Peter Laviolette is out as head coach of the Nashville Predators and a new bench boss is waiting in the wings, apparently. General manager David Poile has announced a press conference for Tuesday to reveal Laviolette’s successor.
The Predators are a franchise built to win, but it hasn’t panned out this season. Nashville has lost four of their last five and are 19-15-7 this season, putting them 11th in the Western Conference.
Laviolette spent five and a half seasons behind the bench, putting together a 248-143-60 record and establishing the Predators as a fairly decent playoff threat to boot. His club ran all the way to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final to lose to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six, plus they won the Presidents Trophy in 2018 and ventured into the second round of the post-season.
But hockey is about results here and now and Poile isn’t happy with what he sees.
The Preds have been running things in a different direction since trading defenceman P.K. Subban away and catching Matt Duchene to boost scoring. That hasn’t worked out as planned, with Nashville incapable of winning more than two games in a row since late October.
So now, Laviolette becomes the sixth coach to pack his gear this season. He leaves as just the second coach in franchise history, following Barry Trotz’s 15-year run.
Laviolette will bounce back and find work. He won a Cup with Carolina in 2006 and was in the Stanley Cup Final with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010.
As for the Predators, change is coming but it may take more than an adjustment behind the bench. Whoever the club names as their new head coach will have his work cut out for him as he tries to make Nashville the Central Division threat they’re supposed to be.
To make the situation more urgent, the Preds will face the Boston Bruins Tuesday. With the team four points out of the final wild card spot in the Western Conference, every game counts.
The first task will be to fix whatever’s dogging team defence. Nashville is the sort of squad built around stifling the opposition, but this brand of Predator hockey has been profoundly deficient. The team has been coughing up scoring chances at even strength at a rate reminiscent of the Anaheim Ducks or New Jersey Devils. That won’t do.
What’s more, goaltending – something that used to be one of Nashville’s biggest assets – has started to suffer. Juuse Saros and Pekka Rinne have not lived up to expectations this season, with a combined .894 save percentage.
With Nashville failing to respond to whatever Laviolette has been attempting to input, change really is the only option. And Poile’s judicious pulling of the trigger is half the story. The other half will be written Tuesday.
Photo credit: NHL.com