Peter Laviolette's 5 Biggest Highlights in His Coaching Career so Far
Besides one Stanley Cup championship, Laviolette’s transcript also bears a banner AHL campaign statistically unmatched before or since and an NHL playoff-series comeback duplicated by only two previous teams.
The latter event set the tone for his ongoing Philadelphia tenure, which as of Wednesday has been officially extended as the front office reiterated its trust in Laviolette as the Flyers continue to seek their first title since 1975.
Granted, since reaching the finals in 2010, they have been swiftly dislodged from the second round in back-to-back years. But whether they have turned around immediately or gradually, Laviolette has brought too many teams from misery and mediocrity for it to be coincidence.
In between, he has garnered multiple side jobs with Team USA at the Olympics and World Championships.
In light of his newly announced opportunity to add more to his log, Laviolette’s five best coaching highlights to date are as follows.
Chumps to Champs
One year after hanging up his skates and taking a head coaching job in the ECHL, Laviolette was enlisted to coach the Providence Bruins in wake of the team’s abysmal 19-49-12 run under Tom McVie in 1997-98.
As it happened, the former P-Bruins captain who functioned as a player/assistant coach in 1996-97, brought more than just sentimental value. Working with a multitude of holdovers from McVie’s mess, Laviolette brought Providence from the basement to the summit of the AHL, posting one of the league’s best all-time regular-season records at 56-16-8.
That invincibility translated smoothly to the postseason as the Bruins posted a 15-4 playoff record, culminating in a five-game thrashing of the Rochester Americans for the Calder Cup.
Naturally, the 1998-99 trophy case also featured a Coach of the Year laurel for Laviolette.
He would bring the P-Bruins back to within one overtime goal of a return trip to the AHL finals in 2000 before earning a promotion to Pat Burns’ staff in Boston.
New Life on Long Island
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Following one year as an assistant in Boston, Laviolette sought thicker ice in hopes of an NHL head-coaching gig when the Bruins opted to bring in Robbie Ftorek rather than promote him. He immediately found his chance with the New York Islanders, who had missed the playoffs each season since 1994 when they hired him in 2001.
Laviolette’s tenure with the Islanders began with a 9-0-1 hot streak, setting a smooth pace to the franchise’s first winning campaign since 1992-93. They would lose the opening round of the playoffs in seven games to Toronto, but the Isles have not had better results in the regular season or playoffs since.
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When Laviolette was a player for the P-Bruins in the latter half of his career, he took the 1993-94 season off to captain Team USA in the last non-NHL Olympic hockey tournament.
In 2006, amidst his second NHL coaching job in Carolina, he had his chance to go from captain to coach with the Americans just as he had done with Providence.
Granted, Laviolette’s pupils were an unspectacular 1-3-1 in Turin, easily burying their legacy under that of the silver medalist U.S. teams from 2002 and 2010. But it is no case of backside-kissing, Little League hyperbole to say that gaining admission to Olympic competition is an accomplishment on its own.
Rocking With the Hurricanes
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A midseason replacement in 2003-04, Laviolette returned to the Hurricanes’ bench on the other side of the lockout and brought them to first place in the Southeast Division. A second-place finish in the Eastern Conference amounted to the franchise’s first playoff berth since a surprise finals appearance in 2002.
After spilling the first two games of the playoffs to Montreal, Carolina perked up to win eight of its next nine games, setting up a titanic tangle with the Buffalo Sabres. The seesaw series saw the Canes delete 1-0 and 2-1 deficits, then fall short of clinching the Prince of Wales Trophy on their first try before vanquishing Buffalo in Game 7.
Laviolette’s pupils followed up in the Stanley Cup Final with another Game 7 triumph at home over Edmonton.
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The Flyers were 13-12-1 and quivering on the playoff/non-playoff borderline when they summoned Laviolette to replace John Stevens as head coach Dec. 4, 2009.
A 28-23-5 run on Laviolette’s watch, all culminating in a critical shootout thriller versus the New York Rangers, was good enough for seventh place in the Eastern Conference bracket. Utilizing their playoff passport, the Flyers dumped the Devils in five games, pulled off a rare best-of-seven comeback against Boston (which may have momentarily dampened his Providence memories for the black and gold faithful) and vanquished Montreal in the conference finals.
The Cinderella Philadelphians met their match in Chicago, though the Blackhawks needed overtime in Game 6 to stifle the persistent Flyers.