Unfortunately, the Nashville Predators’ season will be viewed by many as a failure. In some ways, it may have been, forcing a midseason coaching change.
Nashville Predators Head Coach John Hynes is now on the clock to make the necessary changes to the team and mold them into a contender. He has to do this while also continuing to implement his own systematic philosophies, which was starting to happen in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
There have been multiple conversations about the things that the Nashville Predators did poorly this year. Several factors led to their up-and-down season, including coaching.
One big move that polarized many fans was a mid-season coaching change. Hynes deserves some credit for at least keeping the team from completely mailing it in.
When Peter Laviolette was relieved of his duties, the Predators were in disarray. They had lost four out of their last five games, including the highly-anticipated Winter Classic. They were without Ryan Ellis due to injury and suffered a loss to the Anaheim Ducks, at the time one of the worst teams in the league.
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However, the Predators were not totally out of the playoff picture, but GM David Poile pulled the trigger anyway and let Laviolette go.
Had there been no chance of the team getting into the playoffs, a mid-season change may have made more sense to the fanbase. Some were glad to see Laviolette go, and some were not.
It was clear to many that something had to change within the organization. This Predators team that had been built to win the Stanley Cup was languishing. Everything that was tried to right the ship wasn’t working anymore.
On January 7th, the Predators announced that they had hired Hynes to be their new head coach, only the third in Predators’ history.
Hynes made as many adjustments to the team as he could while in the midst of the season. Things began looking better, but the Predators were still inconsistent at times, and many players still struggled.
They did have some huge wins against some divisional foes including a back-to-back sweep of St. Louis and back-to-back shutouts against Dallas. The Predators were slowly trending in the right direction. Then the unimaginable happened.
The season was paused due to the pandemic and eventually deemed complete. While the Predators were waiting to retake the ice Hynes spent time getting to know his team.
Once training camp started, Hynes had some time to implement more changes in an effort to mold the Predators into a team that could make a deep playoff run.
The Stanley Cup Qualifiers saw a determined Predators team that appeared to be playing better but ultimately couldn’t get the job done. Some of the mistakes that haunted them during the regular season crept back in.
They avoided being swept by the Arizona Coyotes by winning a game. The Predators’ year ended in disappointment.
Throughout the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, questions arose about the lineup decisions that Hynes made. After the series ended so quickly, the questions immediately turned from the lineups to whether Hynes was even fit to be the coach.
Fast forward to now. The internet is abuzz with conversations outlining what Hynes and/or Poile need to do to make this team successful. Line changes, trades, a new coach, and even a new GM have all been discussed by sportswriters and fans alike.
It would be a shocking proposition to ice this same team next season. Changes need to happen, whether it is through free agency, trades, or prospects. The glaring issues during the Stanley Cup Qualifiers should be a wake-up call for Hynes and Poile.
Poile may be feeling some pressure, but I would be shocked if he were not the GM next season. Calling for Hynes’ early firing is a meaningless conversation. He’s not going anywhere for at least a season or two.
Hynes’ contract is good until the end of the 2021-2022 season. There is no way he would be fired so soon after taking the job, nor should he be.
If a coaching change were made now, the Predators would be paying Laviolette for his last year, Hynes for two more years, and then a new coach. It isn’t going to happen. He deserves a full season to prove himself.
Hynes, Poile and the rest of the coaching staff need to get to work immediately. They are going to have a lot to do in this shortened offseason if this team is to get back to make deep playoff runs anytime soon.
Some personnel decisions may see the departure of some “fan favorites.” This will be tough to witness, but it is also necessary if the team is to progress and move forward.
The question that needs to be asked is, what will Hynes have to do to be considered a success in Nashville? Will getting the Predators past the second round do the trick, or will it take nothing short of a Stanley Cup to satisfy the fans? It’s probably the latter.
Predators’ fans are aching to bring the Stanley Cup home to Nashville. Having their hopes dashed in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final has been a bitter pill to swallow. The early playoff exits since then by a team that is more than capable of winning it all may be too much to bear.
Hynes now has the monumental task of trying to craft a Stanley Cup contender out of a team whose window is closing, or maybe already has quite frankly.
This will be a tall order that may require some brilliant front office moves and some luck. The flat salary cap may hinder any significant trades or movement.
Allowing free agents to leave the organization will free up some cap space. That cap money will be needed to acquire some supporting pieces to go along with core players who showed some promise in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
More than likely, Hynes will also be weaving some AHL prospects into the team next season. The Predators’ have some prospects that are on the cusp of making the main roster. Alexandre Carrier, Eeli Tolvanen, and Philip Tomasino have an excellent chance of wearing a Predators jersey on opening night.
The Predators have an excellent core team when all cylinders are firing. We saw flashes of brilliance from the JoFA line in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis played like the top defensive duo that they are. We even saw a glimpse of the elevated play of which Matt Duchene is capable.
The ball is now in Hynes’ court. First, he must, I repeat, must find a way to bring out the best in the core players and keep them motivated. It’s not like he’s working without absolutely nothing and having to start from the ground up.
Second, Hynes has to stoke the fire that was lit under Duchene in that final game. He will have a significant role to play next season.
Third, Hynes, and subsequently Poile, will need to have the courage to make the changes that need to be made. They may be somewhat risky and uncomfortable, but Predators fans are counting on management to make them.
With a full training camp, smart personnel decisions, and lots of motivation, Hynes should be able to mold this team into a unit that can make a deep playoff run. Unfortunately, for Predators fans who are longing to see Josi hoist that big silver cup, the talk of deep playoff runs may not be enough.