With three assistant coaches under contract for next season, the Nashville Predators are in a unique situation; usually two assistants have flanked the head coach in Nashville.
Plus, the familiar saying warns: “Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth.”
Last month when Peter Laviolette was hired as the second head coach in Predators history, his familiar counterpart, Kevin McCarthy, also joined the club as an assistant. Utilizing three assistant coaches isn’t something Nashville has traditionally done, but Laviolette is betting the old “culinary warning” doesn’t apply to managing a hockey team.
McCarthy, who has been coaching in the NHL the last 15 years (and the majority of them with Laviolette), says having an extra opinion in the room only helps.
“I think one thing that Lavy does really well is listen to everyone’s opinion. I’m sure no matter what role I’m in things won’t really change,” McCarthy said. “I’ll still give my opinion on how I think we played, how I think we should play and I think he’ll ask the same thing of Phil [Housley] and the other coaches. So I think that will sort itself out. I’m confident that down the road we’ll all be in roles we’re responsible for and I’m looking forward to that.”
Laviolette’s willingness to listen to constructive criticism creates a fruitful environment that helps the entire coaching staff grow, McCarthy explained. And for someone who has been coaching professional hockey since 1988, McCarthy has a large knowledge base to draw recommendations from.
But still, three assistant coaches creates overlap.
Last season, Phil Housley coached the Predators defense in his rookie year as an NHL coach. Assistant Lane Lambert managed the forwards and helped oversee special teams. All of those are areas McCarthy has spent time managing previously, but he says the supposed redundancy won’t be an issue.
“I’ve overseen the defensive side of things recently, but I’ve had a lot of experience with forwards to,” McCarthy said. “I paid my dues coaching forwards in the minor leagues for five years and then I coached forwards under Paul Maurice in Carolina before Lavy got there. So it’s not like I haven’t worked in that area. Whatever slight transitions we as a staff have to make, I’m comfortable shifting to the needed area.”
On the ice, flexibility and communication are two required skills of a team, and it’s the same for the group behind the bench too. Laviolette and McCarthy said as they work with the Predators players to implement a new system, they’ll be growing accustomed to their new coaching coworkers as well.
“I hope it won’t take too long to get everything together,” Laviolette said with a laugh. “Like I said though, we do have a lot of work to do both on the ice and off it. I don’t want to make too many promises here and now, but once we get on the ice we’re going to work hard at it. We’ll start with training camp and then go to exhibition games and keep working. We’ll find the holes in our game–fix them–and keep working during the regular season.”
Both men are busy preparing for the challenges they’ll encounter in Nashville, but McCarthy says a larger coaching staff than normal isn’t one of them.
Additional help may be an issue in the kitchen, but it’s not on the ice or behind the bench.