Needing to fire Peter Laviolette isn’t a huge surprise. Hopefully, it’s a feeling we’ll get here one day, as that will mean the Hawks hired him in the first place. He’s a good coach, maybe even a very good one, but his style tends to grate on players pretty quickly. He burned himself out in Philadelphia, but the Flyers haven’t really been the same since, and it’s kind of amazing he lasted as long as he did in Nashville. It’s no surprise they had their greatest success under him as well.
But eventually the time comes when the players are sick of his act, and the Preds clearly were. This is not a team that should be floating outside the playoff spots, or even anything close. It was built to compete for the Western crown, not slap-fighting with the Coyotes over the leavings. And yet here we are.
But hiring John Hynes smacks of GM David Poile only having half of a plan. He knew he needed to fire Lavvy but didn’t have any idea who should replace him. And then he was forced to hire what was out there, which was Hynes.
Hynes’s claim to fame is that he happened to be standing behind the bench when Taylor Hall went on a “Fuck Edmonton” world tour after being traded to Newark, earned a Hart Trophy, and dragged a thoroughly unimpressive Devils team to the playoffs where they were promptly thwacked by the Lightning. The Devils never came close to the playoffs since, and in fact that was the only year that the Devils even finished above .500.
Sure, Hynes was never given a real roster to work with, and maybe that’s the best he could do. He certainly helped transition the Devils from a war crime to a fast-moving team, but that was a few years ago. The Preds already were that. So why is he here?
Poile will tell you it’s to improve their defensive game, as they’d become lax under Lavvy. Ok, how’s that going? Under Lavvy, the Preds were still one of the better possession teams around, ranking 8th in the league in Corsi-percentage at 52.8. Under Hynes, they’re 22nd at 48.2. And they’re giving up five more attempts per game than they were before the firing. But hey, they’re also generating four less attempts too!
When it comes to xG%, the Preds under Laviolette were again top-1o, ranking 8th at 52.5. Hynes has managed to fuck that up too, ranking 20th since he was hired (behind the Hawks!) at 49.6. Oh, and their xGA/60 went from 2.08 to 2.37 since the change. This is going well! We’ll give Hynes this, at least the attack has stayed steady at 2.3 xGF/60 per game. He hasn’t blown everything up yet.
Hynes has even gotten better goaltending than Lavvy did, with Juese Saros has at least shown some competence of late whereas before Hynes was hired neither Saros or Rinne could find their ass with either hand. And yet the Preds have still gone just 10-8 under him, which isn’t exactly the bump Poile would have been hoping for.
This isn’t a team built to play defensively, and if it isn’t skating with its hair on fire it can be awfully open. But that’s how they were designed, with their go-go defense. Hynes hasn’t been helped by Ryan Ellis being out for his entire stay so far, but there’s more than enough here to do better with. It’s also not Hynes’s fault that Johansen and Duchene spend most of their time having money-fights in the dressing room, but he was probably brought in with the idea that he could get them to snap to attention. Still waiting on that one. This is still a team where a d-man leads them in scoring by 17 points!
There probably can’t be a more clear exhibit of how in the NHL if you get one job, you get 17. Hynes never did much in New Jersey and yet somehow ended up with a better team in Nashville. And when this goes balls-up, which is looking soon, you can bet he’ll get another job because someone will think if the Predators hired him he must be good. And so it goes.