The Nashville Predators’ season has been shaky at best. Has the hiring of John Hynes brought this team out of ashes, or have things stayed the same?
While the 2019-20 season is on hold, we have handed out season grades for the entire Nashville Predators roster.
The Predators began a new chapter, and just the third chapter in their head coaching history, on January 6, 2020, when the Predators announced the firing of Peter Laviolette.
Laviolette spent 5 and a half seasons with the Predators following Barry Trotz’s long tenure being the one and only Predators head coach.
Laviolette had some huge success with the Predators, taking them to the playoffs every year, with the most memorable being the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.
This season has been a different story. Up and down gameplay and a lack of production from star players plagued the majority of the season. And yet they still managed to get into a wildcard spot when the pause happened.
Opinions differ on the root cause of the issues that the team was experiencing. Opinions also differ on the timing of Laviolette’s firing. Regardless, the coaching change was made.
A Busy First Few Days For The New Coach
Not 24 hours after the Laviolette news was released, Predators GM David Poile announced the hiring of Coach John Hynes.
Hynes had been fired from his head coaching position with the New Jersey Devils a month before. He coached his first game with the Predators the next evening when they faced the Boston Bruins.
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Most would consider Hynes’ first game more of an observation session rather than coaching since he had only met his new team the day before.
Unfortunately, the Predators were not able to give Hynes his first win that night. And it was against a very solid Bruins team.
However, the Predators’ first win for Hynes came very quickly. Two days after the loss against Boston, a series of “firsts” took place in a 5-2 victory over the rival Blackhawks.
The Predators finished out the month of January with five wins out of nine tries, racking up impressive wins over the aforementioned Blackhawks and the Washington Capitals.
The John Hynes era was in full swing. Only the third head coach in franchise history.
New Coach, New System
Almost immediately, there was a backlash against the hiring of Hynes. Many felt that he was hired too quickly and that there may have been better options to choose out of the available coaches pool.
Devils fans were even sending warnings to Predators fans about Hynes’ coaching style.
Hynes did a great job of winning over the Predators’ fan base reasonably quick. He got to work rapidly by identifying the immediate concerns that he saw within the team. He had that figured out after the Boston loss.
One of the more notable moves was experimentation with the lineups. We started to see forwards playing together that we usually wouldn’t. We also saw diminishing ice time for some of the higher paid players. Juuse Saros also saw more starts.
Hynes also implemented a simpler style of hockey. He started to get players in front of the nets more on offense and defense. Gone too was the dump and chase offensive scheme that Laviolette favored.
Players that had languished under Laviolette’s system began gaining momentum. We started seeing flashes of gameplay at a level of which the team was capable.
Hynes’ new structure began to take shape, and the players seemed to implement the changes pretty quickly.
With a good few months under his belt, it appears that Hynes is getting the Predators on the right track. They started winning some games, some of which were against tough opponents like St. Louis and Dallas.
Under Hynes’ leadership, the Predators now sit in the final wildcard spot in the Western Conference. If the NHL regular season is ultimately canceled and they go straight into some yet to-be-determined playoff scenario, the Predators will be in the mix.
It is somewhat hard to grade Hynes’ performance at this point. He just hasn’t been in the job long enough. Had the Predators dropped every other game or ten in a row, I may feel differently.
I’m giving Hynes a higher grade simply because, well, I like him. I feel that with time and the implementation of his playing system, the Predators are capable of overcoming their past issues and becoming the team that we know they are capable of being.
Hynes has lit a fire under this team. Since he took over, you don’t see them get down on themselves as much when they were in scoring trouble. They have a bit of that swagger back and the confidence knowing that they’re capable of beating anyone in the league.