This season the NHL has created a new statistic: head coach firings. By the team, this current season was half over, no less than seven head coaches had been fired.
Some of these coaches set up their own demise through personal behavior issues or were removed because of patterns of verbal and physical abuse towards players. Other coaches were simply terminated because they didn’t bring in immediate success in the standings; however, a head coach only has so much power and influence to win games and without strong efforts each night from their players a coach can only do so much to edge towards the playoffs.
In the case of the New Jersey Devils this season, head coach John Hynes was fired on December 3, 2019, after the Devils posted a 9-13-4 record.
Slow starts, poor player performance, bad luck and the resurgence of other teams in the Metropolitan Division can all be blamed for a lack of success.
However, the head coach remains a visible symbol of the organization and John Hynes became the easy target for termination by the Devils front office. Did Hynes deserve it? Yes, head coaches are hired to do one thing-win. In Hynes’ career with the Devils, he led them to one playoff appearance in 2018 where the Devils were eliminated quickly in the first round. This playoff appearance was the first for the Devils since 2011-2012 and it showed the Hynes was making some progress in restoring this organization back to its winning days and making strides to bringing the Stanley Cup back to Newark.
John Hynes was replaced by assistant coach Alain Nasreddine who had been with Hynes since their AHL days. Hynes was out of hockey and the NHL when the Nashville Predators came looking for a head coach after they fired Peter Laviolette. His exile out of the NHL lasted exactly 34 days when the Devils released him from his original contract and let him sign on as the new Predators head coach on January 7, 2020.
Since this transition, interim head coach Alain Nesreddine has led the Devils to a current record of 19-24-10 (10-11-6 since taking over as interim head) while John Hynes has the Predators currently sitting at 26-20-7 and fighting for a Wild Card playoff spot.
Why is this relevant?
By firing John Hynes, the Devils ownership attempted to implement some quick changes to win games that have not materialized.
The failure to move up in the standings doesn’t purely rest of Alain Nesriddene’s shoulders: he inherited a team that was skating towards the bottom and hasn’t found their way up yet. John Hynes seemed to leave at a perfect time for Nashville as they are in the playoff hunt. NHL coaches are now on notice: win immediately or you will be terminated and the next man will be up coaching in your spot.
Does this create stability or chaos for players who may not know who will be coaching them next week?
The NHL is at its root a business and businesses require success as every coach and every player in the league is ultimately expendable according to team owners.
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