The coach behind Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s outstanding season was recognized for his efforts on April 6.
WBS head coach John Hynes was awarded the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as the American Hockey League’s Outstanding Coach on April 6, becoming the first WBS coach in franchise history to earn the honor.
In his first season as head coach, Hynes has guided the Penguins to the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy and one of the best regular seasons in AHL history, with a record of 57-21-0-1 heading into the final game of the year – all while having 11 players called up to play lengthy stretches of time with Pittsburgh.
“We had their seven leading scorers at one point up in Pittsburgh, and they’re still winning games,” Penguins GM Ray Shero said. “John certainly is a real reflection of the organization, the community there. It’s been a nice story.”
Hynes, 36, joined the Penguins organization as an assistant coach with WBS for the 2009-10 season.
Prior to that, he spent seven years as head coach of the U.S. National Team Development Program, mentoring nearly three-dozen future NHLers – including players like No. 1-overall draft picks Patrick Kane of Chicago and Erik Johnson of Colorado – and winning numerous international accolades.
But his ultimate goal was to get into professional hockey, and his dedication and commitment to reaching that goal is what impressed Shero.
“He had a real good job at USA Hockey, he was a young guy moving up,” Shero said. “He had to take a pay cut to come to us because he started off as an assistant coach in Wilkes-Barre. So I remember having a conversation with him, he’s got a wife and two girls. And he just said, ‘I really believe in what you guys have going there. You guys promote from within and I want to get into pro hockey. I think that’s the next step for me.’
“And I said, Okay...this guy really wants to work,’” Shero continued, smiling. “That’s great. I thought it was awesome. So I’m really happy for him.”
That passion for the game and for teaching his players both on and off the ice is also what has most impressed head coach Dan Bylsma, who interacts with Hynes on a daily basis.
“There’s just a passion for the game, a passion for the teaching and a passion for helping the players out that is more than just on ice, X’s and O’s,” Bylsma said. “It’s more than just teaching. It’s managing his team and getting his team together and focused and using different things outside of just X’s and O’s to do that for his team. I’ve really been impressed with John’s focus in that regard.”
Hynes and his staff in WBS work tirelessly with their players on cleaning up the details of their game that will allow them to succeed in the National Hockey League, through video sessions, post-practice work and input from assistant to the GM Tom Fitzgerald as well as Bylsma and his staff.
“We try, as coaches, to be good teachers with them,” Hynes said. “Then there’s great communication between Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre as far as when players get called up. When they get sent down, we’ll have a discussion, Alain (Nasreddine) and myself, then we’ll talk with either Dan, Todd (Reirden) or Tony (Granato). … So it’s kind of just a great team effort as far as scouts and coaches communicating in trying to make the players better and giving different opinions at different levels and different times in the season.”
Botterill sad this line of communication is crucial to both teams’ success – and for the development of a young coach like Hynes.
“The thing that just helps out so much for a coach like John there is the communication he has with Dan Bylsma up here,” Botterill said.
“Dan utilizes John in a lot of situations here. So John gains a lot of experience. And last year, the fact that John was up here and was around for the playoff run too, understanding a little bit about what it takes to win at the National Hockey League level was great for his development as a coach. It’s a very fortunate situation to have that sort of lines of communication going back and forth.”
Botterill is certain the players in WBS will continue to thrive under Hynes' direction.
"We’ve been very fortunate, from Todd Richards to Dan Bylsma to Todd Reirden, now to John Hynes," Botterill said of having young coaches at the helm in WBS. "It’s a great succession down there. I think it’s that all of them have an unbelievable enthusiasm for the game, a passion for the game, a passion for teaching. I think that’s just where our players down there benefit so much, whether you’re a six-year pro trying to get over that hump to become a National Hockey League player, or a first-year pro who’s just trying to survive in the American Hockey League."