David Poile has chosen his new bench boss.
John Hynes was announced as the new coach of the Nashville Predators on Tuesday morning after about 18 hours of the team being effectively coach-less. The 44-year old Hynes was fired by New Jersey General Manager Ray Shero on Dec. 3 after the Devils got off to a 9-13-4 start to this season. Hynes had been the Devils' coach since 2015-16.
One thing is very clear with Hynes' situation in New Jersey: he inherited a deeply flawed roster and wasn't given much to work with in general. Hynes was a first-year NHL coach when he was hired by the Devils- a team whose 2014-15 average age (30.5) was the oldest in the league.
-28th in Goals-For (176)
-Ninth in power play goals-against (52)
-Seventh in PP opportunities-against (268)
-21st in penalty kill percentage (80.6)
-29th in shots-for (2,008)
-Seventh in shots-against (2,518)
By the time Hynes took the reins, he had retained only 20 players from the 35-man 2014-2015 roster. Hynes took a 78-point Devils team and improved them to an 84-point team in his first season behind the bench.
At the conclusion of the 2015-16 season, New Jersey had improved to:
-21st in power play goals-against (45)
-11th in PP opportunities-against (264)
-Eighth in PK percentage (82.95)
-23rd in shots-against (2,349).
Hynes' Devils still couldn't dig themselves out of seventh place in the Metropolitan Division until the 2017-18 season. This could be largely attributed to the fact that, in Hynes' first two seasons in Newark, the Metro produced four 100+ point teams, leaving a sizable gap between the top four and bottom four teams in the division. In 2016-2017, when the Devils finished with the league's fourth-worst 70 points, their strength of schedule rating (SOS) ranked first overall. Four times apiece, they had to play the President's Trophy-winning Capitals (118 points), the second place Penguins (111), the 108-point Blue Jackets, and the 102-point Rangers.
In the meantime, within Hynes' New Jersey tenure, the Devils acquired Taylor Hall from Edmonton in exchange for Adam Larsson on Jun. 29, 2016- popularly considered to be one of the most lopsided trades in NHL history, and it wound up favoring the Devils. Hall won the Hart Trophy for the league's most valuable player in 2018, scoring 93 points, 39 goals, and a +14 rating on the season. New Jersey secured two first overall draft picks (not necessarily a good look, but productive in the long term nonetheless) in Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes and drafted center Jesper Boqvist in 2017. Hynes shouldn't be blamed for transaction or trading mistakes that Shero is responsible for.
Prior to the start of this season, New Jersey was widely predicted to be the NHL's most improved team by the end of the regular season. They'd acquired P.K. Subban from Nashville in a cap-dump move (I don't want to talk about it), Wayne Simmonds, Nikita Gusev, and Louis Domingue in one of their most active offseasons in franchise history. They skidded early on, and it never really stopped. Naturally, Hynes' head was the one called for; Preds fans did the same thing with Laviolette, if you remember.
Poile is a GM who hires close to his chest; he and Hynes share Boston lineage as players at Northeastern University and Boston University, respectively. Both men also have history with U.S. National Teams in both the IIHF World Championship, National Team Development Program, and World Junior Championship.
Hynes is a young coach with a lot left to give. He is now the fifth-youngest coach in the NHL (his successor in New Jersey, Alain Nasreddine, is just a few months younger) and is charged with turning around another steadily aging team with a shrinking window in the Preds. He has a very successful track record in the AHL coaching the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to five 85+ point seasons. Coaching the U.S. Under-17 Development Team in 2008-09, he posted a 42-17-6 record. In this time coaching the U.S. Under-18 national team in the World Under-18 Championship, he won a gold medal in 2006, a silver in 2004, and a bronze in 2008.
As it is with most systems of hierarchy, if Hynes succeeds, we all succeed.