Long Live Laviolette?

If you’ve been able to get the image of Peter Laviolette standing on the boards screaming at Tony Granato during the 2012 Penguins-Flyers playoff series out of your head, you are a more successful person than I am. That scene, though, was just one example of something everyone who has watched him coach a game knows: Laviolette is a yeller. He’s demanding, energetic, and passionate. But could that passion become a detriment?

Laviolette is the type of coach that a GM brings in when he wants his team to win now. His hiring is understandable, then, given that pressure was likely put on Poile by ownership to make changes to bring about the kind of wins Nashville hasn’t seen in a while. Nashville’s fans want to see their team succeed; ownership wants to see those fans stay in the seats. What better way to say “We are dedicated to helping your team succeed, Nashville” than to bring in a Stanley Cup winning coach?

But he is also a coach whose style comes with an expiration date. His intense personality and strict, disciplinarian style begin to wear on players, and because of that he tends to lose his effectiveness as a coach over time. Poile is no stranger to Laviolette. He is well aware of this issue, and therefore well aware of the fact that Laviolette is potentially not a long-term solution in Nashville. Looking at it from an outsider’s perspective, I’d give him three or four seasons. I may be wrong, but if I’m not, the situation begs the question: is Poile willing to make the personnel moves necessary to give Laviolette his best chance of winning in that time frame?

Forward, Not Back

Laviolette is an offense-first coach. When asked about his system in his conference call Wednesday with the Nashville media, he said

“My system has been successful for many years. Primarily, instead of having one guy forward, I send two. The main thing I do is send guys in on the attack. I don’t want people to think I’m going to come in and play reckless hockey. We are going to play fast and aggressive, but we’re not going to give up a ton of opportunities either. The more you play offense, the less you have to play defense.”

It stands to reason, then, that Laviolette would need offense to coach. The Predators need to upgrade their forward core, and would have even if Trotz stayed on, but with a coach as offense-first as Laviolette coming in they’re going to need to make some big changes in order for his systems to succeed. Younger guys like Jarnkrok, Forsberg, and Sissons can probably expect to get a good look in camp next season, but the Predators could benefit greatly from going after a high-end forward either via trade or free agency. Paul Stastny comes to mind on the free agency front, if he makes it that far without Colorado re-signing him; on the trade side, it has been suggested that since Laviolette lobbied for Lecavalier to sign in Philly, he may be interested in coaching him in Nashville.

If Laviolette can get the Predators players to buy in to his system, and to him, he should have success in Nashville. How long-lived that success is, though, will be up to how long he can keep that buy-in.