NHL.com's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.
The latest edition features Nashville Predators coach Peter Laviolette:
COLUMBUS -- Peter Laviolette got to know the Eastern Conference during his 12 years working in the conference with the New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers. He's now getting a taste of what life is like in the Western Conference as the coach of the Nashville Predators. He summed up his experience so far in two words:
"It's different," Laviolette told NHL.com.
He stressed that he doesn't mean different in that the hockey being played in the West is so much different than in the East, but what he got to know well simply isn't the same.
"It's just different because of the time zones, how to get in and out of the buildings, the players on the other teams, young players that you don't really know anything about," Laviolette said. "There's a lot to it."
He's obviously picking it up quickly; the Predators lead the Central Division with 65 points through 45 games. Nashville had 44 points through 45 games last season.
Laviolette spoke about his first season in Nashville during the 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend, where he was a coach for Team Toews in the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game on Sunday. He earned the distinction of being an All-Star Game coach because the Predators had the highest points percentage (points earned divided by total possible points) in the NHL through Jan. 10, which was the halfway point of the season.
Here are Five Questions with … Peter Laviolette:
The way this has gone for you in Nashville, let's be frank, it looks like it has gone almost perfectly. Has it gone exactly as you expected? Is the team better than you anticipated?
"I think you go in there with a plan. Every coach goes in with a plan. You don't have a crystal ball, so you have to put the time in. Everybody, the players, everybody, you have to put the plan in and work at it. Then Day One of training camp happened, and we started. Then the first exhibition game, then the first regular-season game. Our guys have done a really good job of keeping an eye on the ball and living in the day. They play hard almost all the time. If they don't, it's not because they forgot to play hard; maybe the schedule catches up with them or the travel catches up with them. They're quick to recover, quick to bounce back. They've done a good job of staying on point and they've won a lot of hockey games. To this point, it's gone well. But there is a realization that you look at the standings and there is a half a season left, and there are things we can do better."
You took over a team that had stability for years under Barry Trotz and veteran players who had been doing it, for the most part, the right way just without the positive results in the past few years. How much has that helped you in your first year there?
"I definitely think the veteran players play into it. You look at Pekka (Rinne) being healthy, Shea (Weber) has been excellent, Mike Fisher is back from his injury. But then there has been a lot of turnover as well. Probably more than half the team is turned over, completely new. Those veteran players have done a good job of recreating a team. Mike Ribeiro comes in from somewhere else. James Neal comes in from somewhere else. Olli Jokinen comes from somewhere else. Filip Forsberg and Calle Jarnkrok had some time, but they come up from the minors basically. The guys who have been there have done a good job of setting the tone and creating an environment for these new players and young players, doing their best to form a team."
People look at Mike Ribeiro and it's the "RRP," the Ribeiro Reclamation Project. What has it been like to work with him?
"He's been terrific. I don't have any of the knowledge of the past. I only have what I've seen and what I know from June. We signed Mike, and he's been a terrific teammate. He works hard. From him coming here and fitting in with our team, his family fitting in in Nashville, I don't know if it could be any better for him. As far as his on-ice play, he's always been a guy where the puck, it sticks to him. He can make a lot of plays in small areas under a lot of heat. By doing that he makes other players better. It's been a good start to his year. I think he's in a good spot. He's one of the guys that I, or we, count on to really drive our team."
You used to breeze through Nashville coaching in the Eastern Conference. Now that you're there full-time, what have you learned about Nashville and what do you like about it as a hockey market?
"It's a great place to watch a game. It's a great place to come and take in a game. There's great energy. It's a lot like Raleigh, the market itself. It's a non-traditional market, but people know sports, they know hockey; they're passionate and they love their team. It's been really good."
How do you approach the challenge now of taking this to the end of the season and into the playoffs?
"They don't give anything out at the All-Star break, so we haven't done anything. We've put ourselves in a position that you'd want to be in at the halfway point, but also there is a realization that the division is tight, the conference is tight, and there is a lot of games left. We have to continue to get better, continue to push, and go from there."