The NHL offseason means times for teams to make changes and improve their squads. One change not needed for the Nashville Predators is the head coach.
Conversations are starting to swirl around the Nashville Predators. Discussions of who the team needs to bring in or what players need to a change of scenery highlight the topics around the team. Fans supporting the team want the Predators to consider trading for John Tavares, though that option is extremely unlikely.
Changes are already occurring. Veteran forward Mike Fisher already retired, but rumors suggest him staying on the team in an administrative role. Two free agents signing from last summer, Scott Hartnell and Alexei Emelin, were both sent walking after the Predator’s season ended. None of these moves were shocking to the team or fans.
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There is one of area of concern for some fans, though (I believe) it is largely unfounded. That concern is Peter Laviolette.
No Love for Lavi
I get it. The performance of the Predators was highly inconsistent during the playoffs. The Presidents’ Trophy-winning team struggled against the worst team by record in the playoffs and fell to the second best team in the league. We witnessed winning streaks and mind-boggling losses all season. Yet, what we didn’t witness was total domination of teams the Predators should have annihilated.
I am not a Laviolette-loving homer. He is one of the best coaches in the league; however, the team failed to make needed adjustments in-game or during the season. Look no further than the power play. How many times did we witness the Predators special team perform a drop pass to a trailing defenseman who then dumped the puck into the offensive zone? Then, the puck was treated to a trip around the point until someone either attempted a shot or the puck was deflected out?
Then, look at the final two games. In Game 6 of the second round, the Predators played a defense that clogged the area in front of the net. It prevented quality shots and free skaters at the net. It worked. When the Jets did the same in Game 7, the Predators failed to adjust.
Or, what about using the defensemen in a more offensive manner 90% of the time? Known as the best top-four defensemen in the league, the Nashville Predators’ blue line was utilized to press the offense forward in the zone. As a team, the Predators allowed 736 high-danger chances to their opponents, 15th in the league. Good thing their goalies were second best in the league in goals allowed in the same category.
There are reasons to be concerned, but overall, the team performed well all season.
Sure, there are questions about Laviolette. Yet, his career 571 wins ranks 20th all-time in the NHL. He has three appearances in the Stanley Cup Final, winning once. Laviolette is regarded as a great motivator, yet the Predators failed to perform up to standard during the playoffs. And, his team do tend to trail off after their Cup appearance. Still, Laviolette has made the playoffs 10 of his 16 years coaching, with a .533 playoff win percentage.
The crux of the matter is if Laviolette was not the coach, who is? Is there a coach other there that is better? Guy Boucher? Unless Ottawa made a drastic move, he is not available. Randy Carlyle, Mike Babcock, Bruce Boudreau? All taken.
Fact is all the coaches with resumes similar to Laviolette are with other teams. Others have not coached in years. The tradition and play of the Nashville Predators requires a proven coach, not bring in an unproven coordinator to lead the team. We will leave that to our resident pigskin squad. The Predators fired Barry Trotz for Laviolette. You don’t get rid of Laviolette while the team is still at their best.
If the Predators take a major step back in 2018-19, maybe we rethink things. But, right now, it is Laviolette’s team.