The Penguins have been at the forefront of giving intelligent, talented young coaches an opportunity to succeed.
It’s the reason why John Hynes initially joined the organization after seven years mentoring future NHLers with the U.S. National Team Development Program (NTDP), and the reason he’s excited to have signed a multi-year contract with the organization.
“It feels really good because when we made the decision to come to the organization, it was about the people and the opportunities that they give you,” Hynes said. “Not only to work and improve and move up within the organization, but also because of the quality of people you’re around to learn from on a daily basis.
“That’s something that, as a young coach, you look forward to. You’re always trying to get better and you’re always trying to be around good people and people that care about you, and that’s what this organization is about.”
Hynes, 36, served as an assistant coach in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the 2009-10 campaign (his first season with the organization).
After then-WBS head coach Todd Reirden joined the Pittsburgh staff as an assistant on July 31, 2010, Hynes assumed head coaching duties with WBS that same day.
He proceeded to become the first coach in franchise history to earn the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as the American Hockey League’s most outstanding coach after guiding WBS to a regular-season championship in his first season as a professional head coach.
Hynes credits Reirden with preparing him for the position by simply involving him in all team-related aspects.
“(Reirden) really laid a great foundation for me to be able to kind of step in as a head coach the year after because of the experiences that he afforded me,” Hynes said.
Under Hynes, WBS earned a 58-21-0-1 regular-season record and set new franchise records for wins, home wins (30), road wins (21) and points (117) – all while dealing with plenty of adversity after injuries befell the parent club, seeing his seven top scorers all called up to Pittsburgh at one point.
The balancing act Hynes pulled off last season was impressive. Not only did he find a way to achieve unprecedented success in many facets with WBS, but he also never lost sight of the teaching process that is so crucial with players in the Penguins system.
“This year we had a very successful year,” Hynes said. “So the challenges were trying to figure out how do we improve through winning and dealing with individuals in different situations, whether they were called up or sent down or struggling throughout the year. It was more finding the right ways to handle the guys as individuals, to get the maximum you could from the individuals, but then also make our team better.
“Those are things you can’t really learn as an assistant coach. When you actually get in front of the guys and deal with them one-on-one and they’re looking to you for the direction, those are the things that are the challenging but fun parts of being a head coach.”
Hynes is looking forward to continuing to mentor and guide the players he coaches in WBS into bonafide NHLers – and is excited to now be looking at a bigger picture.
“It’s a situation where the development process of the players is now being looked at over a two-year process,” he said.
“Part of the process of continuing with the group is that you can continue to move on from the entry-level stage of getting to know people and learning the systems and how to teach it,” he said. “Now we can grow as a group and learn from the good and bad from each year. Now we can continue to progress as a staff, and ultimately with both Wilkes-Barre and Pittsburgh, take it to a different level.”