Predators tab Peter Laviolette as next head coach
MAY 06, 2014 1:26p ET
Nashville Predators general manager David Poile hired arguably the top coach on the market on Tuesday in former Stanley Cup-winning coach Peter Laviolette.
Laviolette has taken two different teams to the Stanley Cup Final: the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, when he won the Cup, and in 2010 when he took the Philadelphia Flyers, who lost in six games to Chicago. The Flyers fired Laviolette earlier this season after getting off to a poor start.
Poile pointed to Laviolette's offense-focused approach, a different style than what the Predators employed in the past under former coach Barry Trotz, whose tenure ended following the season. Trotz was the only coach in franchise history after the Predators joined the league in 1998.
"In terms of confidence in the decision, it's right up at the top of any decision I've made," said Poile, the third-longest tenured general manager in NHL history.
The Predators struggled offensively this past season, tying for 18th in the NHL at 2.61 goals per game. That total was boosted by a big offensive outburst in the final 10 games. For much of the season, the Predators, who missed qualifying for the playoffs by three points, ranked 24th in the NHL.
Nashville has plenty of young forwards whose development it hopes Laviolette can enhance. Those include Colin Wilson, a former first-round pick who went 33 games without a goal during one stretch this season, Gabriel Bourque, Calle Jarnkrok and Filip Forsberg.
"I think he's a great fit for our team and what we need going forward," said Predators forward Matt Cullen, who won the Cup with Laviolette in Carolina. "I think a lot of Peter as a coach. He's a good person. He just has a real ability to bring out the best in all of his players whether you're a fourth-line guy or a first-line guy or a first-year guy or a veteran guy. The year we won the Cup is a great example of how he brought out the best in all of his players."
Poile and Laviolette have connections through USA Hockey. Laviolette, a former U.S. Olympian (from the days when players with amateur status participated), has served both as a head coach at the Olympic level and as an assistant. Poile was the United States' general manager for the 2014 Sochi Games where Laviolette was an assistant coach under Dan Bylsma.
Laviolette, a native of Franklin, Mass., currently is coaching the U.S. team at the IIHF World Championships in Belarus where Predators defenseman Seth Jones, coming off his rookie season, and right wing Craig Smith, coming off a career season, are on the roster.
Poile said on Tuesday that he had spoken with Laviolette quite a bit during the time they spent together with the U.S. Olympic team.
"He was very familiar with our team, as a coach that has played us a few times and he got to watch a lot of hockey on TV and did a lot of scouting," Poile said. "He thought there was, as we certainly thought, there was a lot of potential, purely on the statistics, a number of forwards who had down years."
The Predators also announced that Kevin McCarthy, who has worked with Laviolette in the past, would join the Preds' staff as an assistant coach. The Predators will retain assistants Lane Lambert and Phil Housley.
"Today we've taken a big leap in the right direction to get our team on the path and that path is the playoffs," Poile said. "And Peter and Kevin are going to be a big part of our success we're going to have going forward."
From Belarus, Laviolette provided a statement, praising the Predators' roster, which is built from the back.
"I love the nucleus of this team, starting on the back end with two of the best players at their positions in defenseman Shea Weber and goaltender Pekka Rinne, in addition to a solid group of dependable veterans and talented, rising young talent," Laviolette said. "My challenge will be to impart a system that enables our young forwards to thrive and reach their offensive potential. Being a perennial Stanley Cup contender requires buy-in, passion and commitment from every player on the roster. I can't wait to get to Nashville and get started on our journey."
In parts of 12 seasons as an NHL head coach with the New York Islanders, Hurricanes and Flyers, Laviolette owns a record of 389-282-(25)-63 for 866 points. Laviolette played 12 games in the NHL as a defenseman, all for the New York Rangers during the 1988-89 season.
What he failed to achieve as a player, Laviolette has achieved as a coach. Nashville had qualified for the playoffs seven times in eight seasons going into 2012-13, advancing to the second round in both 2011 and 2012. However, it has failed to qualify for the playoffs the past two seasons.
The Predators believe Laviolette is the man who can get them back to the postseason.
"Obviously, it's an exciting day for the franchise to have a new coach here," said Weber, the captain. "Moving forward with a guy like Peter, who has a great resume, has had great results in the playoffs in winning a Stanley Cup, so I'm definitely excited to have someone in place and moving forward for next summer."