There have been a number of games across the first half of the 2019-20 season described as "wake-up calls" by members of the Nashville Predators. On Monday evening, they received the biggest one yet.
Preds General Manager David Poile elected to relieve Peter Laviolette and Kevin McCarthy of their coaching duties after the team returned from a three-game road trip, and less than 24 hours later, John Hynes was named the third head coach in franchise history.
The morning skate held Tuesday morning at Bridgestone Arena was the first since 2014 that didn't include Laviolette or McCarthy on the ice, a drastic shift for a team that finds themselves on the outside of the playoff picture with exactly half of their games completed. Expectations in Nashville are high, and missing the postseason isn't an option.
Reluctantly, Poile made the move to bring in a new voice in an attempt to turn the current campaign around, and the GM wasn't mincing words when he spoke to his players following the transaction.
"My message to the players was that 'I am responsible for this, I'm responsible for this change and I take that responsibility,'" Poile began, "'But you, as players, have to share the responsibility of what's taking place today.' I don't want to use a cliché, but they often say that you change your coach because it doesn't make sense to change 20 players. Our team is way better than it has performed this year… and we also have some individuals that are playing way below their level of potential or the expectations that we have.
"I'm very sorry that we had to make a coaching change. But, as I feel today, and I thought long and hard about this - I felt if we have any chance to play better in the second half of the season to get into the playoffs, to play to our potential that we needed a new voice. We need some changes. I don't think we need a lot of changes, but we need some changes."
For just about everyone on the Predators roster, a mid-season coaching change is new territory. Poile has never done it during his over 20 seasons as Nashville's general manager, and as a product of playing in Tennessee over the last six years, most only know Laviolette as head coach.
That's all changed.
Video: Players react to recent coaching changes
"It was a shock to everyone," Preds Captain Roman Josi said. "As players, we take a lot of responsibility. We're the ones playing on the ice. We're the ones playing every night, and it's always sad. As a player, you never want to see a coach go during the season the season. We definitely take a lot of responsibility for that."
"It's too bad that two people have to be the scapegoat for a problem that we're all part of," Preds forward Rocco Grimaldi said. "It's not like our GM can just get rid of all of us… It's too bad to see two guys be the scapegoats for all this when there's just a lot of issues that we're dealing with right now. So, we just wish them all the best."
Hynes was not on the ice with the Predators on Tuesday morning ahead of that night's game against Boston at Bridgestone Arena, but he did address his new team prior to their skate, and in that brief time, he made an impact.
"I was very impressed by the way he took the locker room," Preds goaltender Pekka Rinne said of his first interaction with Hynes. "I personally don't know him (before today), but I'm excited to work under him and welcome him with open arms. He made a good first impression."
While the disappointment of seeing two good coaches lose their positions is still fresh, there is also optimism with a fresh voice coming into the room. Though the Predators enter game No. 42 below the Wild Card line, it's not that far of a climb.
But the group also knows time is of the essence.
Video: GM Poile speaks on coaching changes, team's future
"We've been [saying] the same stuff over and over again," Rinne said. "[There's] a lot of time, a lot of time, a lot of time. But time is running out. You've got to change the way you do things. The bottom line is enough talking, we've got to start playing."
The Predators know it likely won't be an overnight transformation, and it should take a few practices and a handful of games for Hynes and his group to gel with one another. But if any team is capable of doing so and ascending the standings over the season's final three-plus months, it's this one.
As Rinne says, they simply have to believe.
"You have to keep a positive mindset," Rinne said. "All of us need to take a look in the mirror, and after that, just believe in what John brings in and buy into it and stay positive. I mean, we're not that far out… Even though it's an unfortunate situation, you've got to find the positives, believe and trust John and trust this thing."