Why Preds Fans Will Love Lavy
By: Greg Moshopoulos
The Nashville Predators finally made it official on Tuesday and hired former Stanley Cup winning coach Peter Laviolette as their new boss behind the bench.
This news came across the wire with virtually a unanimous stamp of approval from fans all across PredNation, and with good reason. It’s no secret that the Preds have struggled scoring throughout their history as a franchise. Much of the blame for that goes with their lack of producing top-notch scoring forwards whether through the draft, trade or free agency.
Enter Laviolette, whose teams have been in the top 10 in scoring in 8 of his 10 full seasons as coach, three of those seasons in the top 3 in scoring. A list of the players he has molded into some of the more explosive forwards in the NHL under his watch include Claude Giroux, Eric Staal, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Jakub Voracek and Erik Cole. All of them had 30 or more goals with his wide-open style of hockey.
In addition to developing his young forwards, he has shown a history of an immediate positive turnaround no matter the situation he was put in. His first NHL head coaching gig was on Long Island for the 2001-02 campaign. The Isles finished the previous season dead last in the league with 52 points, earning only 21 wins. Under Laviolette, they DOUBLED their win total to 42, finishing the season with 96 points, only one point away from their first division crown in 14 years. Despite two playoff appearances with the Islanders, Laviolette was not retained, and took over for Paul Maurice in Carolina during the 2003-04 season, finishing with just 28 victories and 76 points. Following the lockout, and his first full year on the job, he led the Hurricanes to their best season in franchise history with 52 wins, narrowly losing the Jack Adams trophy by one vote to Lindy Ruff in the process. Of course most importantly, they won their first Stanley Cup in the franchise’s 26 year history. Two more 40-win seasons didn’t secure his spot and was fired 25 games into the 2008-09 season. During the 2009-10 season, he took over in Philadelphia for jettisoned head coach John Stevens and squeaked into the playoffs on the final game of the regular season by defeating the Rangers in a shootout. The Flyers took that momentum into the playoffs, becoming only the third team to come back from a 3-0 deficit in a series to win, before eventually faltering in the Stanley Cup Final against Chicago. His first full season saw him lead the Flyers to their first division title in 8 years and finishing with 18 more points than the previous year. He was fired just 3 games into this season, which would be like an NFL coach being relieved at halftime of the opening week…….. Let that sink in for a second.
Some of his detractors will question why he’s been bouncing around the league with that kind of resume and compare him with another successful, yet controversial head coach, Mike Keenan. Keenan, despite 6 division titles, 4 Stanley Cup Final appearances and one championship in 9 seasons, had worn out his welcome in Philadelphia, Chicago and the Rangers. There is no secret that with ‘iron’ Mike, it was his way or the highway. Therefore, if Laviolette was truly burning bridges along the way, it would be widely known and nobody has stepped up to make that claim. Even if that were the case to a certain extent, this is why I believe he’s a perfect fit for Nashville. If the Preds have been mired in mediocrity for so many years, and willing to put up with it, I don’t see any way Laviolette goes anywhere, so long as he puts a winner on the ice.
Laviolette’s history shows that he can make a quick turnaround in his first season at the helm. With young forwards Colin Wilson, Craig Smith, Filip Forsberg, Calle Jarnkrok, Gabriel Bourque, Taylor Beck and Austin Watson, the Preds have a wealth of forwards that were drafted or otherwise acquired for their offensive potential. With Lavy at the controls, look for them to start fulfilling that potential, and the culture of the Predators to change… sooner, rather than later.