As Nashville Predators general manager David Poile announced to reporters that head coach John Hynes and the entire coaching staff were signed to two-year contract extensions, he knew some tough questions were coming his way.
The Predators fanbase has never been shy in expressing their discontent with the team through social media, explicitly when it comes to job security for both Poile and Hynes.
But in some of the most candid responses he’s given in recent end-of-season press conferences, Poile went to bat for his head coach, placing the blame for Nashville’s 3-11 playoff record over the last three years on himself and defending Hynes’ position to remain head coach.
“John is a young coach, and he has a lot more experience than [the media] or we give him credit for,” Poile said. “He has not been dealt a perfect hand. I am responsible for that. Our team is not as good as it was in  or .
“…[Hynes] and his staff have done an incredible job. … John deserves this. We’re growing together. I’m responsible. I haven’t given him enough to be winning. We weren’t going to win in the playoffs this year against Colorado. I wish we played somebody else, that’s our fault, that’s on our list to try to move up higher in the standings so we don’t have to play the best team next year.”
Hynes got career years out of Roman Josi, Juuse Saros, Filip Forsberg, and Matt Duchene while also squeezing bounce-back seasons out of Ryan Johansen and Mikael Granlund. Count Tanner Jeannot and Philip Tomasino both among the pleasant surprises, and overall, the Predators appeared to make strides in 2021-22.
But where the team fell flat — and both Poile and Hynes admitted as much on Thursday — was secondary scoring from the second line, and the lack of development from certain players like Luke Kunin and Eeli Tolvanen, who were namedropped specifically by Poile as not performing to team standards.
From everything Poile and Hynes said on Thursday, a premium has been placed on getting the right players into the building who fit Nashville’s identity. Opening the door for players like Kunin, Tolvanen, Nick Cousins, Michael McCarron, Matt Benning and a few others to walk.
But as Poile and Hynes begin the roster-building part of their offseason, it appears both coach and GM are in agreement that the player personnel needs to be better.
“We’ve already had meetings since the end of the season, whether it’s players in our own organization, other guys that we think can take a step internally, and then we go out and look at any possible trade options, free agent options, our coaches will watch video on those players and give our assessment to management, so we certainly have strong communication,” Hynes told the Post.
The 2022 free agent class is solid but not great. Obviously, re-signing Filip Forsberg is the Predators’ top priority, but if he leaves, the team could look to fill his scoring void with someone like Johnny Gaudreau, Nazem Kadri, Andrew Copp, or Evgeni Malkin.
Nashville also needs to shore up the blue line as well, and the team could kick the tires on UFAs like John Klingberg, Josh Manson, or Colin Miller.
“What I think is most important is we have an agenda of what we feel we need,” Hynes said. “It’s not random, you’re targeting what you feel can help your core, come into our style — specifically what our team needs — and not just go get a free agent or make a trade because they’re a good player, does the player really fit to help us move forward? Our goal is to get players, when it gets to the hardest hockey late in the year, that we’re a better, deeper, stronger team and win some playoff rounds.”
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_