Hynes to Play in Stars & Stripes Showdown

Coach John Hynes will be participating in a benefit game in Plymouth, Michigan according to the Devils website.

The game, called the Stars & Stripes Showdown, will benefit the Jim Johannson Legacy Fund of The USA Hockey Foundation and the Ellie Johannson College Fund. The game, which begins at 2 PM ET in Michigan, will take place Sunday, August 26 at the USA Hockey Arena. It will feature “top American-born hockey stars.”

Hynes, of course, played at Boston University and hails from Warwick, Rhode Island. He was the head coach of the US National Development Team which plays in the USHL and is run by USA Hockey.

Jim Johannson was the head of USA Hockey who tragically passed away just prior to the 2018 Winter Olympics. The game, in addition to benefitting the two funds, will also be played in his honor.

In other New Jersey hockey-related news, congratulations to Joe Masonius of Spring Lake, who was profiled in yesterday’s Coast Star. He has signed an AHL deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins and will play in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton next season. He was a sixth round pick by Pittsburgh in 2016 according to the article in the Star (written by Len Bardsley).

He played high school hockey at Christian Brothers Academy in Lincroft, New Jersey and three years at the University of Connecticut. Good luck to him as another New Jersey hockey player joins the professional ranks.

USA Edged by Finland at Worlds, 3-2

Team USA was defeated at the World Championship 3-2 by Finland earlier today. It was a frustrating loss, especially after the US seemed to be back on track after defeating Belarus on Saturday.

The US got goals from Frank Vatrano and Connor Murphy while Mike Condon made 19 saves. Auston Matthews, who is projected to be the first overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft assisted on the Vatrano goal.

The Finns got goals from Mikko Koivu and Antti Pihlstrom and a power play goal from Leo Komarov that turned out to be the game-decider.

For Devils involved in the game, Steve Santini had 13:52 of total ice time, David Warsofsky had three shots on goal and 16:13 of ice time and Miles Wood had 7:39 of ice time. Keith Kinkaid did not play, we will see if coach John Hynes decides to stick with Condon for the next game against France on Thursday or if he goes back to Kinkaid for that game.

Another Devil active in this tournament is Adam Larsson, who is suiting up for Team Sweden. In their 4-2 loss to the Czech Republic earlier today, Larsson had 21:57 of ice time, was a minus-2 and had two minutes of penalty time (a tripping call at 18:15 of the first period that the Swedes would get a shorthanded goal by Martin Lundberg on). Sweden’s other goal came off the stick of Robert Rosen. Goaltender Jacob Markstrom made 26 saves in the loss.

Larsson and Sweden next take on Kazakhstan on Wednesday.

Hynes Named Coach of USA at World Championships and Other Devils News

Devils first year head coach John Hynes was named head coach of Team USA at the 2016 IIHF World Championship according to the Devils official website. The annual tournament will be held May 6 to 22 in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia.

Hynes is making his debut as the coach of Team USA at the World Championships, but has previously coached with the USA Hockey National Team Developmental Program and at the IIHF Under-18 Men’s World Championship (where he won silver in 2004, gold in 2006 and bronze in 2008). He was on the staff for Team USA at the 2004 World Junior Championship, where he helped the US win gold for the first time ever in that tournament. He will also be on head coach John Tortorella’s staff at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in September for Team USA.

The former coach of the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, who served as an assistant coach at UMass-Lowell and the University of Wisconsin was chosen by the US Men’s National Team Advisory Board, which is headed by Jim Johannson and includes Stan Bowman of the Chicago Blackhawks, Dean Lombardi of the Los Angeles Kings, David Poile of the Nashville Predators, Dale Tallon of the Florida Panthers, Dan Waddell of the Carolina Hurricanes and the Devils’ own Ray Shero. Players will be named at a later date, as they usually include members of teams that have either missed the playoffs or have been eliminated early on.

In other news, the Devils announced three signings and a call up today. Joshua Jacobs of the OHL’s Sarnia Sting has been inked to a three year entry level deal that kicks in next season. He will join the Albany Devils of the AHL on an Amateur Try-Out. He was selected in the second round, 41st overall in the 2014 Entry Draft. He is a 6’2”, 200 pound defenseman and a native of Shelby Township, Michigan. He turned 20 years-old on February 15.

