When a politician is trying to win a campaign race, he or she usually has to make empty promises and shout eloquent phrases in order to rally support.
In a similar fashion, when a new head coach enters a city and paints his vision, there’s pressure to get the fan base behind him. For new Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette, however, this part of his job has been a breeze.
Yesterday, Laviolette was greeted by hundreds of cheering and enthused Predators fans at the Music City Sports Festival, and he didn’t even have to kiss any babies or make vague guarantees.
Their first official public appearance in Nashville, Laviolette and assistant coach Kevin McCarthy were able to build upon the rapport their resumes and past success had already established in the minds of the Predators faithful. And no subject created more buzz than the discussion on creating a more effective offensive system.
“Without getting a chalkboard out and throwing things up there; you’ll just have to take my word for it,” Laviolette said. “Every coach has a way he believes the game should be played. For me, that focus is a little more on offense. I also try to layer my defense and look for the counterattack opportunities when they present themselves. Training camp is going to be huge for us. In my experience, there’s a feeling out process and offensively we’ll work to get better.”
McCarthy (who has been by Laviolette’s side in Carolina and Philadelphia) said the new Predators bench boss has an approach to offense unlike anyone else he’s been around; and he thinks that has helped Laviolette the most during his NHL tenure.
“I’m just excited to be here. I’m going to come with a lot of energy and work our team toward an identity that I think will be successful on the ice,” Laviolette said. “We’ve got a lot of great players here; there’s a lot of good pieces. There’s a lot of good work that was done here by the coach before me, and I’m excited to come in here and do whatever I can to help these guys get back to where they can compete for a Stanley Cup.”
Laviolette complimented the work Washington Capitals head coach Barry Trotz did in his 15 seasons in Nashville, but also explained that there’s benefit to moving away from the defense-first mentality that’s been ingrained in Predators squads for so long. For example, the 49-year-old believes he can get more out of forwards Colin Wilson and Viktor Stalberg, who underperformed last season, if the right things are asked of them.
“I see a lot of promise in the makeup of the forwards we have here. There’s a good mix of skill and character and I like the pieces I have to work with,” Laviolette said.
The good news for the Predators fans captivated by the talk of offense yesterday, is that expecting quick results from the new leader in Nashville isn’t that unrealistic. Six times in his eight full seasons as a coach, Laviolette’s teams have finished in the top 10 in goal scoring. Plus, he’s brought immediate improvement to the three other NHL clubs he’s coached (Islanders, Hurricanes and Flyers). In their first season under Laviolette, all three had a more than 20-point boost in the standings.
“He knows where he wants go with his team and how to get them there. He establishes a relationship with every player and finds out what makes them tick and then he presses all the right buttons,” McCarthy said. “In my experience he’s great at getting the best out of every player. If you look at all the places he’s been, he’s been able to coach career years out of a lot of players.”
Visions of an elite offense may have been dancing in the minds of Predators yesterday–but that’s okay–because with the right amount of hard work, Laviolette says he can get his new team there. Technically, that makes one big promise delivered by the head coach after all, but it doesn’t appear to be an unfounded one.