In his 16 years of coaching, John Hynes believes where he’s grown the most – especially recently – is in his relationships with players.
“I think every year you coach, there’s more maturity in the way you deal with players and how you can see a team develop,” Hynes said.
Until joining the Penguins organization in 2009, Hynes had worked primarily with junior and college players. But now that he’s in his third season as a professional head coach, Hynes has adjusted his methods to fit with these young men who have made hockey their career as well – and the areas he’s learned to focus on are communication, attitude and environment.
“Having good relationships with players and having them want to come to the rink every day and enjoy what they’re doing – in pro hockey, that’s one of the things that’s really important because they’re men, they’re professionals, they want to be the best,” Hynes said. “But everybody needs some guidance and some structure. It’s really a blend of creating a great environment where guys are hungry to play, excited to play and love coming to the rink.”
And so far, it seems that Hynes has been successful at doing just that.
“’Hynesie’ is an unbelievable coach,” forward Eric Tangradi said.
Hynes’ style has translated to plenty of on-ice success. In 2010-11, his first season as head coach, Hynes won the Louis A.R. Pieri Award as the AHL’s Outstanding Coach after leading WBS to a 58-21-0-1 record – earning the franchise its first-ever Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy as AHL regular-season champions. WBS has advanced past the first round of the playoffs each of Hynes' first two seasons as head coach and won nine of its last 12 games as of Nov. 23.
Part of what makes Hynes, 37, one of the game’s most talented young coaches is passion for what he does, and that manifests itself as an integral part of his coaching style.
“You’ve got to respect the intensity he has for the game,” defenseman Robert Bortuzzo said.
“He’s a very demanding coach, he’s got a lot of energy,” Tangradi said. “But he definitely makes you want to play for him. When you sweat and bleed, he bleeds and sweats with you. Every time you go on the ice, it’s definitely very demanding to play under him. But it’s a demanding where you want to work to satisfy him because in the end, he wants what’s best for you.”
Hynes is demanding, to be sure, and he pushes his guys hard. He wants to win hockey games and have a competitive group that’s tough to play against. That’s one of the reasons he wanted to coach to the pros. But another reason he wanted to work in the American Hockey League specifically is the development aspect.
So the other reason Hynes demands so much from his players is because he believes in his guys and has high expectations for them because he wants to see them succeed. And they all respect that.
Tangradi can attest to it.
“He doesn’t let me take any shifts, not even a second, off,” Tangradi explained. “I walk through the door and he has high expectations for me. He’s gotten me to come a long way. Coming in as a 20, 21-year-old and being pushed and motivated and sitting down and looking me in the eyes telling me he wants me to get to the National Hockey League is a really special thing to have from a coach.
“I think the way he’s pushed me and what he’s demanded of me and how I’ve responded, it’s something that’s helped my career tremendously and I’ll always look back and thank him for the ways he’s pushed me along the way.”
And not only do Hynes’ players respect him as a coach – they admire him as a person. Just ask forward Zach Sill, who is in his fourth season under Hynes.
“He’s a real personable kind of guy,” Sill said. “You can talk to him. I have a really good relationship with him and I have for the last four years. He’s just a good team coach. Every day, he comes to the rink with a positive attitude to get better.”
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