Nashville Predators: John Hynes Has Earned Our Trust for Next Season

Nashville Predators head coach John Hynes talks with referee Francois St. Laurent Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators head coach John Hynes talks with referee Francois St. Laurent Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /
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There were realistic thoughts just two months ago that the Nashville Predators might be in the market for a new head coach when the offseason got here. Things change fast in the NHL.

Head Coach John Hynes was under a lot of scrutiny as the Predators were in a downward spiral towards last place in the Central Division. Playoff hopes were about as close to zero as you can get:

If the Predators never turn it around like they did, we’re definitely sitting here looking back at another season where the team went backwards and asking if Hynes deserves to finish out his contract.

A full rebuild would be at the forefront, and we’d be asking if Hynes is truly the guy to be in charge over that rebuild. My suspicion is a lot of people would be calling on his firing.

We were close to a much different head coaching conversation

Just think about this; the Predators are really just a couple overtime games not going their way against Dallas from missing out on these playoffs. Even then, some would still be beating the drum on that Hynes isn’t the right fit for a pending rebuild past 2021.

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We were very close to diving into another head coaching search if the Predators didn’t turn things around so quickly, and if Juuse Saros hadn’t morphed into a Vezina Trophy contender after returning from injury.

Hynes has one more year left on his current three-year deal he signed with the Predators on January 7, 2020. Many, including myself, were perplexed as to why the Predators rushed to replace Peter Laviolette so quickly.

Although not nearly on the same level, but last season the Predators were also hitting a high note as the 2019-20 regular season hit its final stretch.

Nashville won six of their last nine games and were just four points behind the Dallas Stars for third place in the division with 13 games left to play.

The pause happened, the summer came with the unknown on if the season would ever be finished, and eventually the Edmonton bubble came and the Predators were quickly ousted by the Arizona Coyotes in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.

Hynes now has an overall regular season record of 46-34-3 behind the bench for the Predators, with the additional 1-3 record in the Edmonton bubble. Not groundbreaking stuff, but certainly nothing to scoff at, either.

There just wasn’t a lot of faith in Hynes heading into this season, but the job he has done to guide this team to where they are now is extraordinary and deserves a ton of praise. He has me on board and in his corner as we’ll hopefully get a normal offseason to work with.

Do the Nashville Predators have their long-term head coach with Hynes?

The biggest reason why I have to tip my cap to Hynes is how he handled this lineup through all the injuries. The team lost so many key players throughout the season, and Hynes kept the ship steered in the right direction despite there being plenty of excuses to fold up the tent and go home.

So much youth and inexperience got injected into the lineup, and there’s something to be said about how Hynes coached this team out of the deep hole they were in.

I’m intrigued to see how Hynes will set his playoff lineup, but here’s my ideal playoff lineup I constructed earlier this week. Making difficult lineup decisions like what Hynes is up against is where the great head coaches earn their long-term contracts. Putting the right players in the right places to succeed and help the team.

You can’t overlook the job Hynes’ assistant coaches have done as well, although there’s still plenty of room for improvement when it comes to special teams. We’ll leave that conversation for another time.

Believe it or not, there’s even some mild discussion about Hynes being the conversation for the Jack Adams Trophy for the NHL’s best coach. From Joey Alfieri of NBC Sports Edge, he had Hynes at No.9 in his top-ten Jack Adams Trophy candidates list.

This ranking came fresh off the Predators’ huge overtime win over the Dallas Stars, but came before the playoff clinching win over the Hurricanes a week later. I’d suspect he has moved Hynes up on this list since then, but the Minnesota Wild’s Dean Evason leads that list of candidates, and rightfully so. What a job they’ve done up in Minnesota this season.

Regardless of what happens in the first round playoff series against the Hurricanes, Hynes has at least earned my trust that he’ll keep this thing going in the right direction for 2021-22. This team has the youth coming up that can play a big role in avoiding a massive rebuild.

There’s the thought of even a contract extension creeping in my mind if the Predators somehow pull off the upset over the Hurricanes, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Hynes has limited postseason coaching experience, so I do want to see the Predators compete hard and make this series interesting. If they get ran out of the building and swept by Carolina, then I’ll have some doubt creep back in regarding Hynes.

In just nine career postseason games that he’s coached, Hynes has compiled a record of 2-7 over his six seasons of NHL coaching experience. Those New Jersey Devils teams were very mediocre at best, but he’s getting the opportunity to coach arguably the best roster of his career right now.

To fully be behind Hynes for the long-term future past 2021, I need to see the Predators play well in this first round series. It doesn’t mean they actually have to advance past a loaded Hurricanes team, but they definitely have to show they belong and that this wasn’t a fluke.

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For the Hynes critics that I know still remain out there, you’re probably worried about the Predators front office investing in Hynes for a lengthy contract extension.

Unless the Predators go on a deep playoff run, I don’t see the Predators rushing to sign Hynes to an extension until we see how next season starts. If the Predators start off fast and in the playoff mix next season, then I’ll definitely expect an extension for Hynes before 2021 is up.

The fact that we’re even having this conversation is incredible, but Hynes has earned our confidence in him. He’s kept this team together through the rock bottom times they went through, and there’s a lot to be said about that.