Barry Trotz hadn’t even rejoined the Nashville Predators when he began to wonder if the franchise would be best served with a fresh voice leading its locker room.
The Predators were 14-14-5 around Christmas time, which is when Trotz approached general manager David Poile about possibly joining the team in a front office capacity, tossing his hat into the ring to replace Poile as the team’s next GM.
“Before I got here, from an outsider, yes (I thought they needed a new coach) because they were not probably playing up to the level (that was expected),” Trotz said.
And when the Predators announced at the end of February that Trotz would be succeeding Poile as GM over the summer, the 60-year-old executive was already leaning toward bringing in his own coach.
I’m hearing in addition to the #Preds changing GMs, expect a coaching change to come as well
— Michael Gallagher (@MGsports_) February 26, 2023
Sources indicated to Nashville Hockey Now that John Hynes’ ability to lead the Predators to a 12-9-2 record after the trade deadline — a period where he was without Filip Forsberg, Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen, Juuso Parssinen and Alex Carrier and had to rely on several AHL fill-ins including Egor Afanasyev, Phil Tomasino, Luke Evangelista, John Leonard, Kiefer Sherwood, Michael McCarron and Mark Jankowski — nearly saved his job.
But in Trotz’s mind, that one impressive 23-game stretch highlighted exactly why it was time to move on from Hynes more so than it made a case for keeping him.
“As I went down the road, I looked at the game and where it’s going, what we have coming, where we want to go and I just felt it was time,” Trotz said. “That’s where I looked to ownership and they hired me to make some decisions and to have a plan, and so, that’s what I’ve been doing the last few months.”
Trotz was honest with Hynes from the moment he was hired. He told the 48-year-old coach that he would be evaluated through the end of the season. And when the Predators wrapped up their final game on April 14, Trotz reminded Hynes of his intentions.
Sources close to the situation said Trotz told Hynes then that if “the right people” became available, he was going to explore those options. We now know those options included newly hired Predators head coach Andrew Brunette, newly hired Washington Capitals head coach Spencer Carbery and Milwaukee Admirals head coach Karl Taylor.
And while Hynes was still under contract until Tuesday, he knew Trotz was talking to other potential coaches with a rough timeline of when to expect a decision about his future. But why string him along for six weeks?
“I said I needed to find the right guy,” Trotz said. “So, for me to let John go and then go look, it made no sense. He was under contract, I think he’s a good coach, but I had to find the right guy and I had to be sure on the right guy because if it’s not the right guy, it’s a wasted hire. … I kept my word, I said the end of May (a) decision (will be) made. We’re at the end of May.
“… [Hynes was] well-informed that I had a responsibility to ownership, to the fans and everybody to go through the process. And the process is not two or three days, that process is months of going through evaluating, watching, doing exit interviews at the end of the year and so on and so on.”
Had the worst-case scenario played out and Trotz swung and missed on all three of the coaches he was eyeing, he conceded that he was just fine running it back with Hynes — an option that was very much on the table as he interviewed other potential coaches.
“If I didn’t have any of these candidates, I would feel comfortable starting (next season) with John because he did a tremendous job,” Trotz added.
While it’s believed Carbery was the front-runner before being hired by the Capitals, Taylor was also given strong consideration before Brunette was ultimately hired. Trotz even confirmed that Taylor was a viable candidate, but he chose Brunette because the 30-plus year relationship he had with the former New Jersey Devils assistant coach was simply stronger than the four-month bond he forged with Taylor since February.
It’s been debated whether Trotz did Hynes dirty by keeping him under contract as he searched for his replacement, keeping him on the back-burner just in case. But if you are to take Trotz at his word, Hynes knew exactly what was happening and exactly when to expect a decision.
It took less than 24 hours after parting ways with the Predators before he began getting calls about other jobs. The Predators even granted the New York Rangers permission to interview Hynes for their head coach opening — a position he’s reportedly a favorite for.
And while it didn’t work out for Hynes or the Predators, it can be argued that both are in better shape than they were six weeks ago. It was evident the Predators needed a new voice and that Hynes needed a change of scenery.
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_
(Photo courtesy of John Russell/Nashville Predators)