With Boston College’s bid for the NCAA National Championship put to an end with a loss to Quinnipiac on Thursday, the Devils signed two members of the Eagles to entry level deals. The first is defenseman Steven Santini. His contract will kick in this season; he will report to New Jersey tomorrow and will wear number 38. The BC star is a 42nd overall draft choice in the second round by the Devils in the 2013 Entry Draft. He just turned 21 years-old on March 7 and is a 6’2”, 205 pound native of Mahopac, New York.

Also signed to a three year entry level contract is Santini’s Boston College teammate, Miles Wood. Wood’s contract, like Santini’s, will begin this season and he too will be reporting to New Jersey tomorrow. He will wear number 44. The 6’2” 195 pound forward was born in Buffalo, New York and is the son of form NHL player Randy Wood. His father played parts of ten seasons with the Islanders, Sabres, Maple Leafs and Stars. Miles was selected 100th overall (fourth round) by the Devils in the 2013 Entry Draft.

In news that Devils fans everywhere have been eagerly awaiting, Pavel Zacha could’ be getting his first taste of the NHL. The 6’3” 210 pound center, whose season with the Sarnia Sting was just ended with their playoff exit, was assigned to Albany immediately following Sarnia’s bouncing from the OHL playoffs, but has been called up to the NHL club for tomorrow’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Devils also assigned Blake Pietila, Mike Sislo and Vojtech Mozik to Albany. Zacha was the Devils’ first round pick (sixth overall) in 2015. The native of Brno, Czech Republic will participate in the morning skate with New Jersey and could make his NHL debut tomorrow.

As the Devils look to the future, moves like these will increase as the summer wears on. Time will tell exactly how they pan out.

John Hynes Named to Team USA Coaching Staff for World Cup of Hockey

Devils coach John Hynes has been named as an assistant on John Tortorella’s staff at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey coming this September.

The Warwick, Rhode Island native joins Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, Predators assistant (recent Hall of Famer and former Devils defenseman) Phil Housley, Islanders coach Jack Capuano and Scott Gordon on Team USA’s coaching staff.

The first year Devils bench boss has had them contending for a playoff spot despite predictions that this was a rebuilding year for the franchise and still has them in the mix despite a depleted roster due to injuries and suspensions.

His previous international coaching experience includes six seasons as head coach of USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program. He also coached the US to three medals at the IIHF Men’s World Under-18 Championship according to the press release on the Devils official website. He won gold in 2006, silver in 2004 and bronze in 2008. He also served as an assistant on the staff for the first US team to win gold at the World Junior Championship (2004).

Coach Hynes certainly has the international coaching experience and his time in the AHL with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and at the NHL level with the Devils gives him even more knowledge on how to deal with players of all levels.

The 2016 World Cup of Hockey will be played in Toronto from September 17 to October 1 at the Air Canada Centre and will feature teams from USA, Canada, the Czech Republic, Europe, Finland, North America, Russia and Sweden according to the press release. Team USA’s general manager is LA Kings GM Dean Lombardi. The head coach is Columbus coach John Tortorella.

Some might see this as a weird choice, being that Hynes is a rookie NHL coach. However, when you take into consideration his service to American hockey at the international level previous, it makes sense. As Devils fans, we see Hynes coaching each night and the man knows what he is doing, so while not an obvious choice, he is a good one.

Congratulations to coach Hynes on this honor.

Devils Host Open Practice for Fans

Today, December 27, the Devils opened the doors of the Prudential Center to let fans watch an open practice. The event took place on the main ice surface of the Prudential Center, as opposed to the AmeriHealth Pavilion, their normal practice rink. Tickets were free to season ticket holders and cost $5 for all other fans, with the proceeds going to the Devils’ charitable foundation.

With a sizable crowd in attendance – half of the lower bowl was filled; the Devils were welcomed to the ice by public address announcer Kevin Clark. Captain Andy Greene welcomed fans to the practice (after a quick warmup) with a few words prior to the session, thanking us for coming out. With that, the group gathered around Coach John Hynes and he instructed them. They then went through some drills. After each drill, Coach Hynes would instruct some more and the team would break to participate in the next drill.

The practice ended with a shootout where everyone participated and only those who scored could advance. Once you missed, you were knocked out. In something that surprised very few in the crowd, Jacob Josefson won. Just prior to the shootout, Coach Hynes addressed the crowd, explained a little about what fans just saw and his hopes for the team’s play going forward. He also thanked us for coming out and then introduced the shootout.

