John Hynes is Still the Nashville Predators’ Big Bet

Nashville Predators(Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports(
Nashville Predators(Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports( /

Let’s take it back in time,

Nashville Predators

fans, before the hiring of John Hynes. January 6th, 2020, to be exact.

At a record 19-15-7, speculation circulated that Head Coach Peter Laviolette had lost the locker room after a tumultuous start to the 2019-2020 season, including a tough loss on arguably one of the largest national stages in the NHL: The Winter Classic.

The loss to the division rival Dallas Stars, who would go on to compete in the Stanley Cup Final, created a snowball effect that would lead up to January 6th, 2020, when the team announced it had parted ways with Laviolette.

For all the issues that plagued the Nashville Predators under Laviolette’s tenure, all the frustration of the tough loss on the big stage, it’s still hard not to look at the old helmsmen and be too disappointed.

Laviolette did, after all, get the most out of a relatively young team, guiding it to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017 for the first time in franchise history, and to a President’s Trophy a year later in 2018.

Sure, his time was helped by the 2018 Vezina Trophy winning Pekka Rinne, but let us not forget the overachievers who are now household names in Smashville, developed under Laviolette’s tutelage.

For Better or Worse, a New Era for the Nashville Predators

After Laviolette’s dismissal, the team moved on quickly, and on January 7th announced that the new head coach of the Nashville Predators would be the former New Jersey Devils head coach, John Hynes.

The first presser was no-nonsense. Hynes wanted toughness from his team, but demanded smart play.

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The team would go on to finish decently, looking very strong before the pause due to the pandemic, but ultimately failed to get out of the qualifying round and into the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since the 2013-2014 season.

Ultimately they would end their season as the 5th-place team in the Central Division, which brings me to my next point.

Hynes has never coached a team to better than a 5th-place finish in the division, and the one time his team made the playoffs as a wildcard team, they were ousted in the first round.

Laviolette has never had a team finish below fourth in the division, and has made the playoffs 11 out of 15 times (not counting the seasons he was fired).

Hynes has a record of 166-170-46 for a .496 winning percentage. Laviolette’s record you ask? A 637-425-25 record, and .524 win percentage. Take those numbers as you will.

Going back to January 6, 2020, the fanbase was understandably upset after what was an incredible and unprecedented, somewhat unpredicted, run at success. Ultimately, though many pundits were critical of the hire, they were supportive of the change in head coaching.

The problem is, when you make a coaching change, you better hope the new guy is better than the one you’re leaving.

Say what you want about Hynes, question the hire, absolutely, but as of right now, he seems to have command of the locker room. The players seem to be adjusting to his system, and he did get better performances out of players like Mikael Granlund.

However, a fanbase that has been as spoiled as the Smashville faithful, expects for the Nashville Predators to be in the playoff mix, if not a contender, every year.

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Where We Find Hynes

I hate to speculate that Hynes may be the scapegoat for a future rebuild, because it is still early in the 2021 season, but if you watched the start of this season, you know the team has already been challenged by adversity. The last thing fans want to hear is rebuild talk, especially with the talent already assembled on the team.

The power play is still abysmal, hovering around the league worst. While the penalty kill improved in the Chicago Blackhawks series, it still has been in the bottom third of the league, and taken a bit of puck luck to be effective (when it is effective).

The offense is somewhat woeful, inconsistent at best, usually as a result of poor entry into the offensive zone quickly hampered by the opposing defense, or ineffective and slow-developing dump-and-chases opted for so frequently that you would think Dulcolax is a team sponsor.

Defensively, the team is solid, but that speaks more to the talent of the top-two pairings, than the system itself (and those top two pairings could potentially be better if properly coached).

Our highest-paid duo of centers in Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene have underperformed, though the latter has come on strong in 2021 and did win the game in the shootout in the second matchup against Chicago.

Suffice it to say, there’s a lot that (still) needs fixing.

So, here we are, with a lot of questions, and still not a lot of answers. At seven games in, we still don’t truly know the identity of this team.

As a fanbase, I think it’s fair we “stay the course” so to speak, as we still have 49 more games to be played.

I believe Hynes deserves a fair chance this year before the “#FireHynes” movement takes flight – I don’t like rooting against the guy I need to lead our team to victory. I wouldn’t even necessarily put the team’s situation squarely on Hynes by any stretch – he is working with what he has, and he needs time for it to develop.

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The Chef, the Shopper, and the Dinner Yet Served

Hynes is the chef, but the one doing the grocery shopping is General Manager David Poile. For all his brilliance in some areas, the immediate future of both Hynes and the Predators falls solely on “GMDP”.

Hailed for the team’s 2017 postseason run, and more so for the team’s historic 2017-2018 regular season, he now shoulders the decisions that have led us to this point. Hynes isn’t the one who traded for and signed Kyle Turris, along with some other questionable roster decisions over the years.

The way I see it, if Hynes fails, Poile fails with him, and so goes the team – let’s hope that isn’t the case.

We may be a coach away, we may not be, but the fanbase is too hungry to go into a rebuild, and you can’t sell tickets at the price the owners have set the last four years, and not put a competitive team on the ice.

The reality is, Smashville is better when Lower Broadway is buzzing, and nothing creates more energy in the city and fanbase, like winning hockey played in Bridgestone Arena.

For that, and many reasons, in spite of the history that tells me otherwise, I hope the Predators big bet is a winning one, and Hynes is the guy to right the ship.

We have a whirlwind of a season ahead of us to find out. Buckle up, buttercup.