You have to look hard to find positives in the pause that the NHL had to put forth, but there are some big ones you can find for the Nashville Predators.
The Nashville Predators had a rocky and tumultuous season to say the least. Nothing went really according to plan, and yet they managed to snag the final wildcard spot.
Who knows if the Predators would’ve held onto that spot if the regular season was completed, but head coach John Hynes did bring in some stability and patched up some of the leaks.
Now Hynes gets an interesting opportunity to reset the team and implement his strategies and philosophies as if it was a new offseason. Only it’s not for Game 1 of 82 games; it’s for a do-or-die playoff situation.
Tough challenge right from the start
Hynes was presented with a very tough challenge right at the start of his Predators tenure as he came in early January as only the franchise’s third head coach. The team had no identity or consistency when he came in, and they were on the verge of plummeting to the bottom of the Western Conference.
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Not everything has been corrected or restored since Hynes has taken over, however. The special teams is still particularly concerning on both the penalty kill and the power play. Those are areas that hopefully Hynes can fix with a training camp period that’s coming up next month.
This is a situation that can really help Hynes make the changes he really wants to make, which he probably wouldn’t have been able to do in the midst of finishing the regular season under normal circumstances.
There’s no way we can cast sweeping judgement over Hynes one way or the other based on what happens in this revamped postseason.
What I will say is if the Predators go on a run and show clear changes in how they play, then Hynes will deserve an enormous amount of credit.
No “starting” role is safe
One thing I find really interesting from Hynes is how much competition he’s encouraging within the roster. He’s not giving anyone anything just because they’re perceived superstars of the team.
Just take the goaltender situation with Juuse Saros and Pekka Rinne. Most people feel that Saros should absolutely be the starter for Game 1 against Arizona, but Hynes isn’t approaching it that way. He’s calling it a training camp battle in basic terms, per what he said in an interview with 102.5 The Game and Jared Stillman:
Personally I think Saros should be the starter, but I do love the strategy of creating open competition to bring out the most in players. Especially a position so important as the starting goaltender.
The roster decision Hynes makes here will be paramount, and I’m sure he’ll catch some criticism either way if that goaltender struggles causing the Predators to be eliminated early.
I’m cautiously optimistic about Hynes as the future answer as head coach. He definitely deserves a fair amount of time past this season to earn the job for the long term.
Hynes is getting a chance to really implement his system just in time for the playoff. He wouldn’t be getting this extended chance in training camp for a normal postseason. I expect the Predators to look like a different team systematically when they face off with Arizona in the qualifying round.
This could end up being a blessing in disguise for Hynes and the Predators as they get the chances to reset from the Peter Laviolette era and transition more fully to the Hynes era in the upcoming training camp period.