In front of a standing room only crowd at 102.5 The Game’s Music City Sports Fest, Kevin McCarthy was introduced alongside new head coach Peter Laviolette as a Predators assistant coach.
“It was a great welcome by the fans,” McCarthy said. “I loved it. Nashville was always one of my favorite cities to come to as a visiting coach and now to experience it from the other side is exciting.”
McCarthy, a 25-year NHL assistant coach, is no stranger to the introduction process that comes along with joining a new team. However, the welcome that he and his wife received from the Predators faithful on Sunday was one that he hasn’t experienced in all his years of hockey.
“We’ve made our fair share of transitions, but this introduction was special,” McCarthy said. “It’s very exciting when you come to a new organization, but it’s even more exciting when you come to an organization like Nashville.”
McCarthy comes in alongside Laviolette. Together the two won the Stanley Cup in 2006 with Carolina and made another Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2010 with Philadelphia.
“He’s a really great guy to work with,” McCarthy said. “One thing about ‘Lavy’ is his passion for the game. He knows what it takes to win. Between the planning, preparation and communication he’s always in a position to be successful. I was really fortunate when he came to Carolina. He valued my opinion, and I think as an assistant coach, that’s all you can ask for.”
Laviolette and McCarthy come to Nashville with a reputation of using an up-tempo offensive system, something the Predators have not done in the past.
“Unlike a lot of coaches Lavy will spend a lot of time in practice working on an offensive scheme,” McCarthy said. “He practices what you need to do when you have the puck in the offensive zone. Before working with him I hadn’t coached with someone who practiced the offensive game like he did. It was an interesting approach and was obviously very successful for us.”
With the abundance of young forwards on the roster McCarthy feels like he and Laviolette are stepping in at the just the right time.
“There is a lot of talent here,” McCarthy said. “I think some guys can really blossom under Lavy’s system. They’re young and they haven’t acquired some of the habits that you have to break. Maybe it’s a matter of building them up and bringing them to the next level.”
Although the two agree that implementing a strong offensive system is important they also agree that defense should not take a back seat to anything. Especially with the core of young talented defensemen the Predators roster currently features.
“Let’s face it, every coach wants to score four or five goals a game, but in the end it’s defense that wins championships,” McCarthy said. “We certainly have that here.”
With all seven of the Predators top defensemen under the age of 29, some are calling this unit the best in the NHL.
“This group of defensemen is going to be very good for a very long time,” McCarthy said. “Some teams have a top guy and then two through six are just okay. When you look at Nashville, you’ve got a group of defensemen that as a whole can’t be matched.”
If anyone knows defense it would be McCarthy. A 10 year blueliner in the NHL, McCarthy served as the team captain for Vancouver from 1979-1982 and was named a starter for the 1981 NHL All-Star Game. In 10 seasons, McCarthy put up 258 career points (67g-191a) with Philadelphia, Vancouver and Pittsburgh.
During his playing career, McCarthy developed a reputation for his leadership and often took it upon himself to develop younger players on the roster. In his last season with the AHL’s Hershey Bears he was promoted to a player-assistant coach.
Following his retirement in 1988, McCarthy remained with Hershey as an assistant coach and was promoted to head coach for the 1989-90 season.
“I’ve got a lot of experience,” McCarthy said. “I’ve been a coach now for close to 25 years. I spent five years as the head coach in the minors and paid my dues to work my way up here.”
McCarthy’s wife Rhonda will join him in Nashville, but unlike the Laviolette’s, they aren’t bringing along their children.
“Fortunately for me I’m in a different stage of life than Lavy,” McCarthy said. “Rhonda and I are empty nesters now so the transition going from one city to the next has been a little easier than it has been in the past. We have three grown daughters now and a couple of grandkids. We’re really looking forward to this transition.”
McCarthy, who was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, now spends his summers in Raleigh, North Carolina. A self-proclaimed country music fan, McCarthy says he is looking forward to taking in the sights of Nashville.
“My wife and I are really happy to be here,” McCarthy said. “We’re all about living in the south. I’m a huge country [music] fan so every time we had a game here it was nice for me to take a stroll down Broadway. It’s going to be a unique experience calling this home now.”