Devils Fire John Hynes

The Devils today made a huge change at the top, firing head coach John Hynes and elevating assistant coach Alain Nasreddine to Interim Head Coach. This information comes from the Devils themselves on their official site.

This move comes off of the heels of a 4-0 loss to the Rangers on Saturday and a 7-1 drubbing by the Sabres last night. Nasreddine will take over tonight as the Devils face the Vegas Golden Knights at Prudential Center.

In addition to this move, Peter Horachek will move from being a pro scout to an assistant with Nasreddine. Assistants Rick Kowalsky, Mike Grier and goalie coach Roland Melanson remain on the staff.

Nasreddine was hired as an assistant coach by New Jersey on June 17, 2015.

Ray Shero said this regarding the announcement of Hynes’ firing: “John played an integral role in the development of this team in establishing a foundation for our future and we are grateful for his commitment, passion and unmatched work ethic. John is a respected leader, developer of talent and friend which makes this decision difficult. We are a team that values and takes pride in accountability to the results we produce. We are collectively disappointed in our performance on the ice and believe changes were needed, starting with our head coach. I have been consistent in my desire to build something here in New Jersey that earns the respect of teams throughout the league and pride in our fans. That is not where we were heading and for me to tolerate anything less was not acceptable.”

On the subject of Nasreddine, Shero said: “Nas has a long history as a respected leader both as a player [he played 15-years in the Edmonton, Florida, Montreal, Islanders and Pittsburgh organizations] and a coach [he previously was an assistant with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the AHL] in the respective roles he has served for his teams. His experience as a captain and alternate captain on the ice, in addition to his responsibilities behind the bench, will serve him well as he leads this team through necessary changes to alter our current trajectory.”

Horachek, according to the press release, was hired as a pro scout for the Devils in 2015. He previously served as an assistant for Nashville and was an interim head coach for the Florida Panthers and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Devils were 150-159-45 all-time under Hynes for a .487 winning percentage in 354 total games according to the press release. They appeared in one playoff series under him, in 2018 – where they lost in five games to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The press release mentioned that he ranks second in Devils franchise history in games coached, wins and points, of which he accumulated 345.

The Devils were 9-13-4 with 22 points and a -31 goal differential this season under Hynes. Hopefully, the team turns things around. As NHL Network’s EJ Hradek put it on NHL Now this afternoon (paraphrasing), the team cost a coach his job, now it is time to begin to really take the next step forward for them.

How will they respond tonight to the firing? Will Nasreddine have them in a position to compete with the Golden Knights? Tune in tonight on MSG to find out. And afterwards, check back here and we will have a complete recap of tonight’s action.

Tom Fitzgerald Moving Back to Office

According to Marc Ciampa of the Devils’ official website, Tom Fitzgerald, the Devils’ Assistant GM, will be moving from the bench back to the front office.

Fitzgerald came down to work as an assistant coach on October 16. He has been behind the bench for the team since then.

Ciampa quoted Devils head coach John Hynes as saying: “It was great having Fitzy around. He’s been around for awhile so he knows what’s going on and he’s seen the players. We know this wasn’t going to be forever. It’s a different voice, different observations. It’s kind of run its course and he’s done a fantastic job.”

Ciampa notes that with Fitzgerald behind the bench, “the team saw some great improvements in its penalty kill. The penalty kill at the time was 57.1% which ranked last in the NHL. From that date until present, the Devils penalty kill has ranked seventh in the NHL at 85.2%.”

Since October 16, the team is 6-8-1 if my memory is right, which is a little bit of an improvement over those 15 games than their first seven in which they went 1-4-2.

Hynes also told Ciampa that “We’re certainly going to miss him. But the difference is he’s around all the time anyways so the difference will be basically on the bench and not on the ice. It was great having him. We’ll continue to have him as a resource but it was the right time for him [and for us] to have him back in what he was actually hired to do.”

Ciampa wrote that Travis Zajac told him, in regards to Fitzgerald’s contributions to the team at practice, “I think face-offs, just the little things, where to be in the d-zone and positioning. He’s played the game, he’s been in every situation. For a team like that, that’s always helpful.”

I know that this will be a somewhat controversial move for the Devils amongst fans.

There are many fans who want to see general manager Ray Shero fire Hynes due to the results so far this season, as well as the majority of the last five years. The team improved with Fitzgerald with the team behind the bench. This will not make the “Fire Hynes” contingent of fans very happy because now it is all Hynes and his staff running the show.

What I think I see is Ray sort of putting Hynes and his staff to the test. They do not have the fresh perspective of Fitzgerald with them, so they need to sink or swim for the last time.

Should the team not continue to improve, I could see Shero firing Hynes at some point this season. Not a guarantee, but something that I feel very strongly could happen.