Players had a little bit of fun during the shootout, doing things you would never see in games, particularly Stephen Gionta, who really played to the fans.

Following the end of practice, the players flipped autographed pucks into the crowd, making some kids very happy. WFAN radio play-by-play man Matt Laughlin then did a few interviews with Mike Cammalleri, Adam Henrique and Cory Schneider.

Season ticket holders were then treated to a meet-and-greet with the players on the concourse of the Prudential Center where they could get autographs and talk to the players a little. Cory Schneider’s life sized bobblehead was also unveiled, as he got the same treatment that Adam Henrique got back in November.

In addition, food was served and there were trivia contests for fans both via cell phone and in person in a live game show format.

Overall, the day was a great success for the team and its fans. This is something that has not really been done before, as Lou Lamoriello never liked to have practices open to fans (which is understandable). They did have open practices when they trained at South Mountain Arena in West Orange, but that was more because it was a public building and harder to keep fans out. Even then, if they could help it, they would keep things private.

Once the team moved to Prudential Center and AmeriHealth Pavilion, they could control who got to see the practices. This was a great marketing move and something that will create fans for life, as the kids really got to connect and bond with their favorite players.

I really hope the Devils do more of these, as they make for a unique and fun atmosphere and will help to build the fanbase of the future.

Devils Shutout Penguins in Total Team Effort

On Thursday, the Devils were the first team since the Rangers on opening night to hand the Chicago Blackhawks a loss on home ice. The Hawks are the measuring stick in the NHL (no matter how they are playing this season) due to being the defending Stanley Cup champs and bragging rights were on the line. Tonight, something different was on the line. With a defeat of the Pittsburgh Penguins, they could leapfrog them in the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference standings. The team would do just that with a complete, crisp, 100% effort from the roster, top to bottom.

Some good news came early for the Devils, as it was revealed today that Patrik Elias would be joining the team for the Western Canadian road trip next week. He has yet to suit up, having suffered a preseason knee injury, but is making steady progress and should be able to return to the lineup soon. As Steve Cangialosi pointed out on the MSG+ broadcast, though, the Devils have been playing so well of late that they do not need to rush him back to the lineup.

In other storylines, Ray Shero, John Hynes and Bobby Farnham would all be facing off with their former club tonight. Shero is, of course, the former GM that helped build the Penguins 2009 Stanley Cup team and Hynes coached their AHL team in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for many seasons. Farnham saw some time with the big club and spent a good amount of time with the organization. It was to be a special game for them, even if Shero downplayed it, saying when they visit Pittsburgh for the first time in his tenure as Devils GM that that will be the bigger moment. However, it would go on to be a sweet one for all three men, no matter if they were taking the professional route and calling it “just another game.”

The Pens, coming off a game last night in Columbus, elected to go with backup Jeff Zatkoff instead of Marc-Andre Fleury. He had 33 saves on the night. The Devils countered with Cory Schneider, making his fourteenth start of the season, would grab all 21 of the shots he faced en route to a 4-0 shutout.

Cory Schneider (as has been the case lately) kept the Devils in the game while the teams kept things close in the first period, with the first goal of the game not coming until 15:28 of the first frame. David Schlemko scored off assists from Mike Cammalleri and Adam Henrique. The puck seemed to enter the net before the Penguins defenseman, Rob Scuderi, knocked the goal off its moorings. After a review in the situation room in Toronto, the call on the ice stood, it was a good goal. The reasoning given by the league was that the net was still in its right position before the flexible pegs that keep it moored gave way. Enough of the moorings were still in place to call the goal a good goal and it was 1-0 New Jersey.

The Devils had another potential goal called off with 1:41 of the second period when they also crashed the net and knocked it off its pegs. This one was called a no-goal on the ice and that call also stood due to the whistle being blown before the puck crossed the line and the net was subsequently knocked off.

The Devils would keep that lead until 6:44 of the second period when Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin went off for tripping. On the ensuing power play, Cammalleri scored his sixth of the year from Jordin Tootoo and Damon Severson. The Devils got into trouble at 19:53 of the second when they were called for a bench minor for too many men on the ice. Pittsburgh would be starting the new period with a fresh sheet of ice. The Devils would eventually kill that off, going 5-5 on the penalty kill.

