John Hynes

Hynes using NHL stoppage to study up on his Predators

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John Hynes has only been head coach of the Nashville Predators since early January, so he’s trying to make up for some lost time with the NHL paused for the coronavirus pandemic and also make sure they’re ready whenever hockey resumes.

A big part of that has been getting to know each of his Predators much, much better.

“We’ve gone through every single player,” Hynes told reporters Monday. “We’ve got a written report on everyone’s strengths, weaknesses, areas of improvement, what type of person they are, what type of player they are, how they fit in our culture. We’ve done an extensive evaluation collectively as a group on our players.”

The Predators hired Hynes on Jan. 7 to replace Peter Laviolette in this franchise’s first midseason coaching change. He was introduced only hours before a 6-2 loss to Boston.

Predators general manager David Poile made the move with Nashville (19-15-7) having lost four of five games and 11th in the Western Conference standings with 45 points.

When the NHL play stopped March 12, the Predators flew home from Toronto with a record of 35-26-8 and 78 points holding the second wild-card spot in the West. They went 6-3-1 over their last 10 games, winning three straight before the stoppage.

“We were going in the right direction right before the pause, and I think one of the biggest things it was always going to be fairly difficult I think to get tactically exactly where you want to be coming in midseason,” Hynes said.

Hynes has taken some time to get settled in his new Nashville home. His wife and three daughters have been able to join him from New Jersey where they lived before the Devils fired him Dec. 3.

Hynes said coaches can always work, they’re just staying busy remotely. He talks daily by phone with Poile, who stays in touch with NHL officials. Hynes also has had video conference calls with the team’s management group and coaches with the franchise’s AHL affiliate in Milwaukee and also hockey operations. He has two conference calls a week with his coaching staff and is on an hour-long call with other NHL coaches three times a week.

“It’s almost been like a regular work day during the week,” Hynes said. “It’s just in a different way.”

Nashville coaches also check in weekly with five Predators each, rotating the coach each week. Hynes said they’re trying to give players space while also staying in communication. A team-wide call with staff and players was scheduled for Monday night.

Aside from scouting each player, Hynes has been talking with his assistants planning for a possible short training camp if this season is finished on the ice. Even though special teams improved over the last three games, Nashville still ranks only 24th on the power play and 29th on the penalty kill. That’s why Hynes and his assistants are scouting other teams.

“We want to make sure when we do come back we’re better, we’re prepared and we’re ready to help our team be successful and make sure that we’re certainly prepared to give our players the best chance to compete,” Hynes said.

Seeking revenge against Corey Perry could backfire for Predators

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On the list of things to do against the Stars on Thursday, you’d think the Predators would rank “get revenge against Corey Perry for his hit on Ryan Ellis” pretty low. The Predators have bigger catfish to fry, basically.

Ellis said he is not “bitter” about Perry hit

Given more than a month to reflect on the hit from the 2020 Winter Classic, Ellis himself downgraded talk of bitterness on Feb. 20.

“To be honest, it’s a hockey play. I’m not bitter at him,” Ellis said. “Obviously, I’d like to catch him with a nice open-ice hit as I would anyone on any other team. But it’s a hockey player, I get where he was at, I get what he was thinking. It looks bad. … But I’m not bitter. It sucks not playing.”

So, as Ellis said, he’d be glad to “catch him with a nice open-ice hit,” but it doesn’t sound like the defenseman will strain to go after Perry. That’s smart. Maybe it also helps that Perry sat through a five-game suspension for his actions.

Predators can’t afford to risk losses to get revenge on Perry

To be frank, there are also other thoughts likely on the forefront of Ellis’ mind, and that of the Predators.

In the most human way, the Predators certainly have the devastation of the Nashville-area tornadoes on their minds. That seemed to be the topic of discussion for Ellis & Co., and rightfully so.

Ellis downplaying winning the games has to push “revenge on Perry” down the ledger a bit, too, right?

Certainly, it would rank lower than getting some key wins.

[Push for the Playoffs provides a deeper look at races for the Predators and other NHL teams]

The Predators simply don’t have the luxury to settle grudges right now. You can see that in the standings above. Things look challenging when you glance at Nashville’s remaining schedule, particularly in the near future:

Mar. 5: vs. Dallas
Mar. 7: at Dallas
Mar. 10: at Montreal
Mar. 12: at Toronto
Mar. 14: at Columbus
Mar. 15: at Minnesota
Mar. 19: vs. Colorado
Mar. 21: vs. Philadelphia
Mar. 22: at Chicago
Mar. 24: vs. Winnipeg
Mar. 26: vs. L.A.
Mar. 28: at Arizona
Mar. 29: at Colorado
Apr. 1: vs. Montreal
Apr. 2: at Philadelphia
Apr. 4: vs. Minnesota

Looking at that schedule, it would be foolish to think: “Yes, take this opportunity to air your grievances on the way to the penalty box.”

