For years, Dan Lambert (lam-BAIR) and his wife wanted to visit Nashville.
So, just three weeks ago, they left their home in Spokane, Washington, hopped on a plane and headed for Music City. They saw all the sights, sang along at some of the Broadway honky tonks and fell in love with the energy and excitement that is ever-present around these parts.
Little did they know.
Three weeks after their first visit, the Lamberts are about to start house hunting in Tennessee on account of Dan's new gig - assistant coach of the Nashville Predators.
The now-former bench boss of the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League, Lambert joins Peter Laviolette's staff as an experienced, passionate motivator who can offer a fresh voice in the upcoming season.
"I'm thrilled and very excited to be joining the Nashville Predators organization," Lambert said. "I want to thank the organization and [Predators General Manager] David Poile for giving me this opportunity. I'm really looking forward to working with the hockey staff, and having a great experience alongside them."
"Dan is an experienced, passionate coach and will nicely round out our coaching staff in 2019-20 and beyond," Poile said. "Having enjoyed a lengthy career as a player and now a coach, he has had success at every level running the power play, and we look forward to adding his knowledge and insight in this area to the organization."
Struggles on the man advantage persisted throughout the previous campaign for the Predators, and the club hopes Lambert will be just the man who can help lead the charge to turn things around. Under his guidance, Spokane's power play led the WHL last season by operating at 29.1 percent, the second-highest mark across the entire Canadian Hockey League. Perhaps even more impressive was their success in the postseason with the Chiefs going 13-for-36 on the power play in 15 games.
"It's an area the Predators wanted to improve on, and I'm certainly hoping that with the pieces in place there and the players on the roster, we can find success," Lambert said. "We're certainly going to work toward that."
Lambert's capabilities with the man advantage weren't the only attributes that attracted the Preds; he led the Chiefs to a 40-21-2-5 record last season on their way to the WHL's Western Conference Final, and his club finished third in goals scored across the league.
A former assistant coach with the Buffalo Sabres and head coach with the AHL's Rochester Americans, the Saint Boniface, Manitoba, native began his time behind the bench as an assistant with the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL in 2009 before becoming their head coach in 2014.
Lambert coached Preds centerman Colton Sissons in Kelowna from 2010-13 and has also worked with Predators defenseman Dante Fabbro on the international stage with Team Canada. A self-described "players' coach," Lambert can't wait to be back on the same club with a pair of players he holds in high regard.
"Colton was such an amazing young man when I coached him in Kelowna," Lambert said. "You just knew the type of player he was, and the type of person he was, that he was going to find success. The Preds were very patient with him, which is probably why he's become the player he has for them.
"Then Dante, for him to come out of college and step right in and play a few games, and then step right in at the playoff level is amazing. Certainly, not every player can do that, but he's a player that has great character. He's a great person, and I'm sure he's going to have a very long career ahead of him."
Speaking of lengthy tenures, Lambert was a solid defenseman himself, skating for 19 professional seasons from 1990 through 2009. Drafted by the Quebec Nordiques in the 1989 NHL Draft, Lambert played 29 games in Quebec City and made stops in the AHL, IHL and Finland before finishing his career in Germany.
Lambert captained the Swift Current Broncos, Long Beach Ice Dogs and Hannover Scorpions over the course of his career, and coaching was a natural evolution following his playing days.
"From a young age, I've always thought that coaching was going to be something I wanted to do," Lambert said. "I was considered a leader on most teams that I played on, and as my career went along - I was in Europe when I finished - I was almost 40 years old playing with some guys who were 19 or 20. I felt like I had already almost begun that part of it, so it was an easy transition."
Lambert will continue that path into Middle Tennessee, another chance to compete for the ultimate prize hockey has to offer.
And that unmistakable Nashville vibe Lambert and his wife experienced a few weeks back? He knows it exists inside of Bridgestone Arena, too. He felt it a few seasons back when he passed through with Buffalo.
Now, he'll help contribute to it every night.
"I had chills," Lambert said of standing behind the bench in Nashville for the first time. "It's an amazing feeling to be in that building, and now to actually be a part of the home team rather than the road team, I'm really, really stoked about it. It's going to be awesome."