Jim Rutherford was forthright about many things during his first press conference as Pittsburgh Penguins general manager, and that openness extended to his imminent search for a new head coach.
Rutherford said that, due to league meetings this week in New York, he won’t get an opportunity to start the interview process until next Monday. However, while we’ll have to wait for further details about which hopefuls will make the trip to Pittsburgh, Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review was able to confirm that Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coach John Hynes is scheduled to talk to Rutherford about a potential promotion.
The 39-year-old Hynes is considered a rising star in the American Hockey League, the circuit directly below the NHL. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have won 186 of 308 regular-season games over the past four years under Hynes, and they’ve advanced to the Eastern Conference final in each of the past two postseasons.
According to Rossi’s story, Hynes leans more towards the defensive side of the puck than Dan Bylsma, although that shouldn’t be confused with being a passive coach. Still, Hynes’ Penguins have been one of the more difficult teams to score against in recent AHL seasons, despite not employing a true goaltending prospect during those years.
Some Penguins fans may groan at the idea of the team promoting from within for the second consecutive time, as Bylsma was the head coach for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before getting the surprise call-up in Feburary 2009 when former GM Ray Shero fired Michel Therrien.
The last time the Pens went outside of the organization for a head coach was when they brought in Czech native Ivan Hlinka in 2000. Since then, Pittsburgh promoted Rick Kehoe from assistant coach in 2001, pulled Ed Olczyk out of the broadcast booth in 2003 and elevated Therrien (2005) and Bylsma (’09) from its AHL affiliate.
History aside, it would be foolish for the Penguins to ignore an impressive candidate under their own roof. It appears they will at least consider Hynes’ credentials as they scour the hockey world for coaching talent.