Nashville Predators General Manager David Poile did not hide his feelings or mince words during Tuesday afternoon’s press conference. The media event was held to discuss Monday’s firing of Peter Laviolette and Kevin McCarthy and introduce new head coach John Hynes.
“It’s not them [Laviolette and McCarthy], it’s our players. They have to make up their mind to play the way they can,” Poile said while discussing the team’s struggles this season.
Poile came out solo for the first half of the press conference to discuss his front office moves.
“This is the hardest year I’ve ever had because we’ve been totally unable to meet expectations on ice for our team and for our fans,” he said.
He noted the team’s inconsistencies throughout the season, specifically during Sunday’s game in Anaheim where the Predators got off to a slow start before coming back only to lose in a shootout.
“I’d like to work with people rather than change people... I’ve worked as hard as I could [with the coaching staff],” he said.
Poile has a track record of sticking with coaches rather than making quick changes. In the team’s 21-year history, Hynes becomes only the third head coach. Barry Trotz was with the team for 15 years before he was let go ahead of the 2014-2015 season, and Laviolette spent five and a half seasons with the team before his departure.
“I’m responsible for this, I’m responsible for this change,” Poile said, before noting players must own their end of it too and perform better.
Interesting response when Poile's asking about the timing. Says this goes back to last year's playoff loss, before eventually saying it was "a combination of things." Eventually says "it was time." #Preds— Nick Morgan (@_nsmorgan) January 7, 2020
As the press conference went on Poile’s tone began to change from explanatory to defensive and he didn’t hide what sounded like irritation.
“You can change a coach because you can’t change twenty players,” he said.
"There is no question, again for me personally, this has been the hardest year I've ever had because we have been totally unable to meet expectations for ourselves."@PredsNHL GM David Poile explains why he made a coaching change.#Preds pic.twitter.com/YCDS8P9cd6— FOX Sports Tennessee (@PredsOnFSTN) January 7, 2020
Poile reiterated multiple times that he doesn’t hold Laviolette or McCarthy responsible for the team’s struggles. When asked if the problem could be with the coaching style, Poile said he doesn’t believe so because players should be able to adapt to any style.
In a rather prickly moment, Poile referred to his January 2nd interview with Nashville’s Midday 180, which has been quoted by multiple media outlets. In the interview, he said he was not looking to make any changes to the coaching staff. During Tuesday’s press conference, Poile said he’s seen the interview quoted and contested that as a GM, he evaluates where the team is at daily, which changes his perspective.
“You guys can grade me if you want. I grade myself every day,” Poile said when asked about numerous signings over the last few seasons that didn’t work out for the team.
He said ultimately he wants to keep the group of players currently on the team together and has spoken with them about it, but says that in order to do that, they need to perform at their best.
Poile said during the press conference that he doesn’t understand where things are going wrong on the ice. He said this has been an issue for multiple seasons and pointed to player inconsistencies. Poile said Kyle Turris was “better than Ryan Johansen” when he first arrived in Nashville, but faded away as the seasons went on.
“Our best players need to be our best players,” Poile said. He implied that other than Roman Josi, who he mentioned by name, the key guys have been underperforming. “I still believe in this team, but whatever happened, they haven’t hit on all cylinders.”
Toward the end of his solo part of the press conference, Poile said he let the players know that they will have a fresh start under Hynes. He also said it will be up to Hynes to determine how they are used.
"John Hynes is a great leader."— FOX Sports Tennessee (@PredsOnFSTN) January 7, 2020
GM David Poile introduces the third head coach in @PredsNHL franchise history.#Preds pic.twitter.com/sVrkDtLVAn
Hynes, for his part, kept things light and optimistic when he was introduced. His tone and sentiment is to be expected as a new hire seeing potential in his new team.
“The Nashville job is special. The fanbase here is unbelievable. Even as a road team, it’s an exciting building to play in,” Hynes said.
He also noted that he is a fan of country music — something he and Matt Duchene will undoubtedly bond over — and that his daughter is excited to “live in the same town as Luke Bryan.” Further endearing himself to the Tennessee faithful, Hynes said growing up in Rhode Island he was a Patriots fan, but as of Saturday — when the Tennessee Titans knocked the Patriots out of the playoffs during the Wild Card game — he is now a Titans fan.
Poile sang Hynes’s praises, touching on his NHL head coaching experience and saying he “has a track record of both effectively developing young players and successfully motivating veterans.”
Poile mentions he reached out to a pair of old #Preds, Ray Shero and Tom Fitzgerald, about working with Hynes. Says each gave a rousing endorsement— Nick Morgan (@_nsmorgan) January 7, 2020
“John’s never been given anything,” Poile said when discussing the things he liked about his new hire.
Hynes said he doesn’t plan to change things with the team before Tuesday night’s game against the Boston Bruins, mostly because he has yet to work with the team. He did say his focus will be on “the middle of the ice” moving forward.
“There has to be five men working as a unit. When you don’t have the puck, you need structure,” Hynes said. Of his approach to the game, he later added, “Tough to play against isn’t just ‘physical.’ You want to be mentally tough.”
When asked about Hynes’ lack of postseason success, Poile firmly stated Hynes’ resume is still being built and called him the “best young coach in the game.” He said Nashville and New Jersey are very different.
Hynes says if you ask his former players, they’ll tell you he has an “intensity and directness,” but also tries to be approachable and have a life outside the game.
"They put together an excellent hockey team. It's very talented. It's well-built. There's a lot of different dimensions. And it comes from an extremely successful tradition."— FOX Sports Tennessee (@PredsOnFSTN) January 7, 2020
New head coach John Hynes discusses his new position and the @PredsNHL roster.#Preds pic.twitter.com/ljHWX5ITMN
Poile said the team also brought in Rob Scuderi as an assistant coach.
Hynes will get his first taste of Nashville hockey from behind the bench when the Predators take on the Bruins at 7 p.m. tonight.