The following is the last of a four-part review of a summer’s worth of changes. Here, we focus on coaching.
Early in the offseason, the Predators made it clear that they were parting company with the only coach the organization had ever known in Barry Trotz. A few weeks of due diligence produced veteran bench boss, Peter Laviolette. In my estimation, this was the strongest candidate available to General Manager David Poile at that moment. There’s a lot to like here.
Coaching is 75 percent personality and 25 percent knowledge. A coach with a strong personality and the ability to communicate systems, structure and culture in a clear way will get the most from his group. This is where Laviolette is strong.
Players who’ve had him in the past agree that he can motivate. He’s a clear thinker with a very direct manner of speaking; it’s rare for him to verbalize much more than what is absolutely necessary for the moment. Players respond to that kind of clarity; it breeds confidence in the leadership. You start to lose people if you’re talking at length about things that aren’t really instructive or relevant.
Moreover, Laviolette carries with him 11-plus years of NHL head coaching experience as he enters the room; most notably, a Stanley Cup Championship in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes. That’s a lot of cachet as 20 sets of eyes lean in to learn which direction their new mentor intends to take them.
It’s worth noting that Laviolette comes with long time assistant, Kevin McCarthy. “Kaito” knows the new guy well and he’s able to act as a buffer to some degree. He’ll fill in gaps and educate players and others about “life under Lavvy.” It is easy to underestimate the importance of someone like McCarthy, but he’s well positioned to accelerate any adjustment to a new man in charge.
Last point to make is that there is a strong nexus present here – where the coach’s strength meets the team’s greatest need. The Predators are in dire need of more offense and Laviolette teams typically adopt an offensive slant. It remains to be seen whether a Laviolette system applied to an upgraded forward roster (See: James Neal, Mike Ribeiro, Derek Roy and Olli Jokinen) will actually produce more offense. But the table is set and if the coaches coach and the players play this team should compete for a top-eight spot in the West.
Lots to watch for here; and it all gets started today at training camp! See you soon!