A couple weeks ago, when the Nashville Predators parted ways with head coach Barry Trotz, the longest tenured coach in the NHL and the only head coach the Predators franchise had ever employed, it marked the end of an era. Trotz transformed Nashville from a city with no hockey heritage, to one of the up-and-coming markets in the NHL. Nashville became Smashville. Trotz’ teams were likable, and hard working. They were never prolific scoring teams, but played some of the best defense in the league. Trotz helped build the Preds into a contender, but they struggled in the seasons after the 2012 NHL Lockout. Trotz should be proud of what he accomplished and the Music City, and he will always be remembered fondly by Preds fans. He will surely have another head coaching job soon. For the Predators it is time to turn the page, and take another step forward.
There are a few interesting coaching prospects out there including recently fire Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates, as well as Kevin Dineen, who was fired by the Florida Panthers earlier this season, but coached the Canadian women’s hockey team to Olympic Gold in Sochi in February. Both are qualified, and deserve serious consideration for vacant head coaching jobs, but to me, the obvious choice for Nashville is Peter Laviolette.
At the NHL level, Laviolette has previously coached the New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, and Philadelphia Flyers. In the one season that the Canes made the playoffs during his tenure, the won the Stanley Cup in 2006. In his first year as the Flyers’ head coach, Lavi got them to a sixth game of the Stanley Cup before bowing out to the Chicago Blackhawks. On their way there, Philly pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the history of the sport when they defeated the Boston Bruins in seven games after trailing three games to none in the series, like the Los Angeles Kings have a chance to do against the San Jose Sharks this week. He’s a good experienced coach who has been in plenty of big games before.
Laviolette would be the perfect coach to turn Nashville’s offensive fortunes around. He plays a very aggressive up-and-down the ice system that puts defenses on their heels. Laviolette’s downfall in Philly was a lock of solid goaltending and defense, but that should not be a problem with goalie Pekka Rinne and Norris Trophy finalist and team captain Shea Weber on the roster to keep scoring down. When highly paid goalie Ilya Bryzgalov didn’t experience the same success in Philly that he had in Phoenix, and when superstar defensive defenseman Chris Pronger wen down with a career ending concussion, the Flyers’ offense could no longer support the patchwork defense, and the Flyers missed the playoffs. It’s also worth noting that Laviolette served as an assistant coach for Team USA in Sochi and that Nashville GM David Poile served as the GM for Team USA.
Peter Laviolette going to Nashville makes all the sense in the world. It’s just a matter of time to see if the Preds feel the same way.