Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford has said that whoever he hires as the next head coach must have a “presence” and the respect of his players.
One candidate already has that.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins head coach John Hynes is one of approximately a half-dozen candidates to have reportedly interviewed for the job in Pittsburgh. While Rutherford is expected to make a decision soon, Hynes has also received the backing of several players from last season .
“He holds everyone to the same standard, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a fourth line guy or on the top line,” said winger Bobby Farnham, who spent the last two seasons playing for Hynes in Wilkes-Barre. “He expects the game to be played within the system and he gets a lot out of his players. If you’re playing for coach Hynes, you’re going to be successful.”
Hynes, 39, has coached Wilkes-Barre/Scranton the last four seasons after spending 2009-2010 as an assistant. His teams have made it to at least the second round of the playoffs every year, including the conference finals the last two seasons.
Last season, Hynes coached a Penguins team laden with veterans with significant NHL experience. While Hynes has never coached in the NHL, handling an AHL roster loaded with veterans can only enhance his resume.
“John Hynes did a great job with communicating with our veteran leaders and keeping everybody on the same page,” said Harry Zolnierczyk, who played 57 regular season games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last year. “There was a respect shown both ways, and with John Hynes everyone understands what he expects and it doesn’t matter who you are.”
At the AHL level and during his previous six seasons as a head coach with USA Hockey’s National Development Team Program, Hynes has shown a knack for developing young players. But as a coach at the NHL level, Hynes would be dealing with established, star players
It would be a change, but it’s one that Hynes’ players feel he’s prepared to make.
During his nine-year pro career, Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond has played for numerous coaches at both the AHL and NHL levels. He said jumping to the NHL is a change for an AHL coach, but the one season Leblond played for Hynes has him convinced that it’s a move he is ready to make.
“As an NHL coach there’s more exposure and more people watching you, but Hynes isn’t afraid of that,” Leblond said. “His focus is on making everyone better. He gets the best out of all his players and that’s what a good coach does.”
Zolnierczyk added one other element of Hynes’ coaching style that leads him to believe he’s ready for the NHL.
“Just the type of coach he is, he commands respect from all his players, and that’s pretty important in the NHL,” Zolnierczyk said. “He’s definitely someone you want to play for.”