Predators: Reserve Judgement on Peter Laviolette Until End of Season

VANCOUVER, BC - NOVEMBER 12: Head coach Peter Laviolette of the Nashville Predators looks on from the bench during their NHL game against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena November 12, 2019 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - NOVEMBER 12: Head coach Peter Laviolette of the Nashville Predators looks on from the bench during their NHL game against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena November 12, 2019 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images) /

As bad as things have been lately, now isn’t the time to be talking coaching changes in the middle of the season for the Nashville Predators.

The Nashville Predators have fell short of preseason expectations for two-straight seasons now, and are in the midst of a current slump throughout the entire month of November.

A lot of blame is being pointed at the head coach, Peter Laviolette. Some of it is warranted, but pushing for a coaching change in the middle of a season wouldn’t make any sense. This team obviously has plenty of games left to correct the issues at hand and make a run in the playoffs.

The talent is their and the personnel is their on the roster. What’s been frustrating is not being able to find the right combination and sticking with it. There’s an argument to be made that Laviolette has mismanaged the highly-talented roster he’s had since going to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017.

Why we should wait

I understand there have been instances when teams make midseason coaching changes and the team goes on a run. Everyone points just to last season when the St.Louis Blues fired Mike Yeo around this same time last year. At that point the Blues had a worse record than what the Predators currently have, but not by much.

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Teams fire coaches all the time in the middle of the season, but I’m just not sure now is that time for the Predators. Unless things spiral really bad out of control to the point where the Predators are in danger of missing the playoffs, then I think you have to let this thing play out.

Laviolette has never had a problem making the Predators a strong regular season team. He’s taken the Predators to the playoffs in all five seasons and coached them to 100-plus points in three of those five seasons.

The problem isn’t usually what happens in the regular season. It’s coming up short of preseason expectations after getting into the playoffs that’s been frustrating. Since going to the Stanley Cup Final, you can argue the Predators have assembled an even better roster of talent. And yet the team is going in reverse by suffering playoff exits in the second and first round.

The reason why I believe that judgement should be reserved on Laviolette until we reach the end result of 2019-20 is due to never knowing what can happen once you get in the playoffs. The Predators proved this when they went to the Stanley Cup after barely sneaking into the playoffs.

Let’s look at some of Laviolette’s career numbers as head coach of the Nashville Predators, including the 20 games this current season:

  • Five-straight playoff appearances
  • Two-straight division titles
  • Presidents Trophy (2017-18)
  • 238-136-56 overall record with Predators
  • Points in 68 percent of games coached with Predators

Pretty strong list of accomplishments, but the reason we’re even having this conversation is due to the team seeming to have hit a plateau since going to the Stanley Cup Final. This is why I want to let this season play out first.

As much as we want to see the Predators build a big winning streak and cruise through the regular season, it looks like that’s not going to be the case with this current team. It may be a struggle for the rest of the season, but I remain confident they’re going to make the playoffs and get this thing back in the right direction.

Where my bar is set for Laviolette

My stance hasn’t changed since before the season started when I said he can’t lose in the first round again. If that happens, then we go into the offseason thinking about a head coaching change. That will mark three-straight years of falling up short despite having a great roster full of veterans.

I’ll personally still be disappointed with a second round exit, but that will probably be enough for Laviolette to hold onto his job for another season. He has one more year left on his contract after this year after getting an extension back in 2016.

Unless the Predators go into a nosedive and plummet to last place in the Central Division for an extended period of time, then Laviolette is here to stay for at least the rest of this season. I just don’t see that happening. They might be a fringe wildcard team if they don’t start showing improvement, but we know anything can happen once you get in.

The Predators having to scratch and claw for a playoff spot like they did their Stanley Cup Final season might be the best thing to happen to this team. Rally around playing every game like it’s an elimination game, and let’s see if Laviolette can correct these issues.

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I’m not ready to throw the towel in on Laviolette just yet. I’ll hold onto that until I see where this team finishes in April, and hopefully into May. No reason to fire a coach that’s gotten you to the playoffs five-straight seasons and given you at least a chance every April to play for the Stanley Cup. The organization owes him more than that in my opinion.