Nashville Predators: Why Head Coach John Hynes Is Here To Stay

Nashville Predators head coach John Hynes yells from the bench during the third period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators head coach John Hynes yells from the bench during the third period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

Let’s take a trip back in time to the middle of March. The Nashville Predators were in the midst of a three-game losing streak. They had dropped two games in a row to the Carolina Hurricanes and suffered a 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Including those three games, the Predators had managed to win two games in a row only four times since the beginning of the 2020-21 season. Their record at the midpoint of the season stood at 11-16-1.

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With the shortened season and the all-division play that it featured, the Predators’ record spelled disaster for a team that had hopes of making a run at the Stanley Cup with its core players that had been together since 2017.

As is always the case when a sports team doesn’t perform up to expectations, fans and prognosticators everywhere point their heavily opinionated and sometimes ill-informed fingers at management and the coach.

Up until the mid-point of the Predators’ season, lots of people had written this team off. Most, including myself, were looking for them to be heavy sellers at the trade deadline and felt that a general manager and head coaching change were the only things that would fix this broken team.

What A Difference A Month Has Made

After those three-straight losses in March, the Predators went on an epic run of winning 13 of 16 games and putting themselves in a position to possibly make the playoffs for the seventh season in a row.

Since the middle of March, the Predators record has improved to14-5-1, including a win against the Tampa Bay Lightning and six out of seven wins against the Chicago Blackhawks.

While it’s not a foregone conclusion that the Predators are a shoo-in for the playoffs, and their road got a little more challenging with the loss to the Blackhawks last night, no one can deny that this team has proven that they aren’t ready to throw in the towel just yet.

Give The Coach Some Credit

While the hiring of Head Coach John Hynes has never been popular, you have to give him credit for adapting to the situation at hand, sticking with his system, and helping his team gel into a more formidable opponent.

Since he arrived in Nashville, Hynes has dealt with a season pause due to a pandemic, playoffs in a bubble, and a shortened season with no fans for most games.

With the challenges Hynes has faced, and the season that the Predators have had, he deserves a smiley face for pulling this team together and making a run for the playoffs.

It hasn’t been an easy road for Hynes due to injuries of key players and constant line shifts that those injuries have necessitated. He has finally found some consistency in the lineup and will start getting some injured players back into the lineup.

Even when he faced constant criticism (from myself yet again), he stuck with his lineup decisions, plugged the holes left by injuries with younger players, and got his club on track.

A Normal Season With New Opportunities And Challenges

With GM David Poile standing pat at the trade deadline and several younger players showing their worth, Hynes has a golden opportunity to craft an excellent team next season.

If the Predators fail to make the playoffs, Hynes can look to this resurgence, find out what worked and what didn’t, and use that to build upon next season when he will finally get a normal training camp for the first time since his arrival in Nashville.

Poile will have some work to do in the offseason, negotiating contracts and the expansion draft. His priority will be to weed out some of the one-year contracts, solidify the defensive core, and give Hynes the best team that he can put together.

The Predators may have some lingering problems in the offseason. Goaltending could be an issue with Pekka Rinne’s looming retirement and Juuse Saros’ propensity for cold starts.

Another issue facing the Predators is the need for scoring forwards. Filip Forsberg leads the team in goals but has been injured for quite some time. The emergence of Eeli Tolvanen has been refreshing and could help alleviate this issue.

A healthy Forsberg and Tolvanen is a dangerous combination now and in the future that gives Predators fans hope and excitement every time this duo takes the ice.

Hynes Is The Coach For The Foreseeable Future

From his less than stellar career with the New Jersey Devils to coaching the Predators in the current COVID-19 environment, Hynes is impacting the team but at a slower pace than some have expected or can handle.

Hynes took over a team in shambles, and it is taking considerable time to unravel them and build them back up. With the team finally buying into the system and playing a more straightforward hockey game, they are starting to get back to the “Predator Way” finally.

Hynes may not have been the popular hire at the time or may have been hired too quickly, but now that the team is finally making some headway, he has solidified his spot and deserves a chance to at least finish out his contract.

In a world that is always looking for instant gratification and success, most don’t realize that sometimes it takes time to create something good.

The Predators playoff window is closing, but with how they have played recently and the prospects in the pipeline, Hynes has a decent shot of building a great team next season. This team has gotten a taste of what it is like to win, have success, and be recognized as a formidable opponent.

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