PENGUINS SPOTLIGHT - HEAD COACH JOHN HYNES
NEW COACH BRINGS SAME SUCCESS – By Scott Stuccio
Fifteen years ago, John Hynes was celebrating a national championship with his Boston University Terriers teammates. This past summer, he had a chance to join that team for a reunion in Massachusetts.
Now, Hynes has another reunion to enjoy – with many of the players he helped coach last season in northeastern Pennsylvania. Only this time, he is the one running the show.
Upon the promotion of Todd Reirden to Pittsburgh Penguins’ assistant coach this summer, Hynes was charged with taking over the head coaching reins on July 31. Like Reirden, who took over for Dan Bylsma, time was precious. But for Hynes, he never felt rushed, nor did he feel pressure. He was quick to credit the success of his predecessors.
“I think I’ve had a great model that’s been in front of me starting with the tradition of the most recent coaches, with Todd Richards, Dan Bylsma, and Todd Reirden,” Hynes said. “The culture that’s been set up with the organization has put good, passionate people in positions to work, and they let them work. We have a good template as to how we want to play, how we communicate with players, and how we communicate as a coaching staff from Pittsburgh to Wilkes-Barre to Wheeling. Last year was great. Todd and I had a great relationship working together, and he afforded me a great responsibility as far as working under him. I think it’s been a great transition coming in. Now it’s time to continue the tradition that’s been set before me.”
Part of that tradition has the Penguins defined as a playoff contender year after year. It was by no accident that Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has made the postseason for eight consecutive years, which is tied for the longest streak in the American Hockey League. But Penguins fans want more, and deservedly so: the elusive Calder Cup. The team is averaging one trip to the finals every four years. If you believe in patterns, the Penguins will make that trip to the “dance” this season. With offseason signings like the Penguins made, that theorem can be proven. But does a brand-new head coach feel any extra pressure, having to coach a new group of players brimming with talent?
“Absolutely not,” Hynes pointed out. “One of the greatest things about being able to work with this team is having great players and great character. As a coach you want players who have great hockey minds. It is exciting to be able to have those guys in place, and to have their talent and work ethic at your hands. But it is my job to help them reach their goals of where they want to go as a team and as individuals. I’m excited about the kind of guys we’re going to have in the room.”
Hynes was also quick to point out that this team’s success is not just riding on players like Brett Sterling, Andrew Hutchinson, Corey Potter, and Ryan Craig, three of the most notable offseason signings in Penguins history. It also rides on the success of players who have carved their roots here a few years ago, as well as the rookies of the 2009-10 season.
“This team has excellent players coming back, as well as excellent players coming in,” Hynes added. “Players like Joe Vitale, Zach Sill, Robert Bortuzzo, Brian Strait, and Brad Thiessen had opportunities to get better, and they did. The team also has that core of players like Tim Wallace, Mark Letestu, Nick Johnson, Dustin Jeffrey and John Curry who have been here a little longer and have also continued to build their success.”
Hynes was also quick to point out that a team can be built with all the talent in the world on paper, but talent alone does not win championships. One of the signs visible to all of the players as they exit their locker room to hit the ice reads “Will you get better today?” Hynes believes that any 50-goal scorer, any defenseman with a plus-30 rating, or any goaltender with a 1.50 goals-against average all have room to get better. His resume, complete with six straight IIHF medals during his tenure within the USA Hockey National Team Development Program, shows Hynes’ commitment to making players of all caliber get better.
With John Hynes at the helm in this 12th season of Penguins hockey, expect this team to get better. Expect this team to contend. Expect this team to succeed.