The inevitable was being delayed over the past few weeks as the Nashville Predators appeared to be moving on from Head Coach John Hynes, but nothing being made official by the front office.
Incoming General Manager Barry Trotz hadn’t confirmed that indeed Hynes was returning for the final year of his two-year contract that was in place, which really made it rather obvious that change was coming.
The offseason scramble for a new head coach goes fast, and Trotz swiftly reacted on Tuesday by relieving Hynes of his head coaching duties, and bringing in New Jersey Devils associate head coach Andrew Brunette.
Nashville Predators Move Fast to Find Hynes’ Replacement
Brunette will be the fourth head coach in Nashville Predators history, and will finally get his first full-time gig as an NHL head coach. He had the interim tag for the 2021-22 Florida Panthers after they unexpectedly had to move on from Joel Quenneville.
Making the most of his opportunity, Brunette led the Panthers to a Presidents Trophy and a 51-win season following Quenneville’s ousting. The fact that he held that team together after an early season head coaching departure speaks to his leadership of a locker room.
Brunette didn’t get the full-time head coaching spot with the Florida Panthers, who are now in the Stanley Cup Final, but he did continue to build on his résumé by being part of a coaching staff of the New Jersey Devils, another up-and-coming Eastern Conference team thatfinished top-5 in both goals per game and shots per game.
What really sticks out about this perfect fit for the Nashville Predators is that Brunette is a specialist at fixing the power play. The Predators plummeted to a 27th-ranked power play in 2022-23, while also being a team that struggled to score timely goals to give support to Juuse Saros in net.
While huge injury blows to the veteran core didn’t help Hynes’ cause, there’s nothing that screams out that things were going to magically be remedied next season without a coaching change. The time was now to make the switch.
Brunette has history with Trotz as well, playing in the inaugural season for the Nashville Predators in 1998 and scoring the franchise’s first goal.
This just feels like a drastically different vibe from when Hynes was hired midseason in early 2020 to replace Peter Laviolette. At that time, the front office seemed to rush into a new hire, while currently the optics are that the Predators are getting exactly who they want and have had time to think about it.
This all comes in the midst of an offseason where a new era of Nashville Predators hockey is upon us. New general manger is Trotz, a younger roster full of growing talent, and now a new head coach in Brunette.
I love the idea of bringing in a rising head coaching talent in Brunette, a former player with over 1,000 games of experience who will be able to connect with both veterans and the youth. On the flip side, the thought of bringing in another recycled and veteran head coach was not something I was on board with.
Brunette will now get to continue the fast development of young talents like Cody Glass, Philip Tomasino, Juuso Parssinen, Thomas Novak and Luke Evangelista. While still having some important veterans in Roman Josi, Ryan McDonagh, Filip Forsberg, Colton Sissons and possibly Ryan Johansen assuming the trade rumors fall flat.
Furthermore, Tyson Barrie is still around and can hopefully boost Brunette’s changes and improvement he tries to implement on the Predators power play.
It’s important to remember that it will take time and growing pains for Brunette to work with his new team. But with so much raw talent that figures to keep getting better, there is promise here that the Predators can compete to return back to the postseason in 2024. Brunette has a strong balance on his roster to where he’s not coming into a massive overhaul.