Nashville Predators: Evaluating John Hynes’ Performance This Season

Nashville Predators head coach John Hynes yells from the bench during the first period against the Carolina Hurricanes at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators head coach John Hynes yells from the bench during the first period against the Carolina Hurricanes at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

Since taking over as the head coach of the Nashville Predators precisely two years ago, the common narrative has been that hiring John Hynes was a bad decision by the organization. Unfortunately, those critics were only proven right early on, as the team was in free fall, and it looked like he had no clue how to get the best out of the team in front of him.

Fast forward to now, and it is still not perfect, but Hynes has come a long way from where he once was. The team is in a rhythm, and he has them sitting in first place in the Central Division, something that was considered unthinkable at the beginning of the year.

It’s safe to say, Hynes has gone from being on the hot seat to having one of the more secure jobs in the NHL. But the question is, how did he get here, and what are we looking to see out of him moving forward?

Hynes’ biggest improvement paying off for Nashville Predators

The biggest criticism of Hynes since coming to Nashville has been the inability to find consistent lines. Aside from changes due to injuries and COVID-19, that issue has not surfaced in months.

Constructing the line of Filip Forsberg, Mikael Granlund, and Matt Duchene with Granlund at center has been one of if not his best decision. Additionally, every other line is staying together and performing well. The fourth line of Philip Tomasino, Tommy Novak, and Nick Cousins, in particular, is one of the more underrated groupings in the NHL.

That is not to say that every decision Hynes has made has pleased everyone, as it is hard to say that he is getting the best of Tomasino by keeping him in the bottom six. But everyone is in a consistent role, and everyone has bought into the system, and with that, it is hard to complain too much.

Another key improvement we wanted to see, as mentioned last offseason, was making sure that the Predators would not rely on Juuse Saros to carry the team throughout games. The consistent lines may have a lot to do with the chemistry among the forwards as they are generating more offense, but Saros is not being forced to bail them out game after game.

Between the improved offense, elite back end, and tenacity that the Predators play with, they are becoming a legitimately feared team in the league, and much of that is due to their head coach. That is not even mentioning the powerplay run by assistant coach Dan Lambert. Hynes deserves credit for not pulling the plug and firing him. Some thought that should have happened after last year, but Hynes allowed Lambert to stick around and let him fix the powerplay, which has paid off.

Always room to improve

Where could Hynes improve? One thing he still tends to do is prioritize his system over his players, and a perfect example of that is this past Tuesday night in the game against the Vegas Golden Knights.

We know that he prefers his team to forecheck and play physical hockey, and we saw that in Vegas. It was mentioned that Tomasino was healthy scratched because Hynes wanted a bigger lineup. Yes, Tomasino is young and inexperienced, but there is no situation in which he is not one of the twelve best forwards on the team.

If Hynes wants to go from a good to great head coach, he must be comfortable playing his best players even in situations in which they might struggle. After all, the only way to get comfortable in uncomfortable situations is to play through them and struggle if necessary.

Ideally, Hynes would insert Phil Myers and David Farrance into the lineup full time, but as with the situation with the forwards, the current unit is playing well, and it is hard to mess with it when the Predators are winning.

Again, Hynes is not perfect, but no head coach is. The bigger and more important picture is that he went from someone who looked in over his head to someone who has given his team a legitimate identity. It seems as if he just needed talent, time, and experience to enter his element because he has the Nashville Predators in a groove right now.

Must Read. Where the Nashville Predators Can Continue to Improve and Keep Surging. light