The Seattle Kraken and general manager Ron Francis have likely begun their search for the franchise’s first head coach. Unfortunately, their list of candidates just shrunk after Peter Laviolette agreed to become the next head coach of the Washington Capitals.
Laviolette had been considered one of the top candidates for the Kraken job, and for good reason. He has 15 full years of head coaching experience, and has led his team to the playoffs in 10 of those years. He has been to the Stanley Cup Final three times and won the Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006. While in Carolina, he even crossed paths with Francis, who was then assistant general manager of the Hurricanes.
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The timing just did not work out, though. The expansion Vegas Golden Knights hired a head coach about six months prior to their inaugural season. If we assume the Kraken follow a similar schedule, they could still be several months away from deciding who will be behind the bench. Regardless, it is disappointing to see Laviolette come off the board so early, especially given his past success and his ties to Francis.
An Impressive Resume
After a 10-year playing career, Laviolette began his coaching career with the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers. Shortly after, he was handed the reins of the Providence Bruins and was named AHL Coach of the Year for the 1998-99 season. This earned him a promotion to assistant coach of the Boston Bruins, a position he held for a year.
His first NHL head coaching experience came in the 2000-01 season with the New York Islanders. Laviolette had instant success there, and led the team to the playoffs for the first time in seven years. He returned to the playoffs the following season before leaving to coach the Hurricanes.
He had mixed success in Carolina. In four full seasons as head coach, he missed the playoffs three times. Nonetheless in 2005-06, the one season he made the playoffs, he led the Hurricanes to a Stanley Cup victory. That season, he was voted runner-up for the Jack Adams Award, given to the NHL’s top coach. To this day, Carolina has yet to return to the Stanley Cup Final.
Unfortunately, after a disappointing start in 2008, Laviolette was fired. By this point, Francis had been promoted to assistant general manager of the Hurricanes. In fact, the two overlapped in Carolina for more than two years. It’s impossible to know just what factor he played in the firing, but there’s no doubt that they were quite familiar with each other. While Francis was there for some of Laviolette’s low points, he was also there for some of his accomplishments, including when he became the winningest American-born coach in NHL history (an honor that John Tortorella has since claimed).
After Carolina, Laviolette spent nine full seasons as head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers and then the Nashville Predators. He made the playoffs in eight of those seasons, and also led both teams to a Stanley Cup Final appearance. Nonetheless, as is the nature of the business, he was ultimately fired from both teams.
His latest opportunity has now come with the Capitals. Though it’s disappointing that the Kraken will be without his services, it’s good to see that he is getting another chance in the NHL.
What’s Next for the Kraken
Now that Laviolette is off the table, Francis must consider other candidates. My colleagues at The Hockey Writers have already identified some options, including Gerard Gallant and more recently, Dom Ducharme and Rikard Gronborg.
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Of course, Francis will do his due diligence in finding the right fit for the Kraken, and will consider more than just these three coaches. Laviolette was well qualified for the job, but, fortunately, there are other strong candidates. With so many options, this will be no easy decision for Francis, but at least he has a few more months to make the call.
Covering the Flyers for THW | Lifelong Islanders fan, but promise to become a little more sympathetic to the Flyers | Also a 4X marathon-runner | UChicago ’19