Turnover has been quite rare throughout the history of the Nashville Predators, but the franchise made waves Tuesday by hiring Peter Laviolette to be the just the second head coach in team history, according to the Preds' official Twitter account:
The Predators released a video of the press conference:
The Predators and Joshua Cooper of The Tennessean provide comments from Shea Weber and Matt Cullen:
Matt Cullen (previously played under Laviolette): I think a lot of him as a coach & his ability to bring out the best in all of his players.— Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) May 6, 2014
Cullen: Laviolette's resume speaks for itself. He has a knack for bringing out the best in the offensive side of things.— Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) May 6, 2014
Shea Weber: exciting day for the franchise.— Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) May 6, 2014
Weber on Laviolette: "I've met him and maybe talked briefly, but nothing in depth or detail."— JoshuaCooper (@JoshuaCooper) May 6, 2014
Prior to the conclusion of the 2013-14 NHL regular season, the Predators had never known a head coach other than Barry Trotz. He led Nashville to seven playoff appearances in 15 seasons since the team's inception in 1998, but was ultimately fired following two consecutive campaigns outside the postseason.
In Laviolette the Predators now have a coach who has won a Stanley Cup, and general manager David Poile views that as a major coup for the organization, according to the official press release:
Having reached the peak as a Stanley Cup Champion, Peter knows the intensity and urgency it will take to help our team reach its ultimate goal. He is a great hockey mind who not only has a winning resume, but has done it with an aggressive offensive philosophy while also excelling in helping young players reach their potential. We look forward to Peter instilling his culture in Nashville immediately following his duties coaching the United States at the 2014 World Championship.
Laviolette has been a head coach for parts of 12 seasons in the NHL. He led the Carolina Hurricanes to a Stanley Cup triumph in 2005-06 and brought the Philadelphia Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final in 2009-10.
He was ousted by Flyers management just three games in to the 2013-14 season after a winless start, but he is excited about the opportunity to take the reins in Music City, per the release:
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. 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.
There are several teams in search of a new head coach, and Laviolette was likely an attractive option for many of them due to his successful track record. With that in mind, Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports was surprised by his decision to go to Nashville:
Stunned Peter Laviolette opted for Nashville. http://t.co/FGDKpKIYtB— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) May 6, 2014
While the Preds do have some elite talent like Weber and Rinne as Laviolette mentioned, there is plenty of work to do up front.
Is Laviolette a good fit for the Predators?
Laviolette's teams are known for being explosive offensively, but the Predators' leading scorer at forward this past season was Patric Hornqvist with just 53 points. Also, Craig Smith led Nashville forwards in goal scoring with 24, so there is some concern about whether or not Laviolette is a good fit.
If the Predators do some work in free agency and Laviolette succeeds in taking players like Hornqvist, Smith, Colin Wilson and others to the next level, though, a quick turnaround could be in store.
The Preds are a defense-first team, however, so it's difficult to not question the decision-making process for all parties involved.
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