Predators hire John Hynes, former Devils coach, to replace Peter Laviolette
Hynes, who was fired by New Jersey in December, will take over a talented Predators team
One day after firing Peter Laviolette, the Nashville Predators have found their next head coach, and it's former Devils coach John Hynes getting the call. Hynes will become the third head coach in franchise history, following Laviolette and longtime bench boss Barry Trotz.
"John Hynes is bright young coach and great leader who has a track record of both effectively developing young players and successfully motivating veterans," Predators general manager David Poile said in a statement. "We love his coaching resume and are confident that he has learned from every stop during his career, and has the best skill set to get the maximum potential out of our team."
Hynes was fired by the Devils last month after coaching the team for four-plus seasons, compiling a 150-159-45 (.487) record in 354 regular-season games. The club made the postseason once under his reign but were eliminated in five games by the Lightning in the first round of the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Devils were one of the NHL's biggest disappointments out of the gate in 2019, falling flat after a promising offseason brought increased expectations. At the time of his dismissal, the Devils had a record of 9-13-4 and were the second-worst team in the NHL in regards to point percentage (.385) as well as goal differential (-31). Only the Detroit Red Wings were worse in each category.
Hynes was always considered to be a favorite to fill the Predators' (brief) vacancy thanks to his prior relationship with Poile, established through USA Hockey.
He'll be tasked with turning around a Predators team that has also failed to reach increased expectations after a big offseason. Through their first 41 games, the Predators are 19-15-7 and sit sixth in the Central division, a surprising fall for a team coming off back-to-back division titles and 100-point seasons -- including a Presidents' Trophy just two years ago.
While the Predators have a talented roster and good underlying numbers, their disappointing record is due in large part to poor goaltending and special teams play. Nashville's tandem of Vezina-winning goaltender Pekka Rinne and backup Juuse Saros is tied for the league's second-worst collective save percentage (.889) this season, and their power play (ranked 24th in the league) and penalty kill (29th) both need to improve.
There's potential for a second half turnaround in Nashville, and Poile clearly has faith in Hynes being the man to help this group find it. We've frequently seen mid-season coaching changes light a fire under talented teams -- the St. Louis Blues won a Stanley Cup with interim coach Craig Berube last season -- and the Predators could be the latest. But they'll have a challenging road ahead as they look to climb out of the hole they dug themselves in a tough Central division.
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