This is a Critical Year for John Hynes as Head Coach of Nashville Predators

Head coach John Hynes of the Nashville Predators walks out to the ice for a practice session prior to the 2022 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series at Nissan Stadium on February 25, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Head coach John Hynes of the Nashville Predators walks out to the ice for a practice session prior to the 2022 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series at Nissan Stadium on February 25, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) /

No one is going to fault Head Coach John Hynes for the postseason shortcomings shortly after he took over in January of 2020. The Nashville Predators were in disarray, had underperforming players, and a head coach that had lost control of the locker room.

Hynes came into a really ugly mess in the kitchen, and he has gradually cleaned some of it up. The job isn’t finished though and there is more work to be done for us to be able to call it a “clean kitchen” again.

Regardless of whether you think Hynes is the best option as head coach right now, it would be incredibly unfair and illogical to have pointed the finger at him for when the Nashville Predators fell flat in the Edmonton bubble against the Coyotes, or the two years following while facing rosters that were vastly superior in the Hurricanes and Avalanche.

Now the stakes have risen, however. Hynes has a roster that he should be able to compete with at a high level.

If this team falls short yet again, and by “short” I mean not showing considerable progress in the playoffs, then we’ll have to look long and hard at the head coach and not just blame the front office.

Hynes finally has the pieces to win in the postseason

I’ll be the first to admit that Hynes has served me a dose of humble pie. I didn’t like the hire at the time in the middle of the 2019-20 season, and had little faith that he was the answer at head coach.

The players, especially the core veterans like Matt Duchene and Filip Forsberg, seem to really love playing for Hynes. He is the embodiment of a “player’s coach”. This will win you a lot of games when you have a locker room that plays hard for their head coach.

Now was we going into 2022-23, we actually have to start seeing serious result where it matters, and that’s when the hockey calendar turns over to the month of May.

Hynes signed a two-year contract over the very busy offseason for the Nashville Predators that included avoiding the catastrophe of losing Forsberg in free agency.

General Manager David Poile made it clear over the offseason shortly after the sweep to the Avalanche that the front office had to do a better job at giving Hynes a roster he can win with in the postseason, and to Poile’s credit, he delivered on that assertation by having an aggressive approach to the offseason in acquiring Ryan McDonagh and Nino Niederreiter.

That’s not to mention the other minor additions to the roster like Zach Sanford and Kiefer Sherwood. This team is suddenly a much deeper roster that Hynes has to his benefit.

With the exception of a rash of bad injury luck that leaves Hynes without his top core players for a lengthy portion of the season, there is just simply no more excuses to be had for this roster not to have at least a high finish in the Central Division to avoid the wildcard, and ultimately do some damage in the playoffs.

This is the next benchmark we have to see from Hynes in his coaching ability. Can he actually guide a team to postseason success? A two-year deal is nothing for front offices to part ways with if things go sour.

How secure is Hynes’ job with the Nashville Predators?

Although I do think it would have to turn into an all-out dumpster fire for Hynes to not get both years of his contract, I also think that the pressure is on him this season more than ever now that the front office has done their job to give him a high-quality roster to work with.

Watching Hynes lead this team during the first episode of the “Behind the Glass” series on NHL Network made me want to run through a brick wall for this guy, so I can only imagine how the players feel about him.

Seeing how high the chemistry has grown and how hard they play for each other gives me hope that Hynes is the right head coach to bring the Nashville Predators organization back to postseason success.

Hynes undoubtedly deserves the bulk of the credit for building this new culture within the Nashville Predators organization that was lacking before he arrived, along with the rest of his coaching staff.

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In the end, results on the ice ultimately matter the most and we have to start seeing those results exceed just making the playoffs. I’m tired, and most of us are, of carrying that around like some badge of honor.

Hynes has a career coaching record in the NHL of 242-223-55. He has enjoyed much more winning with the Predators than he did in his five years with the New Jersey Devils.

The postseason is where it gets ugly. Hynes’ teams are just 4-15, which is where he can take a huge step forward in his coaching career this year with probably the best roster he’s ever had to coach.

Yes, the front office has faith in Hynes and rightfully so, but not enough to give him a longer term deal. They need to see more progress this season, and if the team regresses despite the offseason upgrades, then I’m not sure Hynes’ job will be safe.