By STEVE MEGARGEE
2014-05-08 06:22 AM
Nashville Predators coach Peter Laviolette already has brought the Stanley Cup to the South before and is eager to try to do it again.
Laviolette, who coached the Carolina Hurricanes to the 2006 title and was announced Tuesday as the second coach in Predators franchise history, spoke to reporters Wednesday on a conference call from Minsk, Belarus. He currently is coaching the United States team in the World Championships.
"They've got some terrific players in place, they've got some young and promising players in place," Laviolette said. "They're a team that just missed making the playoffs this past year. I'm really looking forward to the opportunity to try and get them back and be able to compete for the Stanley Cup."
Laviolette brings championship experience to a franchise seeking to return to the playoffs after a two-year absence. Not only did he win a Stanley Cup with Carolina, Laviolette also reached the finals with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010. Nashville never has advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs.
His Carolina background shows he can succeed in a smaller market without a big hockey heritage. Laviolette cited his Carolina experience as an example of how much a championship season can mean when an entire organization and community are pulling together behind a common goal.
"When you're able to build something special - and we had that opportunity in Carolina - it's so meaningful," Laviolette said. "It really is."
Laviolette's arrival marks a new era for a franchise that had been coached by Barry Trotz for its first 15 seasons of existence. Trotz was fired last month. Laviolette called Trotz one of the top coaches in the league Wednesday and said "I know that I've got my work cut out for me because he's a terrific coach."
Under Trotz, the Predators earned a reputation for gritty play and strong defense while generally struggling to score goals. The Predators averaged just 2.6 goals per game this season. The strength of their team remains on defense, with goaltender Pekka Rinne and Norris Trophy finalist Shea Weber.
Laviolette's background suggests he can improve the Predators' offense. No team that he's coached for a full season has ever ranked below 13th in the league in goals.
"I wanted a coach who brought a little bit different style of play," Predators general manager David Poile said Tuesday at the news conference announcing the hire. "Obviously when you make a change, you expect to have changes. Peter has a system that he plays that he's had success with. I guess you'd call it more uptempo, a little bit more offensive oriented. Obviously this is something that we need to and want to incorporate into our game."
Laviolette previously coached the New York Islanders (2001-03) as well as Carolina (2003-09) and Philadelphia (2009-14). The Flyers fired him last October after they dropped their first three games of the season.
Laviolette emphasized the importance of establishing the type of identity that has marked his most successful teams. He likes hard-working teams that are on the attack and force turnovers while playing aggressively but not recklessly.
"I do think every coach has an identity and a belief on how the game should be played," Laviolette said. "I think ultimately that's what can make a team successful, the coach has an identity he believes in, if he can instill that inn his players and make them perform to the best of their abilities."