The rest of the scoring came in the third when former-Penguin Bobby Farnham scored at an odd angle, the puck running up Zatkoff’s back and into the net (assists to Henrique and Lee Stempniak) and Stempniak scored at 14:54 to ice the game (assists to Cammalleri, another multiple-point night for him and John Moore).

The Devils played a full game from the start to the finish, moving into third place in the Metro Division, jumping over Pittsburgh and the Islanders and into fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Jacob Josefson, though his name never appeared on the scoresheet, had a particularly good game, getting and creating scoring chances without finding the back of the net. Although times have been frustrating for him, the goals will come and he will get on-track sooner or later.

The key now for the team is to keep it up. It’s a long season and they have to compete at a high level every night in order to keep going. Like the players on Chicago noted, they do not have the most talent, but they do come to work every night. The large crowd at Prudential Center sensed that tonight. This is a hard working team that comes with their work boots every game and the fans have responded.

Next up, the team embarks on their Western Canadian road trip, visiting Calgary on Tuesday, Edmonton on Friday, November 20 and Vancouver a week from tomorrow. Their Western Conference-heavy schedule then slows down and they start seeing more teams from their own conference, starting the day before Thanksgiving against Columbus.

But that is getting too far ahead of ourselves. For now, the Devils are focusing on the Flames Tuesday night and savoring the complete win tonight.

Note: I also wanted to mention the induction of former (albeit briefly tenured) Devil Phil Housley into the Hockey Hall of Fame last Monday. Congratulations to Mr. Housley, now serving as an assistant coach with the Nashville Predators, and his family. It is a great honor for him and, though he only played 22 games for the Devils in the 1995-96 season, he will still forever be a part of Devils history.

John Hynes Gets First NHL Win in OT Defeat of Rangers

The Devils finally got in the win column for the 2015-16 season by defeating their archrivals at Madison Square Garden. It was John Hynes’ first NHL coaching victory and the Devils’ first overtime victory in three-on-three play.

Things looked bleak for New Jersey early on when the team came out flat. The Rangers capitalized on their lackluster play when Derek Stepan put New York ahead at 3:12 of the first. Sensing that the team was not totally up for this rivalry game, Kyle Palmieri, after having some words with the Rangers’ Kevin Klein, dropped the mitts with him in an attempt to get the Devils fired up.

It worked. In an interview with MSG’s Deb Placey during the first intermission, John Moore said that the team was proud of Palmieri’s efforts against the much-larger Klein. When the two teams came out for the second, it only took Adam Henrique 1:52 to wrist one past Henrik Lundqvist (assists to Mike Cammalleri and Damon Severson). Henrique was playing center for the game after being moved from left wing (his natural position) last game. MSG analyst Ken Daneyko mentioned that he likes him better on the wing, but conceded that Henrique has been showing that he can be an effective center for the team.

The Devils looked like they might be able to break through when New York’s Jarret Stoll was called for tripping at 19:54 of the second. This would give the Devils 1:55 or so of power play time on a fresh sheet of ice in the third. Things looked even better when Klein drew a delay of game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass 19 seconds into the third. The Devils, however, were not able to convert on the 5-on-3 and would, in fact, get into penalty trouble themselves late in the period. Jordin Tootoo took a high-sticking penalty at 10:58 of the period and the Devils’ penalty killers had little time to catch their breath after taking care of that when Lee Stempniak was whistled for interference at 13:38. Both the Devils and Rangers PK units were perfect on the afternoon.

The game was a tight defensive battle all the way and neither team was giving an inch of ice. It was also an illustration of what coach Hynes was talking about when he said that the game was now one of puck possession.

When the final buzzer sounded on the third period, the Devils had earned their second point in two games and were headed for three-on-three again and they would have a little help along the way. The Rangers’ Ryan McDonagh looked to have finished things early in the extra session when he beat Cory Schneider (who was again solid in this game) only to see defenseman Andy Greene clear the puck from the crease, sweeping it clear of the goal line just in the nick of time.

The Devils victory came when the Rangers dinged a shot off the post and Greene recovered, sending the puck up to a breaking Henrique, who quickly settled it and passed to Stempniak, who fired a one timer behind Lundqvist and into the net for the Devils’ first victory.

Overtime was again exciting three-on-three and more satisfying this time with a Devils victory. Andy Greene was the Devils’ star in the extra session. The captain was able to not only to keep the puck out of the Devils’ cage, but also helped spring Henrique to set up the game winner.

