NASHVILLE -- John Hynes was hired as coach of the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, five weeks after he was fired by the New Jersey Devils.
Hynes, who was fired by the Devils on Dec. 3, replaces Peter Laviolette, who was fired Monday after six seasons with Nashville. Hynes, who will make his Predators debut when they host the Boston Bruins on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN+, FS-TN, NESN, NHL.TV), is the third Predators coach since they entered the NHL in 1998-99 (Barry Trotz, Laviolette).
"I like to have a strong attack mentality," Hynes said. "I think when you look at our team, it's trying to play fast. We want to get up and out of our zone as quick as we can. We want to be able to manage the puck through the neutral zone with speed. I think when you look at our [defensemen], they're excellent skaters. They can join the rush. So you do have the opportunities when you have time and space through the neutral zone to have a four-man attack."
The Devils were 9-13-4 when Hynes was fired and replaced by Alain Nasreddine. Hynes was 150-159-45 in five seasons with New Jersey and coached them to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2017-18, when they lost in the Eastern Conference First Round to the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games. It is its only playoff appearance since 2011-12.
Hynes said he wants to help the Predators play more consistently and will make some tweaks during the coming weeks when he's able to have some practices and implement his ideas.
"In the offensive zone, we like to be very aggressive with an aggressive forecheck," he said. "We have a phrase, 'We want to fight for middle ice.' We want to have strong middle-lane drive. We want to have a shot mentality, a strong net-front presence, five guys involved in the offense. We're going to try to promote a lot of what we would call a 'half-ice game', where you have a lot of offensive pressure. You manage the puck. You're getting to the inside of the ice. If the other team chips it out, there's a quick-up, reattack and we can be right back in that area of the ice."
Predators general manager David Poile said he believes their core hasn't come close to meeting expectations this season. Nashville ranks sixth in the NHL in goals per game (3.44) and 24th in goals against per game (3.27).
"For me personally, this has been the hardest year that I've ever had, because we have been totally unable to meet expectations," said Poile, the only GM in Nashville history. "My message to the players was that I'm responsible for this. I'm responsible for this change, and I take that responsibility. But you as players have to share in the responsibility of what's taking place today."
The Predators (19-15-7) are in sixth in the Central Division, five points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference.
"I think if you're looking at our record, we've definitely got to do things better," Nashville forward Filip Forsberg said. "Like I said, we haven't really had the time to talk to John a lot about that yet but ultimately it's going to be the effort that comes from this group in here, and we're ready for that."
The Predators said they were surprised Laviolette was fired and that they felt responsible, but Poile said he believes Hynes can re-energize them during the second half of the season.
"Our team is way better than it's performed this year," Poile said. "But we have obviously some team concepts, systems that aren't working as effectively as they should. And we've also had some individuals who are playing way below their level of potential or the expectations that we have. It's been a hard year. There are a lot of things that have not gone well with our team."
Forward Matt Duchene said that the Predators have to put their emotions of the firing behind them and move forward, especially with a game Tuesday.
"It's obviously a shock for sure. It's tough. I've never been through this where you have to adjust midseason," Duchene said. "[Laviolette] is an awesome coach and an awesome guy, and I know we all feel bad in here that we didn't do what we needed to do to be where we needed to be at. But no time to have our heads down, we've got a big game against a really good hockey team tonight. We're not too far out with lots of games in hand, so we've got to make it count right now. Lots of season left."
Photo Courtesy: John Russell/Nashville Predators