.

There were some impressive wins they notched over top teams like Capitals, Blues, Islanders and Stars.

They also showed the ability to win close games with two wins in overtime and two wins via the shootout. The two overtime wins could end up being the difference-makers as they came against wildcard hopefuls in the Jets and Flames.

In mid-February we were starting to see the results on the ice, and quite frankly in the locker room. This great quote from Hynes via Kristopher Martel really sticks out to me:

"“I just think our mental toughness and focus has been better. I think that really drives everything else you do. I think the team seems as though they’re coming together. They’re playing hard for each other”."

The full quote is right here from Martel, who is a great follow on Twitter if you’re not already doing so:

This team flipped a switch under Hynes for whatever reason, and now let’s hope they can finish it out in some way.

You also can’t leave out the resurgence that we saw from key players like Craig Smith and Mikael Granlund. These two are very important to the Predators becoming a legit playoff contender and threat, and them getting hot down the stretch was critical to the Predators getting into a wildcard spot.

Then we saw the team defense in front of Juuse Saros get somewhat better. It wasn’t completely fixed, but it did show some promise. Saros’ numbers would agree as he was really getting locked in under Hynes’ new system that was being implemented in front of him.

Looking ahead with Hynes in charge

We can’t draw any sweeping conclusions on Hynes one way or the other at this current time. He technically got the Predators back into a playoff spot if the regular season never resumes.

Who knows if Laviolette would’ve been able to achieve the same thing if he remained in charge. All I know is the team was definitely going in the wrong direction and looked nothing like a playoff team.

Hynes changed that belief. Perhaps the Predators are destined for another first-round playoff exit even if they do make it, but Hynes at least restored some sort of respect and turned things back in a positive direction.

I’m confident enough to admit when I was wrong about something, and I was wrong about the midseason coaching change. I originally thought the Predators should stick it out with Laviolette and make a move in the offseason so they can do their due diligence in a coaching search.

I may still end up being correct on that if next season ends up being a blunder, but for now I have at least a fair amount of confidence that Hynes will be able to keep improving this team and get the most out of it for the next couple seasons to avoid a rebuild.

With all of the craziness that has ensued for this current season due to the stoppage and what not, I’m reserving all judgement on Hynes until next season when it comes to the team’s performance whether they play their final 13 regular season games, or get rewarded with a playoff berth via point percentage.

You just can’t hold anyone accountable for how this season will wrap up. It’s so unprecedented and who knows how the players are going to respond both physically and mentally when they’re suddenly thrown back into meaningful playoff-type games.

Amid the Pause, Playoff Format Idea Gaining Steam. light. Trending

Regardless of what happens in the remained of the 2019-20 season, Hynes has done enough for me to restore some confidence that this team can remain relevant in the Western Conference and avoid a rebuild that looked highly likely when he took over for Laviolette during a turbulent time.