John Hynes is the head coach of the New Jersey Devils. Today, I want to ask what you think about that. At the start of the season, I would think feelings were positive. While there were no secrets the organization was re-building, the 2015-16 New Jersey Devils were competitive and surpassed low expectations. Then the 2016-17 Devils started their season with a 9-3-3 record in their first fifteen games. Maybe, just maybe, this team could contend for a playoff spot. Then in the next nineteen games, the Devils went 4-11-4. The Devils fell to seventh in the Metropolitan and are clearly behind in any playoff picture at the moment. At the very least, it was a cold dose of reality.
That 4-11-4 “featured” a seven-game losing streak which included five games where the Devils were just routed by their opponent. With every loss, the frustration mounted as with any losing streak. That included the skaters, the goalies, the refs, the roster selections, and the coaches in general. As that streak went on, Andrew Gross reported at the Bergen Record the following from head coach John Hynes after their loss to the Rangers, their then sixth-straight loss on December 19:
“We’re trying to build a program that’s down,” Hynes said. “An acquisition like Hall and you see some of the younger guys come in and we have some depth at goaltending and things like that. But it’s an extremely competitive league, and when we don’t have that [strong play] and get in situations like that, we get in these little funks that we were in. Guys are working through it and we’re working through it.”
“That’s part of what last year was going to be, what this year was going to be,” Hynes said. “We have character guys. We have guys that are working and we’ve got to continue to get better and we’re trying to grow our program. We didn’t take this over because it was a Stanley Cup contender. We took this over to try and build it over the course of time here.”
True as that may seem in the bigger picture, it is not exactly encouraging amid a losing streak. Before that streak ended in glorious fashion on December 22 against the Flyers, general manager Ray Shero had his say to the press. Gross reported what Shero said for the Bergen Record in this must-read article. While the message from Shero for the players to “Play [bleeping] harder was at the forefront, Shero did address the topic of head coach John Hynes:
“John’s a really good coach, without a doubt,” Shero said. “People around the league recognize that, and so do I.
“I can’t even stress, I’m 100 percent supportive of our coach,” Shero added. “This is the guy I hired. Where some of these guys have come from, they fire the coaches all the time. Here, obviously, [former president and GM] Lou [Lamoriello] did that quite a bit, and with good success. But John is the right coach for us. I really believe in what he’s doing and how he does things.”
Now this is something rather interesting. Earlier in the article, Shero specifically calls out the work ethic and the lack of speed by the Devils. Then he goes and publicly stands up for the head coach. Clearly, Shero wanted to motivate the players rather than pin it all on the coach and I get that. To an extent it worked. The Devils finally snapped their losing streak the very next night. However, they lost to Pittsburgh on December 23 in a way similar to many of those losses on their recent seven-game losing streak. Even if the Devils did pull out a win in Pittsburgh somehow, I think the poor run of form since that 9-3-3 start still raises an important question. Is John Hynes really the right coach for the Devils?
It’s a fair question. It’s not asking whether Hynes should stay behind the bench or should be fired. That one is moot anyway given what Shero said after the team lost their seventh in a row. I think that many Devils fans know that this is an organization still undergoing a re-build and perhaps would agree with Hynes’ view of the situation, as quoted in this post. I’d like to think that most understand that a winning or a losing streak alone should not determine whether a coach is good or not. Results are always a factor, but how a team performs, I think, is a bigger sign whether a coach is doing their job or not. Between the very good start and the very bad last month-and-a-half, is Hynes meeting your expectations?
I want to know what you think about John Hynes as head coach of the New Jersey Devils. Rather than taking a deep dive into the team’s stats, comparing him to past Devils coaches, or providing some other analysis, I’m more interested in what you, the Devils fan, think of Hynes. Is he the right coach for the team as they are? Will he be the right coach when they’re expected to start contending for playoff appearances and hopefully more? I have my own ideas - and I’ll share them in the comments in time - but I want to get a sense of what you all think about Hynes. So please let me know in the comments. Thank you for reading.