Nashville Predators: Why We All Owe John Hynes a Big Apology

Nashville Predators head coach John Hynes speaks to his players on the bench during the second period against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators head coach John Hynes speaks to his players on the bench during the second period against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports /

When the Nashville Predators suddenly fired Peter Laviolette in January 2020, many were equally uninspired by the quick hire of John Hynes as the franchise’s third head coach. Myself included.

At the time I truly thought the Nashville Predators were in a tailspin and needed either a proven head coach with past NHL success or a young, up-and-coming head coach from the minor league ranks that had a knack for developing talent. Hynes didn’t fit either one of those categories for me.

Fast forward to current times, and I’m sitting here happy to be wrong on my initial criticisms of Hynes. He’s done one of the most important things a new head coach can do, which is bring a locker room together and buildig a team identity.

When Hynes came aboard the Nashville Predators were a mess. Underperforming star players and no real direction after the team lost in the first round of the playoffs in 2019 to the Dallas Stars. A daunting task was ahead to turn things around, and Hynes didn’t seem like the right fit at all.

It was an unpopular choice from the beginning

Hynes dealt with a ton of criticsm from the fanbase right out of the gate. He never really got a chance mostly because everyone, including myself, saw his track record as head coach of the New Jersey Devils. But let’s be honest here, those Devils teams were awful and Hynes was dealing with problems above him that he couldn’t control.

This season was supposed to be the season that Hynes had to prove something to me, and he certainly has done that as the Predators sit tied for first place in the Western Conference near the midway point of the regular season. They have an identity, and they have a roster full of players that play for each other.

The Predators have remedied their power play woes, have a few players in the award races and have notched some impressive wins over legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. The growing question is will they be buyers once again at this year’s trade deadline?

When it comes to Hynes, he’s getting the most out of this Predators roster. It’s not the most talented on paper when you look at the other teams at the top of the standings, like Vegas, Colorado and Tampa Bay. And yet they’re right in the thick of things to nab their eighth straight playoff berth.

Hynes’ success with the Predators is night and day from when he was head coach of the Devils. His point percentage in three partial seasons in Nashville is .602. He’s still yet to coach a normal 82-game season with the Predators, although that should end up happening this season.

With the Devils, Hynes posted a mediocre .487 point percentage, while making just one playoff apperance in five seasons. He’s taken the Predators to the playoffs in both of his first two seasons, although has yet to win a playoff series.

The Stanley Cup Qualifiers debacle in the Edmonton bubble I really can’t hold against Hynes in hindsight, and the 2021 first round series against the superior Carolina Hurricanes went six games and actually ended up being very competitive from the underdog Predators.

Those Devils teams had very little starpower aside from Taylor Hall, and to a lesser degree Kyle Palmieri was decent. But the cupboard was extremely bare. Most coaches would’ve struggled to achieve much more than what Hynes did with those below average rosters.

Nashville Predators should give Hynes a contract extension in 2022

Hynes is due for a contract extension at the end of this season, and he should end up getting one. How long he’ll get is interesting to think about, but he’s earned at least another couple of seasons as long as the Predators don’t completely fall apart in the second half and miss the playoffs altogether.

If the Predators do fall apart over the last 40 games or so and miss the playoffs, then context will be important. What caused the collapse? Injuries or lack of performance from the top players like what has happened in the past? Even if this happens, Hynes most likely gets an extension, although maybe a short one.

The point is, everyone who doubted Hynes immediately following his hiring does owe an apology. He’s clearly kept the Predators from falling further into the irrelavant abyss, and even has his team trending back into the direction of being a viable playoff team again.

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There will be plenty of time to debate in the offseason about how long Hynes should get in a new contract, but he’s definitely exceeded his rock bottom expectations that were surrounding him when he first came on board and things were really looking bleak for this franchise.

I’ll go ahead and formally sign my apology letter to Hynes, and hopefully he gives the front office even more reason to keep him long-term with the Predators hanging around at the top of the Western Conference.

Truth is, John Hynes ended up being a breathe of fresh air from Peter Laviolette and the Nashville Predators seem to be heading back in the right direction of being a relevant contender again.