If anything, the Predators should be focusing on performing better, and that goes all the way to the coaches.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Matt Duchene, Filip Forsberg rally Predators past Devils

Matt Duchene scored in regulation and the shootout-deciding goal in the Nashville Predators’ 6-5 win against the New Jersey Devils.

Filip Forsberg scored twice and lit the lamp in the opening round of the skills competition as the Predators erased a third-period deficit for the second straight game. Mattias Ekholm and Nick Bonino also scored. Pekka Rinne added 27 saves.

Despite two goals from Pavel Zacha and two points from Nikita Gusev, the Devils picked up their fourth loss in the previous five games.

Predators ready for playoff push?

If Nashville has its eyes on the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, now is the right time to climb up the standings. After an impressive win against the Eastern Conference-leading Washington Capitals Wednesday, the Predators collected another important road victory and are currently two points out of the wild card with two games in hand on both the Vegas Golden Knights and Arizona Coyotes.

Even though the Devils are near the bottom of the NHL standings, the Predators should be proud of their effort which resulted in two points in the second leg of a back-to-back on the road.

“We are showing a lot of character right now,” Duchene said on the NBCSN telecast following the win. “We didn’t have any passengers tonight, everyone was going.”

If the Predators can string a couple of victories together, they can erase a disappointing first half in a hurry. Nashville will take on Vegas at Bridgestone Arena Saturday before embarking on a critical four-game road trip through Western Canada.

Can Zacha turn the corner?

Zacha became the first Devil since Mike Cammalleri to score a shorthanded goal and power-play tally in the same game per Devils’ statistician Craig Seiden. The 22-year-old forward showed off his silky hands when he converted a nifty deke to even the score at 1-1 early in the first period. He would later benefit from a deflection when he knotted the score again in the middle frame.

The Devils invested a lot of draft capital in Zacha when they selected him with the sixth overall pick of the 2015 draft. The Czech forward has been largely inconsistent throughout his brief NHL career and has failed to live up to his draft status thus far.

There is not a magic formula for player development in the NHL. Each individual improves his ability and adjusts to the demands of the sport at a different rate. Will Zacha’s performance Thursday be a building block toward his path to stardom? The Devils have a few of the right pieces with Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes and others, but Zacha’s maturation could be an X-factor in the Devils’ quest to turn things around.


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

NHL on NBCSN: Predators face Hynes’ old team, the Devils

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Thursday’s matchup between the New Jersey Devils and Nashville Predators. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

John Hynes and the Predators visit Hynes’ old team, the Devils, for the first time since Hynes took over in Nashville.

The whole thing figures to be awkward for … most involved. That includes the players, and coaches, as Devils interim coach Alain Nasreddine noted to NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti that he’s coaching against his mentor on Thursday.

“It’s definitely weird, even coming in in a situation like this where it’s a whole new staff, whole new players,” Hynes said. “Usually when you get a job, you bring someone you know or you interview a bunch of guys before you do it. Here, you kind of just jump in and you just start working together right away. It’s been fantastic.”

Predators, Devils since Hynes change

Frankly, coaching changes haven’t altered the Devils’ or Predators’ paths all that much, in the grand scheme of things.

The Devils have been about as expected, going 9-13-4 since Nasreddine replaced Hynes. In some ways, that’s a respectable improvement. Ultimately, it’s really all about building for the future amid a lost season for New Jersey, anyway.

While Hynes describes the experience of taking over the Predators as fantastic, the results have left a lot to be desired.

The “meh” start can be seen most clearly in Nashville’s 4-4-0 record in eight games under Hynes.

Of course, you can only tell so much from a win-loss record, particularly over such a small sample size. Unfortunately, deeper dives don’t inspire a ton of confidence.

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET ON NBCSN]

The Predators felt stale under Peter Laviolette, yet many of their underlying numbers shined, as you can see at Natural Stat Trick. By almost all standards, those numbers have declined under Hynes. In particular, the Predators have slipped in the area of controlling high-danger chances. They’ve only generated 46.77 percent of such chances in eight games under Hynes, the eighth-worst mark in the NHL. The Predators were a top-10 team in that area during Laviolette’s final run.

