When the Penguins promoted Todd Reirden from head coach of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to assistant coach on Dan Bylsma’s staff in Pittsburgh, a huge vacancy opened on the Baby Penguins’ staff.
|Freshly-appointed Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes was a highly successful coach with the U.S. National Development Team Program. Credit - Anthony Fabrikant/AFC Media |
Penguins general manager Ray Shero wasted little time filling the void, tabbing WBS assistant coach John Hynes to replace Reirden.
For Hynes, 35, coaching the Baby Penguins represents his first chance to be a head coach at the professional level following seven years with the United States National Junior Development Team from 2002-03 through ’08-09 and one season as an assistant with WBS under Reirden.
“It’s a great organization down in WBS led by Jeff Barrett,” Hynes said. “We have a great team with our returning players and some of the additions we have added over the summer. I am looking forward to working with a talented team this year.”
Besides having the chance to work for a first-class American Hockey League franchise, Hynes is stepping into a position which has been a springboard for the past four WBS head coaches – Michel Therrien, Todd Richards, Bylsma and Reirden – to make the jump from the AHL to the National Hockey League.
“We as an organization put a lot of research into our hiring,” Reirden said. “We always have hired with the intent that the assistant coach can one day take over as the head coach. As a young coach your intentions are to always strive to be at the highest level. That was the reason I hired John Hynes.”
Hynes, who hails from Warwick, R.I., seems to have the perfect credentials to lead the Penguins’ young talent collection in WBS based upon the seven successful seasons he spent with the U.S. NTDP prior to joining the Penguins’ organization last year.
During his time with USA Hockey, which included six seasons as a head coach, Hynes compiled an impressive overall record of 216-113-19-9 – including a 42-17-6 record as the head coach of the Under-17 squad in ’08-09, when he led the team to only its second North American Hockey League North Division championship.
“I think coaching the National Team and getting to work with talented players that have the potential to be great professional players helped because you have to manage different types of players, different talent levels and different personalities,” Hynes said. “I really think that helped me develop as a coach to understand the process of development and getting young guys ready to become a professional player.
“This past season I was able to learn the intricacies of the pro game. Todd really afforded me some great situations to develop as a coach by giving me some head-coaching responsibilities which I think really helped prepare me for this situation.”
One of the main character traits which has allowed Bylsma to become such a successful coach, first at WBS and now in Pittsburgh, and something also seen in Reirden’s personality, is the ability to be a good communicator with young players. Thanks to his extensive experience with the NTDP, Hynes follows in this same vein.
“I think one of my best assets as a coach is my ability to communicate,” Hynes said. “I think it is understanding who the players are first and what their roles are and where they are in their own careers because every player is different. Some players need more fitness and conditioning while another might need more video work and game understanding and yet another might be how they need to be coached to have success.
“I have high expectations for the players and then I like to work together to push them to a level that they may not think they can reach or get to on their own. That is part of developing – helping them as people and having a relationship environment where they feel like they are getting better and they enjoy coming to the rink every day.”
In addition to being a good communicator, which is so important with young players, a couple of other reasons why Reirden believes his protégé will have success behind the WBS bench is the fact that Hynes is a tireless worker who is totally devoted to his job, and because Hynes emphasizes the same up-tempo, attacking system which Bylsma and Reirden have used with great success.
“He is a very passionate guy,” Reirden said. “His work ethic and ability to work with young players is unbelievable. It’s so important to have the in WBS with the way our team in Pittsburgh is structured salary-cap wise. We have to develop from within.
“We feel like the reason our guys were able to have success when they were recalled was the commonalities between the systems and the terminology. That was important for John to see how doing that really helps make the transition to the NHL seamless for the players.”
If Hynes is successful at helping prepare players within the Penguins’ farm system to one day play at a high level in Pittsburgh, he knows he will create a chance for himself to achieve his goal of coaching in the NHL.
“I want to do a great job in WBS, and if I do that, hopefully the next level is an option for me down the road,” Hynes said.