Editor’s Note: The opinions in this article solely reflect those of the writer, and do not represent the entire Devils Army Blog admin and writing staff.
I’ve always been a big fan of head coach John Hynes, ever since Ray Shero hired him. As the New Jersey Devils close in on what has been a disastrous season, the disgruntled fan base is demanding answers on what the plan is moving forward. Whether the Devils are deliberately tanking or not, their recent lack of motivation has led many fans and members of the hockey blogosphere to put Coach Hynes on the hot seat. It’s at the point where many people are calling for the second-year NHL head coach’s job. In one of our previous articles, my colleague cited the team’s recent lack of motivation, how the Devils should be a better team (even if they’re destined to miss the playoffs), and their minuscule possession numbers as grounds for Hynes’ dismissal. While some of these reasons can be justified, it’s not enough for me to personally believe it’s grounds for Hynes’ dismissal.
At this point, firing Coach Hynes would be a meaningless impulsive-driven move just for the sake of making a change.
Let’s look at the big picture here. Coach Hynes is only a second-year NHL head coach, with a wealth of coaching experience in the AHL and US National Development Program. The Devils roster, not only lacks depth, but is extremely inexperienced, especially when compared to the rosters of playoff contending teams in the Eastern Conference. The chart below breaks down the number of how many career games each player on the roster of every Eastern Conference team (with at least 30 games played) has played, along with each team’s average age.
|0-150 GP||151-300 GP||300+ GP||Ave. Age|
Only one team in playoff contention (Toronto) has 10 or more players who’ve appeared in less than 300 career games. This isn’t the case for current non-playoff teams, where the Devils are one of five with 10 or more players on their roster with less than 300 career games played. Inexperience can show, and let’s keep in mind none of New Jersey’s young players are capable of turning a franchise around in one season. While New Jersey’s young guns continue to mature, it’s an ideal scenario for Coach Hynes to mature as an NHL head coach (let’s keep in mind he’s only coached 150 NHL games as of writing this.)
Many Devils fans also seem to forget the state that Lou Lamoriello left this team in. Shero basically inherited a botched roster and depleted prospect pool, three years deep in their playoff drought. The rebuild didn’t officially begin until Shero was hired. Over the three seasons leading up to Shero’s hiring, Lamoriello kept trying to put together veteran-laden “fringe” rosters, never shied away to trade draft picks, and had some terrible drafts from 2006-2012 that bore nothing to help the team during those years. Then there are Lamoriello’s leftover contracts Shero’s had to deal with- Cammalleri, Gionta, Tootoo, etc. Players like the ones previously mentioned, along with names like Josefson, Lovejoy, and Moore who many fans believe shouldn’t be on the team, are necessary plugins for the Devils roster so the organization’s young players can Develop at their own pace.
Let’s also look at how things panned out for Coach Hynes’ predecessor- Pete DeBoer. He inherited a deeply talented San Jose Sharks roster that previously missed the playoffs, and guided them to the organization’s first Stanley Cup Finals appearance. The Sharks are currently first in the Pacific, and are poised for another deep playoff run. The Dallas Stars had a dominant 2015-2016 season under Head Coach Lindy Ruff, who previously spent over a decade coaching the Buffalo Sabres. Teams like the Arizona Coyotes (Dave Tippett) and Detroit Red Wings (Dave Blashill) are having similar or worse seasons than New Jersey, whose rosters are of equal or greater talent than the Devils. Tippett has been with the Coyotes for eight seasons, and there’s no sign he’s going anywhere, while Blashill (like Hynes) is a second-year NHL head coach with a previous career coaching Detroit’s AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids.
Just a few examples that show a head coach’s influence on the team’s performance can only go so far if they don’t have the necessary assets on their team’s roster to win.