Although Stempniak was named the game’s first star and the goaltenders were the other two (Schneider earned second star while Lundqvist was the third), Greene and Henrique could have easily been on there. Both played well and were instrumental in the Devils’ win.

All-in-all, though, it was a good win for a team that needed one. For John Hynes to get his first NHL win in his first taste of the “Hudson River Rivalry” has to be gratifying for him and the team. Now that the first win is out of the way and all of the early season jitters are gone, it is time for the Devils to build on this. The Devils now get off the winless list, as only Columbus and Anaheim have yet to taste victory in 2015-16. Hopefully, they can continue the upward trend as the Arizona Coyotes come to Prudential Center on Tuesday.

Devils Name New Assistant Coaches

The Devils announced via their official website today (June 17) that they have hired Geoff Ward and Alain Nasreddine as new assistant coaches under head coach John Hynes.

The move further restructures the coaching staff and adds a new element behind the bench. According to the Devils’ press release, Ward spent last season with the Adler Mannheim Eagles of the German Ice Hockey League and Nasreddine was an assistant under Hynes with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League.

Ward, at 53 years-old is the better traveled of the two. He has been coaching for 22 years, including seven years as an assistant with the Boston Bruins. During his time there, the Bruins won a Stanley Cup (2011) and reached a Stanley Cup Final (2013). Prior to his time with the B’s, he was a member of the Edmonton Oilers organization. He coached their AHL affiliate at the time, the Hamilton Bulldogs, for more than two seasons, being named co-winner of the Louis A. R. Pieri Memorial Award as AHL coach of the year in 2003 along with former Devils coach and current Bruins bench boss Claude Julien, who was also coaching with the Bulldogs at that time. He also coached Hamilton to the Calder Cup Finals in 2003, losing to the Houston Aeros. He was promoted to Edmonton’s development coach in 2005-06.

His coaching career began in 1992-93 when he was named an assistant coach with the Ontario Hockey League’s Niagara Falls Thunder. He was then named head coach of the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL in 1994-95 and served in that position until 1997-98. He then moved on to the Guelph Storm of the OHL in 1998-99. In 1999-2000, he spent time with the Arkansas Riverblades of the ECHL. In addition to last season’s stint in Germany, he also coached in the German League in 2000-01 and 2006-07.

Nasreddine is the younger of the two assistants at age 39. The Montreal native’s coaching career includes five seasons with Hynes in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. A former defenseman, the Baby Pens allowed the fewest goals in the AHL four times under his watch. They also won the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy as AHL regular season champions in 2010-11 while he was on staff.

He played his junior hockey with the Drummondville Voltigeurs and the Chicoutimi Sagueneens of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and played 74 games in the NHL (with Chicago, Montreal, the Islanders and Pittsburgh). His pro playing career spanned fifteen years from 1995-96 to 2009-10. He was drafted by the Florida Panthers 135th overall in the sixth round of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft. Playing in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, he made appearances in the 2004 and 2008 Calder Cup Finals and was the team’s captain in 2004-05 and 2005-06. As a player he won a QMJHL President’s Cup with Chicoutimi as league champions in 1993-94 and advanced to the Memorial Cup.

Although it is kind of disappointing that the team could not find a role for Scott Stevens on the staff (he was a coach who got the most out of his defense, in particular helping Adam Larsson develop into a full-time NHL-caliber defenseman), many fans can understand that both Hynes and new General Manager Ray Shero wanted to go with their own guys behind the bench. Stevens is a three-time Stanley Cup champ with the Devils and was a highly respected player during his playing days and took that into his coaching career. The former Devils captain could have been a good asset to the new coaching staff. Despite that, there is a decent amount of experience between the two men who will be behind the bench next season when it comes to winning, including Ward capturing a Stanley Cup with Boston in 2011.

It is now clear that this is Hynes and Shero’s team and the Devils’ future development will hinge on their moves. Patience by ownership and management will also be a key, as the coaching staff is very young and will need time to grow with their players. The team will certainly have a new look this coming season, something that was to be expected after the last few seasons.

More Thoughts on John Hynes Hiring

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.

Hynes Named New Devils Coach

For the 17th time in franchise history, the Devils will have a different person behind the bench when they start the 2015-16 NHL season. John Hynes, the former head coach of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins – AHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins – will be the man in New Jersey next year.

