New Jersey Devils Coach John Hynes’ Top Ten Mistakes

(Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Let’s be honest. After a promising 2017-18 season, the New Jersey Devils season thus far has been a huge disappointment. A lot of the responsibility for this lackluster campaign resides right at the top. Here’s a list of John Hynes’ Top Ten Mistakes.

Number 10 – Things Don’t Always Get Better With Age

Wine has its’ vintage years. Classic cars catch everyone’s eyes, but some things don’t improve with age.  Count hockey players in that category. Deciding to throw out Brian Boyle, Ben Lovejoy and Andy Greene on a 5-on-3 penalty kill is just pure insanity.  What ever happened to the “Fast” element of “Fast, Attacking and Supportive”?

Just doesn’t see to be a priority now, which is a major deviation from the thought process of the past. This is the first of John Hynes’ top ten mistakes.

Number 9 – The Free Pass

Some guys make mistakes and get yanked from the lineup. Or are sent down to Birmingham. Others make blunder after blunder and never come out of the lineup. We all know who we are talking about here.

One thing is for sure, after Andy Greene’s performance in the third period against the New York Islanders allowing Nick Leddy to blow by him, coupled with an abysmal first period on Sunday against Tampa both on the kill leaving Brayden Point open and not getting back on the third goal, the Devils’ captain does not deserve to play tonight against Florida. Nothing Mirco Mueller did against the Islanders comes even remotely close to Greene’s mistakes.

But there is a virtually 0% chance Greene will sit. The NHL is not Monopoly, there should be no free passes. But we all know Greene will be playing tonight. It’s a huge double standard that can’t be good for team morale.

It has not been a good year for the Devils mentor. These are some of John Hynes’ Top Ten Mistakes.

Number 8 – Interesting Ice Time Choices

Ben Lovejoy double-shifting on every penalty kill. OMG!  I do get that the Devils have had a great PK this year, but Lovejoy is not an elite defensemen in this league.

To me, that penalty kill statistic is an aberration, and, eventually, the Devils will pay for that choice. Similarly, the Devils second power play unit has been anemic. How about giving someone like Blake Coleman, a player who always seems to make good things happen, a bit of time in that role?  Or throwing Pavel Zacha out there on PP2 when he was in an offensive funk to help him out would not have hurt either. Too much reliance on certain players on the special teams poses serious problems.

Number 7 – Fourth Liner Playing On All Three Units

I understand, Brian Boyle has seven goals. He has done some nice things. But name me a few other fourth line players in the NHL who also play on the power play and the kill. Just doesn’t happen. There is a reason you are a fourth liner. Boyle does some nice things, but he plays way too much.

He is far too slow at this stage of his career to justify such a significant role on the Devils. Just as Travis Zajac has found an appropriate role as a third line defensive center on Jersey’s Team, for the most part at least, Boyle’s role should be similarly reduced in scope to better fit his ability level.

Number 6 – Cory  Schneider

This is a tough situation. Can’t totally blame Hynes for this, but the fact of the matter is, whenever Cory plays, the Devils lose. You want to blame the team, go ahead and do it. It is a fact that Cory has not won a regular season game in 11 months. And, usually, the Devils are out of his games in the first period. That is beyond unacceptable.

The Devils need a goaltender who can steal them a game here or there. If Cory can’t even do that, then it’s time to expose him on waivers (no one would ever pick up that contract the way he is playing and, if they did, they would perhaps be doing the Devils a huge favor) and get him to the B-Devils where hopefully he can fix things in his game without destroying the Devils’ season.

Number 5 – Obsession With Compete Level

This might be the preeminent item of all comprising John Hynes’ Top Ten Mistakes. That is literally 90% of everything Hynes ever talks about. Can we hear something — PLEASE — about another topic. For example, perhaps a discussion on the value of skill. Or structure. Or tactics. Or system.  Or, most importantly, talent.  Sure, effort is vitally important but without talent you don’t win in the NHL. You will not win in this league playing undersized, low-ceiling guys like Kevin Rooney, Jean-Sébastien Dea and Brett Seney, who, incidentally, are players I greatly respect for getting the most out of their limited talent. But let’s be honest, from an athletic standpoint, they are not nearly as good most nights as the guys they line up against.

Number 4 – Disdain For Talent

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Similar point here. The Devils have tons of first and second round picks languishing in the AHL or the Prudential Center suites, most notably John Quenneville, Mikey McLeod, Josh Jacobs and Steven Santini.  John Hynes is supposed to be a great teacher of young players, a coach who is comfortable with overseeing junior level players at the international level and molding them into a cohesive unit. So, how about doing that! Why the obsession with all the marginal AHL type guys? There is a reason a first or second round draftee are selected in those round — they have potential. It’s time to get these guys into the NHL and coach them up to be productive players. Unless, of course, they all stink, in which case it is time to shift our focus to the draft effectiveness of Ray Shero.  But I’m not willing to go there yet.

Number 3 – Learn To Stop The Bleeding

For goodness sake, how many times have we seen the Devils get blitzed this season? Tampa (twice), Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, the list goes on and on. A coaching staff is supposed to be able to react, rally the troops and find a way to right the ship before a game gets out of hand. Too many times this year, that has not happened.  And, on a related front, the Devils have not exactly been the king of the lock down third period or overtime wizards either. Colorado, Nashville, Detroit, and the New York Islanders games were all eminently winnable affairs, just to name a few. Way too many points being left on the table. All in all, the Devils just don’t seem to have the same fight and the same heart that they had last season. And that has be a reflection on the coaching staff.

Number 2 – Yo-Yo Mentality

How is it possible for someone like Micro Mueller to go from first pairing defense to being a healthy scratch twice in a season? You are one of the top two blueliners one game, then the next game the same player is not good enough to dress. That’s bizarre. But one game performances are now the standard, are you telling me that Ben Lovejoy, Andy Greene or Damon Severson have never had a game this season as bad as Mueller? That’s utterly ridiculous. Same issue with Zacha, just swap out that he was sent to Binghamton instead of to a suite. One day he’s on the second line and the kill, the next day he’s sent down. To sum up, Hynes’ moves are too rash, too drastic and, in my opinion, incredibly disruptive. As a result of this yo-yo way of reacting to certain performances, there have got to be other Devils wondering when the guillotine will be coming down on their figurative neck.

Number 1 – There Is No Message

Most importantly, and most disturbingly, there just not seem to be any reasonable path forward for the Devils under Hynes’ leadership. He can’t just keep talking about compete level and fighting out of it until the cows come home. The problem is clearly more than just effort. Success in life is a complex, multifaceted pathway, but the Devils’ leader just does not seem to be able to grasp that increasing the talent level, perhaps a tactical adjustment here or there or showing a bit of faith in the youthful players of the future are equally important critical success factors. We just can not talk about complete level over and over and expect that to be the panacea or magical elixir to all of New Jersey’s problems. That isn’t working, and it never will.

Next. Devils Should Consider Sending Cory Down. dark