Last-place Devils fire Hynes hours before faceoff

The New Jersey Devils have relieved John Hynes of his head coaching duties after a disastrous start to the season.

The Devils are 9-13-4 this season. Their 22 points are second fewest in the NHL, and they have the fourth-worst record in the NHL over the last two seasons at 40-54-14.

Hynes, who was hired in 2015, finishes his Devils stint with a 150-159-45 record. The team made the playoffs once in his previous four seasons behind the bench. He ranks second in team history in games coached, wins and points (345).

Assistant coach Alain Nasreddine will become interim coach while Peter Horachek, currently a pro scout for the team, will join the coaching staff as an assistant. Horachek was briefly an interim coach with the Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs. They join existing assistants Rick Kowalsky, Mike Grier and goaltending coach Roland Melanson.

“John played an integral role in the development of this team in establishing a foundation for our future and we are grateful for his commitment, passion and unmatched work ethic,” general manager Ray Shero said. “John is a respected leader, developer of talent and friend, which makes this decision difficult. We are a team that values and takes pride in accountability to the results we produce. We are collectively disappointed in our performance on the ice and believe changes were needed, starting with our head coach. I have been consistent in my desire to build something here in New Jersey that earns the respect of teams throughout the league and pride in our fans. That is not where we were heading and for me to tolerate anything less was not acceptable.”

The Devils entered the season with high stakes. They had drafted center Jack Hughes first overall in June. They acquired defenseman P.K. Subban and forwards Nikita Gusev and Wayne Simmonds. They had a healthy Taylor Hall, after the star winger was restricted to 33 games due to injury in 2018-19. Hall is in the last year of his contract with the Devils ahead of unrestricted free agency.

But the season has been calamitous. The Devils are 30th in defense (3.62 goals against per game) and 29th in offense (2.50 goals per game). Their .882 team save percentage ranks 29th.

Hynes was removed after the team’s worst two-game stretch of the season: a 4-0 defeat to the rival New York Rangers on home ice Saturday, followed two days later by a 7-1 blowout loss at the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres built a 3-0 lead against the Devils before New Jersey had registered its first shot on goal.

Nasreddine played for six NHL organizations during his 15-year professional career: the Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders and the Pittsburgh Penguins. On Aug. 20, 2010, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League (AHL) named Nasreddine their assistant coach, where he had previously served as captain. On June 17, 2015, Nasreddine was named an assistant in New Jersey.

“Nas has a long history as a respected leader both as a player and a coach in the respective roles he has served for his teams,” Shero said, via a Devils release. “His experience as a captain and alternate captain on the ice, in addition to his responsibilities behind the bench, will serve him well as he leads this team through necessary changes to alter our current trajectory.”

Nasreddine will waste no time in taking over. The removal of Hynes was announced hours before the Devils’ scheduled home game against the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday night.

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