By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — The Nashville Predators answered any questions regarding the team’s immediate future and direction last week by extending the contracts of head coach John Hynes and his assistants through the 2023-24 season. The Predators were swept in a playoff series for the first time in team history this season by the Colorado Avalanche, something that led some to question whether it was time for the team to think about a new head coach.
General manager David Poile didn’t hesitate when questioned about the move. “I believe John and his coaching staff are the right move to lead us back into Cup contention, and I will do everything in my power to give him the necessary tools to accomplish that goal,” Poile told the Associated Press following the announcement.
Hynes was hired in January 2020 to take over as Nashville’s third head coach all-time, replacing Peter Laviolette. Though the Predators have made the playoffs in every season since Hynes became head coach, the team has won only three playoff games during his tenure, and overall have not won a postseason series since the first round in 2018 after winning the Presidents’ Trophy with Laviolette.
There were certainly some notable personal seasons by Predators this year, the greatest being by captain and defenseman Roman Josi. He posted the highest point total for a defenseman in 29 years with 96, and is the favorite to win the Norris Trophy. Goalie Juuse Saros had 38 of the team’s 45 wins and is a Vezina Trophy finalist. Matt Duchene set the franchise’s single-season, goal- scoring mark with 43, one more than Filip Forsberg.
Hynes said he wanted a continuation of the aggressive play that epitomized their season, but also felt some aspects of their style needed to improve. Nashville led the NHL in fighting majors, total penalties and penalty minutes. “We’ve all got to be better to get to a level where that series can be much more competitive than it was,” Hynes said.
The team has successfully retooled the roster since 2018, and is now among the NHL’s youngest teams. But the biggest off season question remains unanswered. Forsberg, a 10-year veteran, remains unsigned. “We are going to continue working to try to find that right deal that works for both sides, and we know that he can be a big piece of where we are trying to go,” Poile said.
The Predators still have time, as NHL free agency doesn’t being in earnest until July.