Hynes, 40 years-old, will be the youngest head coach in the league when the puck drops for the first time next year. He has never coached in the NHL before, but did go 231-126-10-17 in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton over five seasons. His Baby Pens also qualified for the AHL playoffs in each of those five years. This past season, they made it as far as the semifinals in the Eastern Conference (after sweeping the Syracuse Crunch in three straight), where they were eliminated by the Manchester Monarchs in five games in the Calder Cup postseason. While coaching in the AHL, Hynes’ team had the best record in the league in 2010-11, the year he won the Louis A. R. Pieri Memorial Award as AHL coach of the year (on a side note, current Devils GM Ray Shero’s father, Fred, won this same award in 1969-70 as coach of the Buffalo Bisons).

Shero told NHL.com and the Devils’ website that “I had a very short list to start with, I talked to a number of different coaches about philosophies. Not about the Devils job in particular. … I did not offer this job to anyone other than John Hynes.” Rich Chere of NJ.com and the Star-Ledger mentioned that that “list is believed to” have included “Guy Boucher, Dan Bylsma, Todd Reirden and Phil Housley, but Hynes seemed to be the choice from the very beginning.” NHL.com had mentioned a report as recently as Sunday, May 30, that Housley, the former Devils defenseman and current Nashville Predators’ assistant, was the frontrunner for the job.

A major question brought up by this hiring is: what kind of coach is Hynes? What kind of philosophy does he bring behind the bench? We do know that he worked with the United States National Team Development Program for “parts of nine seasons as a coach” according to NHL.com. In that time, he got to have a hand in the development of such players as Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk of the Maple Leafs, Ryan Kesler of the Ducks, Zach Parise of the Wild and Devils goalie Cory Schneider. In Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the team was known for its defense-first mentality, keeping in mind that Pittsburgh did not have much offensive talent to give to their AHL team due to picking lower in the draft most of his time there. According to Chere, Shero “defined the Devils’ identity” as fast, attacking and supportive and, as Shero and Hynes are certainly on the same page (this was 100% Shero’s hire, not Lou Lamoriello’s – Chere even points out that, while Lou was in the room at the press conference, he was not on the dias introducing the coach), it seems that this is where Hynes will take New Jersey.

Another question that arises with this hiring is what will happen to former Devils’ co-coaches Adam Oates and Scott Stevens? The answer, according to Chere is that they will not be on the staff. Hynes is apt to bring his assistant from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Alain Nasreddine, with him. As pointed out by Chere and most fans of the team, the loss of Stevens is not a good development. The Hockey Hall of Famer worked exclusively with the defense last year after Lamoriello hired Oates to coach the forwards, took his place behind the bench and also brought back Stevens, who had spent some time with the team under Peter DeBoer. Stevens did a fantastic job in helping bring about New Jersey’s young defense corps, Adam Larsson in particular. Having that kind of defensive knowledge behind the bench could only be a plus for the Devils, but it seems that GM Shero wants to start fresh with his own guys and Stevens would not fit this plan. Another point is that losing Stevens could alienate a part of the fanbase. Stevens is, of course, a major part of the Devils history and letting him walk might not make a lot of fans happy. Especially following the announcement that Martin Brodeur would not be coming back to work in the team’s front office and was allowed to remain with the St. Louis Blues. Chere does point out that Devils goaltending coach Chris Terreri will most likely be coming back.

Overall, I think most Devils fans will be (and should be) pleased with this hire. Hynes is not a retread of a guy who got fired elsewhere and simply moved to another location on the NHL map via the coaching carrousel. New blood is a good way to get the team moving into the future and a way for the Devils to develop further as a team. They are getting a coach who, as Shero pointed out at his press conference, has had success at every level he has coached at “and we are fully confident in what he will bring to the Devils organization.”

Shero knew the man he wanted for the job. He and Hynes have had a working relationship going back to their Pittsburgh days and he knows what Hynes brings to the table. Fans have to put faith in the fact that the two men know each other and can work well together. This will give stability, as when the going gets rough, Shero’s first reaction will not be to change coaches.

Things are not going to change overnight, however. Just because the team made a new hire does not mean they will be a Stanley Cup contender next season, necessarily. There are still some parts that need fixing, the forwards in particular. The team has a great core in its solid goaltending and its defense with a good balance of youth and veteran leadership. Although the Devils might be a few years from contending and the 2015-16 season might be another without playoffs for New Jersey’s fans, we should not lose sight that what the Devils are doing here is building for the future and that future looks bright as of today.