It seems like a distant memory when Peter Laviolette took the Nashville Predators to the Stanley Cup Final. Is his legacy on the line?
These windows to winning a Stanley Cup don’t stay open for long, and the Nashville Predators might have their best roster ever assembled in franchise history. It puts an enormous amount of
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pressure on head coach Peter Laviolette to make the right adjustments to lead this team to its maximum potential.
The Predators are currently in a dog fight with the wildcard Dallas Stars in their first-round series. They managed a split of the first two games at home in Nashville, but it could’ve easily swung the other way. We’re singing a much different tune if Dallas sneaks a goal in overtime before Craig Smith‘s goal nearly five minutes in.
Smith’s goal was a beauty that got Bridgestone Arena the loudest it’s been in quite a while, but I’m still not overly confident in the prospects of this team in this round and beyond. What’s the measuring stick for the Predators? Certainly, it’s getting past the first round, but does it go farther than that? Clearly, a first-round exit to the Stars would be devastating and would force me to look at Laviolette at possibly not being the right answer going forward as head coach.
How hot is Laviolette’s seat?
When I look at this roster, I see a Stanley Cup caliber team. Most other people would agree with that feeling. When you have a talented roster that under-performs and falls well short of expectations, you have to look at the head coach. This is why getting out of the first round is critical for Laviolette and his legacy as Nashville’s head coach. He’ll always be remembered as the coach who took the Predators to the Stanley Cup Final and energized the city like never before. But a first-round exit would mean a second-straight season where this team has gone in reverse.
It’s obviously not complete doom and gloom as the Predators are heading back to Dallas, where they won three games in the regular season. Home-ice advantage means very little to me in this series. Both teams have shown they can win at the other’s place. The Predators have to figure out a way to open up their offense. The Stars have done a great job at making the Predators work for every inch of space on the ice. Now it’s Laviolette’s job to make the necessary adjustments for the next two games in Dallas.
Laviolette has shifted this lineup constantly due to injuries and newly-acquired players. I think we have the line pairings we want for the rest of the playoffs. Laviolette will have a decision to make when Wayne Simmonds returns to the lineup. It will be hard to take Rocco Grimaldi out after the big impact he made in Game 2. These are the difficult decisions coaches have to make, and decisions like this will be under a microscope in such a close series.
The power play has been horrendous all season. How much of that falls on a head coach and how much blame falls on the players? You can’t put it all on Laviolette, but something has to give. It’s so unfathomable to see a power play plummet so badly from one season to the next. The Predators were 12th on the power play last season and finished in the middle of the pack the season before that. Fixing the power play is something the coaching staff hasn’t been able to come up with a solution to all season. It might end up being the main reason the Predators fall short of expectations for a second-straight season.
How far does the team need to go?
For me to feel comfortable with Laviolette as head coach going forward, this team has to reach the Western Conference Finals. There’s no excuse for this talented roster to come up short of that. For the record, I believe Laviolette’s job is safe regardless of where the Predators finish this season. This is more about how hot his seat will be going into next season if the Predators suffer another early playoff exit.
Being eliminated by a less-talented Stars team will be disastrous for Laviolette. I originally had the Predators getting past the Stars in six games, and I’m sticking with that prediction. However, the Predators are going to have to grind this one out and hope some bounces go their way. As evenly matched as these teams seem to be, coaching strategy is going to be critical. Laviolette can’t be out-coached by the less-experienced NHL head coach in Jim Montgomery of Dallas.
We’re all ready for this team to finally hit their stride and play a more consistent brand of hockey. The ups and downs have been brutal. We see this team take too many periods, and sometimes entire games, off. Again, that comes down to leadership at the top for me. Laviolette has to keep this squad focused and keep them in desperation mode. They play so much better when they’re in desperation mode.
If the Predators get eliminated by the Stars, it will be the beginning of the end of the Laviolette era in Nashville. It will be a huge letdown and another wasted season for players in their prime like Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg. Maybe not as soon as next season, but it will be a major setback that I don’t see him coming back from as the head coach in Nashville. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to this and the Predators begin to play like they’re capable of playing each and every game. No more games off from this team.