On Thursday night, the New Jersey Devils will play their in first home game after the 2020 NHL All-Star Game and their final home game of January. The main “hook” of the game will not be about either of those things. It will also not be about Nico Hischier returning to the Rock after scoring two in St. Louis in the ASG. It will be about someone who is not a player: John Hynes.
Hynes was the head coach of the New Jersey Devils from 2015 until December 3, 2019, hours before the team hosted and lost to Las Vegas. The Devils fired Hynes as the team was (and is) mired in the bottom end of the Eastern Conference with no signs of progress. He would not be out of work for long. On January 6, Nashville fired their second coach in franchise history, Peter Laviolette. Over at On the Forecheck, Bobby Misey reasoned out why he was given a pink slip. The Predators announced no interim head coach on January 6 because they had a replacement ready to go on the next day. On January 7, the team announced that Hynes was hired as Nashville’s new head coach, the third in team history. Just over a month after he was fired, Hynes was hired again.
As fate and the NHL schedule would have it, Hynes will be in charge of the opposition’s bench for this Thursday’s game between the Devils and the Predators. Not even a month into his tenure and he will get a chance to make a point to his former team about what they have been missing. It will also be an opportunity for Hynes’ long-time assistant and current interim head coach of the Devils, Alain Nasreddine, to show his former boss what he has learned over the past two months. These are two reasons why this mid-week regular season game between two non-playoff teams may have a little more going for it than most of them for each side. This is good news for whoever set this game to get national coverage; this one will air on NBCSN.
If anyone needs the game more from an objective point of view, then it would be Hynes and the Preds. Nashville went into the All-Star break last in the Central Division with a record of 22-18-7 with 51 points. They may be six points back of the second wild card spot in the West with five games in hand on Las Vegas, but they are also behind Minnesota, Chicago, and Winnipeg. Not to mention that the wild card spots have been like a hot potato in the West, jumping between Las Vegas, Arizona, Edmonton, Calgary, and Dallas in recent nights. Nashville has a big advantage with games in hand but it is only an advantage if they win them. Since Hynes has been hired, the Predators have went 3-3-0. Not exactly a huge bump in results from the coaching change although the 5-on-5 performances appear to be solid as a whole. Nashville needs results to crash an already crowded playoff picture in the West. This is a far cry from New Jersey, who are currently battling Ottawa to avoid being the worst non-Detroit team in the East.
However, this is All About the Jersey; a New Jersey Devils blog. A site for the People Who Matter, the supporters of the Devils. And there is reason to cheer hard for a Devils victory this evening. Much of this dismal season was started under Hynes. There has been a growing thought that the team has played better under Nasreddine. I do not know if that is actually true or not - and I plan to write it up in detail on February 10 - but a Devils win over Nashville would help that argument. It would make the decision to dump him feel more justified, although the Devils’ record and performances at the time was more than enough of a justification. It would also be a good proverbial feather in the cap of Nasreddine’s coaching career to get a win over his former boss. Plus, the Devils are so down in the standings that winning one game in January is not going to somehow take them out of contention for a top prospect in the 2020 NHL Draft, a draft class that is set to have a great top ten set of prospects (which I discussed in Episode #25 of Garden State of Hockey). Lastly, its a Devils game. We are fans. We should want our team to win.
There is reason for each team to want to take this game. Personally, I want the Devils to hand Hynes another ‘L’ in a career full of them as a NHL head coach. I plan to be there as I am a season ticket holder and so I already have the ticket. However, you may not have a ticket for this game - but I can help you with that. As part of an affiliation deal between Vox Media and Stubhub, clicking this link will give you an opportunity to get tickets for Thursday’s game at a potentially better rate than normal. Going to a hockey game is better than not going and it always better to do it if it is easier on your wallet. And, as explained in this post, there is value in Thursday’s game for both sides. Why spend the standard price on a ticket to attend the Prudential Center for Hynes’ return? Through the link, you can potentially save some money while still being in attendance to let Hynes and the Predators know exactly what you think of them.
We will be having three more of these “pre-previews” as the season goes on to share similar affiliate links for future Devils games this season. In the meantime, I want to know what you think about this match-up ahead of Thursday’s game in the comments. Thank you for reading.
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