On Tuesday it was reported that the Nashville Predators will be moving on from John Hynes and will make Andrew Brunette their fourth head coach in franchise history.
Ironically enough, the first head coach in this franchise’s history, Barry Trotz, is now making that hire as his first major decision as General Manager. He’s bringing in a former NHL player who scored the first goal in Nashville Predators history.
You got all of that? Interesting plot twist to say the least, which kind of continues the entire theme of the John Hynes era that spanned over four seasons.
As much criticism that Hynes got, a lot of it deserved, it wasn’t a complete and utter disaster that some try to make it seem. However, it certainly wasn’t a smooth ride and featured plenty of letdowns.
How Do We Grade the John Hynes Era with the Nashville Predators?
Hynes’ start with the Nashville Predators in January 2020 was already a messy situation, as is the case most of the time when a new head coach comes in. If it was all sunshine then the team probably wouldn’t be making a coaching change to begin with.
With that laid out there, Hynes came in right when it was becoming clear that the Nashville Predators had missed their Stanley Cup window and things were declining. Some previous signings from the front office weren’t panning out (i.e. Kyle Turris and Mikael Granlund) and the team wasn’t getting nearly the amount of production needed from key veterans.
Peter Laviolette had appeared to have lost the locker room as the team was stumbling along with a 19-15-7 record as the calendar flipped to 2020. A dramatic decline from their President’s Trophy season in 2017-18, followed by an ugly first round loss to the Dallas Stars in 2019.
Hynes abruptly gets hired without much fanfare. He was coming into his second go-around as an NHL head coach after amassing a losing record of 150-159-45 with the New Jersey Devils, with only one playoff appearance where his team lost in five games while only scoring 12 goals.
It felt like a rushed hire at the time, but David Poile saw something in Hynes to right the ship. And to a degree he did keep things from completely sinking.
No one could’ve planned for what was next with the pandemic shutting down the season, but before the stoppage the Predators had won three straight and six of their last nine to get a spot in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
And this is kind of the beginning and overall reason that Hynes isn’t being brought back for what was the final year of the contract he had in place. This team showed zero improvement in terms of competing where it counts; in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Hynes postseason record with the Nashville Predators of 3-11 is the ultimate justification for moving on if you’re Trotz. This current roster is good enough to compete for a playoff spot again in 2023-24, and the Florida Panthers are already proving that getting in with a hot goaltender gives you a chance.
Unfortunately, under Hynes, the Predators were a lame duck team that got exposed against higher quality competition. As exciting as they were, they needed two double overtime wins to make it to six against the Carolina Hurricanes.
The other playoff win under Hynes you can argue shouldn’t even count as a playoff appearance at all; the Stanley Cup Qualifier in the Edmonton bubble that saw the Predators lose three out of four to the Arizona Coyotes.
You can reach for another valid excuse for Hynes in 2022 as the Predators suffered their first sweep in franchise history, with Juuse Saros not being available due to injury. The goaltending did get roasted, but once gain the offense fell flat by only tallying nine goals in four games.
Preds were Stuck on a Plateau with Hynes, Needed to Shake Things Up
If Poile was remaining the General Manager of the Nashville Predators, then I firmly believe that Hynes is back for at least one more season to fulfill his contract. But with Trotz coming in, a change behind the bench seemed inevitable.
Trotz wants his head coach, just as an incoming General Manager is likely going to make a change unless that team he’s coming into is already highly successful and no change is obviously needed. You’re not going to keep around a head coach that’s giving you virtually no evidence that the team is moving off of what I call a endless plateau of average.
“We want to become more of an offensive team and Andrew specializes on that side of the ice – he lived it as a player, and he coaches it as a coach. He is as good of an offensive teacher and power-play coach as there is in the game today.” -Barry Trotz on Andrew Brunette’s Coaching Style, per Team’s Official Website
This also has to do with the team getting younger and find a head coach that can match the skills coming in from more offensively driven players like Luke Evangelista, Juuso Parssinen, Philip Tomasino, Thomas Novak and Cody Glass.
Hynes’ coaching style matches way better with a veteran laden team that plays a staunch defensive style. Maybe there’s a team out there that Hynes can make that work with, but the new-look Predators isn’t that team, clearly.
Average isn’t good enough, and even though you can find excuses for why Hynes didn’t have more success with Nashville, at the end of the day it comes down to results and overcoming.
Yes, it’s kind of a raw deal for Hynes. I’ve been clear that if Roman Josi in particular doesn’t go down late in the season, then he makes up for at least four points in the standing for the Nashville Predators to get into the postseason and defying all odds after selling at the trade deadline.
Would those four points and simply making the playoffs been enough to secure Hynes’ job for another year? I’m not so sure about that, because again, Trotz wanted his guy. It’s more of an indictment on this entire franchise going through a dramatic change, and less about Hynes. He’s just not part of the long-term plans anymore.
Hynes is already being linked to the New York Rangers opening, which would be both a surprise and a great opportunity for him to finally show he can coach a team to success in the playoffs.
Brunette will obviously deserve some patience from the fanbase to mold this team and change the playing philosophies. There’s going to be some trial and error, especially early on. The key measuring stick for Brunette in his first season will be is the team showing improvement in critical areas of weakness that were shown under Hynes.
To answer the overall question of how to grade Hynes’ four-year era with the Nashville Predators. I give him a robust C+, which isn’t good enough to keep your job past Year 4. This was the perfect time to make this switch, and the vibes are very different than when the switch was from Laviolette to Hynes.