Andrew Brunette Knows the Mental Keys to Nashville Predators Success

Florida Panthers interim head coach Andrew Brunette stands behind the bench during the second period against the Dallas Stars at FLA Live Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Florida Panthers interim head coach Andrew Brunette stands behind the bench during the second period against the Dallas Stars at FLA Live Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

You don’t always get a chance to hear a coach outside of a media scrum or post-game press conference. This year hundreds of high-level coaches got to at the Fischer Center for the Performing Arts at Belmont University for the NHL Global Coaching Clinic.

This annual event takes place during the NHL Draft Week festivities, and as the hosts the Nashville Predators new head coach, and fourth in franchise history, had opening duties. Andrew Brunette didn’t have the prep time that several of the speakers did.

The newly hired head coach of the Nashville Predators had less than a month to put together his opening remarks and talk about connecting with the modern athlete and building a positive environment. Frankly, it’s probably the last thing he wanted to be doing.

An original member of the Nashville Predators, who scored the first goal in team history, hired by the first coach in team history, Brunette now had to give a presentation to every Tom, Dick, Harry, and Sally who signed up for the clinic.

John Hynes was initially scheduled and probably found the silver lining in his firing that he didn’t have to do this anymore.

Now despite the lack of planning time and the insanity that is heading into an NHL draft and free agency as a new head coach, Brunette took command of the stage and delivered a great conversation.

Any fan of the Nashville Predators would have been happy and reassured that Brunette is the right coach to lead the team into the future.

On What Lead Brunette To Coaching

After his retirement, Brunette started coaching with the Minnesota Wild from 2013 to 2015. He didn’t love his experience. He seemed to have what is best described as a “grumpy old man” moment. He found himself struggling to relate to and find a link to the players of the new generation.

Trying to understand the new generations, Brunette cited an old coach with helping him realize a fact about coaching and sports. The kids don’t change. The parents and what’s around them do, but kids are still just kids. It comes down to the influences that they are exposed to.

Keeping that in mind, Brunette moved upstairs as an assistant general manager until the end of the 2018-2019 season, but found himself unhappy with that particular fit as well.

As Brunette put it in his talk:

"“I’m driving in Rimouski, in Northern Quebec, in a snowstorm, scouting… I’m driving and I’m listening to an audiobook and I said to myself I don’t know if this is me. I love it but I’m missing something.”"

 If you’re unfamiliar with Canada, Rimouski is north of most of the major cities you’ve heard of, up towards the mouth of the St. Lawrence River.

That something for Brunette was the connection. The camaraderie of being part of a group, working towards a similar goal. He called it a North Star moment and realized he wanted to get back into coaching. He had spent his time on the road studying coaching and connecting and had a new philosophy and strategy moving forward.

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What Did Brunette Have To Change? 

Brunette outlined the individual and team traits he was looking to build through connection in his new style of coaching and highlighted communication as being a key factor. He stated it was among the most difficult of things for him to change and put into practice, specifically with listening.

Brunette  also included a quote from Maya Angelou:

"“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”"

Yup, Coach Brunette got deep on us.

If you want the heartstring tugger, Brunette goes on to talk about how love is an essential part of showing that you are a caring, compassionate, and empathetic coach.

The median age of the Nashville Predators roster is 28. You’ve got late-stage millennials and Gen Z kids to deal with. These are essential qualities. They sum it up more succinctly “I think if you give a little bit more, you get more.”

Best One Liner

He stole a quote from Jon Cooper but it serves well and is a tremendous general lesson. “You treat everyone fairly, but not every player the same.”


Something that frequently gets lost in the world of pro sports is the joy of it. Hockey is one of the greatest games on the planet and as a coach, Andrew Brunette understands that he’s got to help the players stay in those joyful moments and streaks. By his admission when he was playing well it was when he was happy, and if he was going to break out of a slump, he had to find the fun in hockey again.

He showed a quote from Pep Guardiola, the manager of Manchester City which said “I want happiness for the players.” That’s a fundamental practice for successful coaches and one that Brunette understands and should be able to execute with this team.

He also understands that it isn’t always going to be joyful and that there is a certain amount of battling to do to find that. Sometimes you’re going to be so mad at a player that helping foster joy and connection the next day is going to be a pretty tough job. That’s where a coach’s day-to-day core beliefs and values will have to come to the fold.

Taking Care Of Himself Along With The Nashville Predators

Quite often in professional hockey, coaches get fired. With the Nashville Predators, it has only happened three times. The inevitability is that no matter what Andrew Brunette does with this team, one day he’s probably going to get fired. He stressed and ended his talk to the coaches urging them to address their mental health through the season and their careers.

Brunette is a guy who knows the rigors of the job and the lifestyle and highlighted the importance of taking care of the mind and body for coaches, as well as the importance of family.

Overall, Brunette left an impression on the crowd and is sure to leave one on the fans and players of the Nashville Predators. After listening to him, it should end up being a positive one.

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