After letting the announcement of the Devils hiring former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins coach John Hynes to be their new bench boss sink in, there are some other things that come to mind.
At the press conference announcing Hynes, General Manager Ray Shero pointed out that coaches today are coming from many different backgrounds. He cited Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper as an example of a coach with an “unorthodox” background going on to great things in the NHL. Of course, the Lightning are set to begin the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals tonight (June 3) against the Chicago Blackhawks, which is what Shero was getting at. His point was that Hynes’ lack of NHL experience is not a hindrance, but rather a blessing. Hiring guys who had been fired elsewhere is not always a great solution to a problem like the Devils face.
Hynes’ background is solid, however. Born in Warwick, Rhode Island, he played four years at Boston University, according to a press release on the Devils website, included in his time with the Terriers was four straight trips to the NCAA Frozen Four and a 1995 NCAA championship. Upon graduation, he became a graduate assistant at BU, serving under Coach Jack Parker. His other college coaching credits include time at UMass-Lowell in 2000-01 and Wisconsin in 2002-03 both as an assistant.
From 2003 to 2009, he was head coach of the USA Hockey National Development Program. During his time with that program, the Devils’ press release states that he went 188-131-16-10. He coached the US Under-18 National Team to gold (2006), silver (2004) and bronze (2008) in the World Under-18 Championships. He coached Team USA at the 2008 World Juniors, winning gold there and was an assistant coach on the 2004 team that won gold at the same tournament.
In 2009, he joined the pro ranks, being hired by then-Pittsburgh GM Shero to be an assistant coach with the Baby Pens in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He took over as head coach the following season. He posted a .637 winning percentage in his five seasons there. Although he did not win a Calder Cup in the AHL, he posted a winning record every year in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He guided the team to the AHL’s Eastern Conference Finals in both 2012-13 and 2013-14. The 2010-11 season was perhaps his finest as he won Coach of the Year while leading the Penguins to an AHL-best 58-21-0-1 record for 117 points. He was also given the reigns as one of the coaches of the Western Conference at that season’s AHL All-Star Game.
Even though he never reached the Calder Cup Finals in the AHL, he did lead the Pens to a feat never achieved in the AHL before. In the second round against the Providence Bruins, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was down three games to none. By winning the next four, including the last two on the road, they became the first AHL team to overcome a 3-0 series deficit.
The Devils press release also mentions that he had 40-plus wins in each of his five years in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and that his teams allowed the fewest goals in the AHL in four of his years coaching the Pens.
What all this means is that, while not hiring a retread, the Devils are getting a head coach who has a lot of experience in the game of hockey. He might be the youngest coach in the NHL, but he has spent his entire life around the game and is, by all accounts, a good communicator.
Cory Schneider, who played under him with the National Development Program, seemed enthused when he was hired, which gives the rookie coach a vote of confidence right there when his starting goaltender is on board. He is also a guy that is right out of the Lamoriello/Shero mold: a US college guy with international coaching experience who even shares the same home state as Lou Lamoriello – Rhode Island.
In the end, the results on the ice will do the talking, but right now, most Devils fans seem to be optimistic across the board on what could be a monumental hiring for the team.