Ultimately, goaltending doomed Laviolette in Nashville. To some extent, the same thing happened with Hynes in New Jersey. If the Predators want to turn things around, they have to hope that Hynes finds answers where he failed to before.

Maybe it will all really start to turn around where Hynes’ first coaching job ended?

Kenny Albert and Joe Micheletti will call the action at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. Kathryn Tappen will anchor studio coverage on Thursday alongside Anson Carter.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

The 6 coaches and general managers that will impact NHL playoff race

NHL Playoffs
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With the NHL All-Star break wrapping up and the second half of the 2019-20 season ready to begin, we are taking a look at some of the players, coaches, and general managers that could have the biggest impact on the Stanley Cup Playoff races and which teams make the postseason.

Here, we focus on six general managers and coaches that could stand out.

For 10 players that could impact the Stanley Cup Playoff races, click here.

1. Ken Holland (General manager), Edmonton Oilers. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are outstanding. They are the best offensive duo in hockey and there probably isn’t anyone even all that close to them. For the second year in a row they are on track to finish among the top-four scorers in the league (literally top-two at the moment) while they carry an overwhelming majority of the Oilers’ offense. But two players on their own can only take an NHL team so far.

They need help, and it’s going to be up to Holland to provide it. He has some big decisions to make over the next few weeks and months, not only when it comes to the tricky situation regarding a new contract for Zack Kassian (this seems like an overpay waiting to happen) but also adding more depth to a team that can not continue to waste two superstars in the prime years of their careers.

2. Stan Bowman (General manager), Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks’ roster moves this past summer were the actions of a team and general manager that still believed it had a window to compete with its veteran core. So far, it’s hard to argue that it’s really worked. For as hot as they have been over the past few weeks they are still only on pace for 87 points this season and are currently three points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Hardly an insurmountable deficit, but probably not as easy as it may seem.

The first problem: The defense is still lousy and a lot of their improvement has simply been from the goaltending performances of Robin Lehner (mostly him) and Corey Crawford. The second problem: Both goalies are UFA’s after this season, and Lehner in particular wants to be paid his fair market value. Defenseman Erik Gustafsson is also a UFA.

How does Bowman play this? His offseason makes it look like he’s not ready to punt on the remaining prime years of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. But the team also still has flaws and has a couple of pending UFA’s that might have some value. Trading Lehner and/or Gustafsson would be putting up the white flag on the season. But is the team as currently constructed good enough to truly add to for a run? The middle-ground between Stanley Cup contender and rebuilding lottery team is a terrible place to be for an NHL team.

3. John Hynes (Head coach), Nashville Predators. This might be a long-shot, but the Predators are not totally out of this yet. Yes, they still have a six-point gap between them and a wild card spot, but they also have multiple games in hand on every team they are chasing, including FIVE on the second wild card team as of Sunday. Games in hand are not wins in hand, but it helps. The two biggest things holding Nashville back this season have been goaltending and special teams. The goaltending might be out of his hands, but special teams are one area where a coach can make a noticeable impact and special teams were the one area his recent Devils teams had the most success. Let’s see what he can do here.

4. Lou Lamoriello (General manager), New York Islanders. Lamoriello hasn’t been very active since taking over as the Islanders’ general manager, with his only noteworthy trade being the acquisition of Matt Martin before the start of the 2018-19 season. The time might be here for him to do something because this team just looks like it could use something different. They are closer to the playoff bubble than you might realize, they are still a bottom-10 team offensively, and they are just 13-12-3 in the 28 games since their 17-game point streak ended. They need another scorer (maybe two?) if they are going to be a serious Stanley Cup contender.

5. Peter DeBoer (Head coach), Vegas Golden Knights. Based on what we have seen over the first half of the season the goaltending will probably be the biggest factor in Vegas’ second half, but all eyes are going to be on DeBoer given the circumstances around his hiring. Not only did he change sides in what has quickly become one of the NHL’s fiercest rivalries, but he is replacing a coach in Gerard Gallant that had taken an expansion team to the playoffs in each of its first two seasons and was only point out of a playoff spot in year three when he was fired. Gallant helped set a high bar already in Vegas, and now Golden Knights’ management is betting that DeBoer is the person to get them a Stanley Cup.

6. Joe Sakic (General manager), Colorado Avalanche. Sakic is worth a mention here because he has one of the league’s most talented teams, plenty of trade chips to deal from, and more salary cap space to play with than every team but Columbus. He could add pretty much anyone he wants to a team that is already a Stanley Cup contender.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.