It took 135 days, but Peter Laviolette finally got the chance to address his Nashville Predators.
The team gathered at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday for the first day of training camp, partaking in off-ice fitness testing and meetings prior to gathering on the ice Friday morning. For the new head coach, that meant the first chance to begin to outline the blueprints of what he believes will bring the Preds success over the next seven months and beyond.
“It was great,” Laviolette said of the team interaction. “Everybody’s here and we’re certainly ready to go. I think it becomes a little bit more exciting when [the team] actually gets on the ice tomorrow. Today was a lot of physicals, testing, meetings and introductions, but we’re ready to play. I think everybody’s really excited to go out and do some work.”
That work begins Friday at Centennial Sportsplex, and will continue straight through opening night on October 9 against Ottawa. But that’s three weeks away. For now, there are plenty of moving variables, many of which Laviolette knows won’t pan out over time.
“I’ve got things in mind, and I know some of them aren’t going to work,” Laviolette said. “I know that I’ll change things for sure, but eventually you hope to find the chemistry and who fits with who and where does that piece seem to go and fit in nicely.”
The bench boss is aware that there will be growing pains, but admits that’s part of the process, especially starting fresh with a new club. Training camp provides the time for maturation, something Laviolette and his staff will take full advantage of.
“I think we really want to try and push speed and push tempo,” Laviolette said. “We want to start to implement our system and things that we’re looking for on the ice and how we play the game. I don’t expect it to be perfect, there’s going to be a lot of figuring it out. Usually when a new system comes in place, there’s a pause before you step on the gas. We’ve got to work our way through camp to eliminate that pause and I think that’s just through time and repetition of doing things.”
Laviolette envisions a new team identity that he mentioned during last weekend’s Skate of the Union address at Ford Ice Center. That identity, just like the new system, will also take time to build. However, once it’s in place, there’s a clear concept as to what the definition of Nashville Predators hockey will be.
“At the end of the night, when the game is over, I want us to have been a hard-pressing, hard-charging team,” Laviolette said. “Usually, that's visible; you can see that. We talked to the players today just making sure we have the energy on a daily basis to bring the first part of (that equation) but then the execution has to go along with it. If you can put the two together, you can start to find success and you can start to see that identity take place.”
So whether they’re a veteran of the Music City or have yet to play a game in a gold sweater, each member of the Preds is in for a new journey. Optimism abounds right now around the Nashville room, and how could it not? After all, it’s been simmering for 135 days.
“For those that were here last year and for a lot of players in our room, this is a chance to start fresh, including coaches, and that’s always an exciting thing,” Laviolette said “When a season doesn’t go the way you want, the year doesn’t go the way you want, the hardest thing to do is to sit through a summer.
“But now we can take the time to think about how we can right some wrongs and get out on the ice and work at it. I think that’s what everybody is excited about is to get back and start working toward where we want to go.”