For anyone curious about why Eeli Tolvanen was scratched last night when the Nashville Predators took on the Minnesota Wild, John Hynes’s post-game comments went a long way toward explaining it. When asked, he was very upfront and candid about the situation:
Hynes started by explaining that they had a meeting with Tolvanen, but veered into discussing the team’s play over the last few weeks, saying, “Our team hadn’t been playing regularly the way we wanted to and we hadn’t really made any lineup changes. We stuck with a lot of guys. I believe in that—when players play the right way we try to keep them in and get them going.” He then went on to explain that in the meeting with Tolvanen they discussed how he has turned himself into an NHL player “with his competitiveness, the way he plays, and his details without the puck.” However, he continued, noting that Tolvanen hasn’t been producing despite feeling like he’s playing the game the right way.
Hynes was quick to point out that Tolvanen has been playing in a top-six role and his limited point production wasn’t the reason for the scratch. Instead, he explained, “you can’t get on a player because they don’t actually produce points, but they need to produce chances.” Hynes went on to explain that he looks at this as an opportunity for Tolvanen to improve: “I think this is a good opportunity for him to get it reset—step away for a game or two here, let’s see where he’s at and what he’s doing.” He continued further, explaining that after the discussion, “[Tolvanen] went out with the extra players. He had a lot of life. He had a lot of puck touches. He got his shot going. I think sometimes for a young player that cares as much as he does, it weighs on you and sometimes just to reset is the best thing. We had a good meeting; he was on board with it. He’s an important part of our team. He plays the way we want to play and I have no doubt that he’s going to be able to respond.”
This is not an abnormal player-coach interaction for Hynes. In the past, he’s been very up-front about how he handles situations with players who need to improve. If the past is any indication, Tolvanen has been given clear expectations along with a plan of action for how to improve. Hynes has said before that he checks in regularly with the player and members of the coaching staff to gauge improvement toward those goals and that once the player being scratched met those conditions, they’ll get the chance to rejoin the line up.
A few adjustments to the lineup came along with Tolvanen’s healthy-scratch: Philip Tomasino moved up from the fourth line to get time with Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg on the top line, a move that came after discussions with team leadership. Tomasino had a three-point night, finding the net once and assisting on goals by Roman Josi and Ryan Johansen. Matt Luff, who Hynes was quick to point out came out of the lineup after a 2-goal effort, slotted in on the fourth line for the night. Hynes added that he felt Luff’s speed and size were a factor in the game, especially late in the game when Marc-Andre Fleury vacated the net.