According to Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice earlier this evening, the New Jersey Devils are planning to hire John Hynes to be the next head coach of the team. Hynes will be the first head coach under general manager Ray Shero and the seventeenth head coach in New Jersey history. Hynes was previously with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the American Hockey League.
When Gulitti writes, all Devils fans should take heed. So if he's writing that the Devils plan to announce him tomorrow as head coach, then I'm going to believe it. If you need more confirmation, Jason Mackey of the Tribune-Review has the same report. Per both, all that's left is for the Devils to work out compensation with the Pittsburgh Penguins organization. Gulitti notes that it must be a third rounder within the next three drafts. As the Devils have three third round picks in 2016, I wouldn't be surprised if one of them goes to Pittsburgh. In short, Hynes will likely be formally announced as head coach tomorrow provided the compensation does not fall through. I doubt that it will.
Hynes has been a constant name among potential candidates for the Devils coaching job. His hiring would be consistent with what Shero said last week, that other coaching hires did not affect the Devils' plans. Indeed they did not. Hynes will become the fifth NHL head coach who has served with the Baby Pens in some capacity. The other four are Dan Bylsma, Todd Richards, Michel Therrien, and Mike Yeo.
The burning question from all Devils fans is this: What kind of coach is he? Some of that will remain to be seen, however, it appears he's a defensive-minded coach. As noted in this post at PensBurgh by Hooks Orpik, Hynes has been head coach in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for five seasons and in four of them the team earned the league's lowest goals against average with four different goalie tandems among six different goalies. GAA isn't a good stat for goalies, but it suggests to how much a team is conceding. What really speaks to the defensiveness is possession. Josh Weissbock at Hockeystats.ca has the Baby Pens' estimated Fenwick close of 51.1% in 2014-15. While that's not superlative, it's one of the better figures in the league. More interesting is how they got there: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton had the fewest shots for and the second fewest shots against in the AHL. That's very much like the New Jersey Devils under Peter DeBoer except for this past season; the team didn't take a lot of shots, but they made absolutely sure their opponents did even less. Knowing this, it's not unreasonable to think that Hynes will probably keep the Devils as a low-event team.
As much as one may grouse about a low SF/even lower SA split, one can't discount it. Hynes' methods have been successful in his five seasons in the AHL. According to HockeyDB, the lowest winning percentage among them is 57.9%. All five teams made it to at least the second round of the AHL playoffs. Considering how much turnover an AHL roster sees on top of injuries and Pittsburgh's drafting, bossing teams to consistent results is very impressive. If there's a reason to get excited for Hynes, it's with the results he found in the AHL.
Of course, that may change now that he has NHL talent, more stability with the roster, and a somewhat less compressed schedule (no three-game weekends in the NHL) to work with. Hynes could very well be the one to ween New Jersey from their low-event ways. Or he could be the one to make it work somehow. We will get a better idea as to what he's about when preseason comes and the first few weeks of 2015-16. There's also the matter of assistant coaches, which could guide his approach as well. The past suggests he's strong on emphasizing defensive play, we'll see whether the future continues that or not.
I'm of the opinion that this is a re-building team so I don't have a lot of early expectations for Hynes. Short of a miraculous summer by Shero, I don't think Mike Babcock can turn the 2015-16 team into a playoff squad. So provided Hynes is not a disaster at head coach like the John MacLean, he should get at least a season or two to get the team on the right track without any concern. All I want are signs that the team is improving. I will write that I like the fact that Shero did go outside of the organization. I want no part of Adam Oates or Scott Stevens behind the bench in Newark in 2015-16. Plus, I think it's sensible that among the other minor league coaches, Shero reached for a successful one. Maybe not the most successful one, but surely one of the most successful among who was available. Perhaps it's a better path than pulling an assistant that hasn't been a head coach for long and hope he swims. Either way, I'm happy with this report and I wish Hynes nothing but the best of luck through some lean years in New Jersey.
Provided nothing falls through, the expectation is that John Hynes will be announced tomorrow as the next Devils head coach. What do you think of this report from Gulitti? Are you pleased that Hynes is the man? If so, why? If not, why not and who did you wanted hired instead? What do you think of Hynes' time in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton? What are your early expectations for Hynes? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Gulitti's report in the comments. Thank you for reading.