Make no mistake, this Nashville Predators season ended in abysmal failure.
After the best regular season in franchise history in 2018 ended with a 2nd round exit to the Winnipeg Jets, everyone expected this team to bounce back in 2019. But despite relatively few changes to the roster from last year, the Preds definitely did not bounce back.
A first round exit is inexcusable. David Poile will need to make some changes to this team in order to account for the way this season ended.
But one change that many folks are wanting to see should definitely not happen.
Keep Peter Laviolette
A common refrain among Preds fans and media alike is that David Poile should consider firing and replacing Peter Laviolette as head coach. Not only is this very unlikely to happen (see Poile’s record at keeping head coaches around for a long time for evidence why), it would also be a bad idea.
First, for continuity’s sake, if Poile thinks his team’s Stanley Cup window is still open, replacing the head coach (and everything that comes with that) will almost certainly close the window for at least a little bit. For the most part, replacing a regime takes time and patience. New language, new schemes, new tendencies, new trusts, and so on.
Players take time to adjust to new coaches. Coaches take time to adjust to new players. It’s an involved process and not usually a short one.
Sure, there are some exceptions to this. Most people remember Mike Sullivan replacing Mike Johnston in the middle of the 2015 season. The Penguins went on the win the Stanley Cup that season, with Sullivan only six months on the job.
But rewind a little bit. Before Sullivan took over as head coach, Mike Johnston had to be fired. Why was he fired? He took over for Dan Bylsma, who was fired when Jim Rutherford took over as GM of the Penguins. Dan Bylsma helped bring the Stanley Cup to Pittsburgh for the first time in seventeen years.
So in reality, Johnston wasn’t a great hire to begin with. Hiring Johnston was the wrong move, and it was apparent less than two years into the job. Sullivan worked out, but really only because they already made a bad hire. Pittsburgh got lucky.
Considering this, look at Laviolette’s current track record with Nashville. In five years with the Predators, the franchise has seen more success than it ever has. The trophy case is filling up quickly, albeit with one very important missing trophy, the Stanley Cup.
If Laviolette weren’t the right man for the job, we would probably have known three or four years ago. Firing him now could just as easily set the Predators on a path towards more failure as it could towards more success. Why take that risk?
Who’s Your Alternative?
The other thing to consider here is the phrase “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.”
If Poile fires Laviolette, he will have to replace a coach with Stanley Cup winning pedigree, with the 2nd most all-time wins by an American born coach, and with nearly 1,200 games coaching experience.
If you do a quick google search for “active coaches with a Stanley Cup” you’ll notice one thing: they all currently have jobs. The only one who was without a job this year was Joel Quenneville was just hired to coach the Florida Panthers.
So who do you replace Laviolette with? The Predators do not have a “coach in waiting” at the moment. They would almost certainly have to hire someone with very little experience, maybe even no NHL head coaching experience at all. Philadelphia (Vigneault), Ottawa (Crawford), Florida (Quenneville), and Los Angeles (McLellan) have already snagged the few coaches with excellent resumes available.
Do the Predators, in the middle of a Stanley Cup window, really think the best option is to fire a coach with the experience Laviolette has and hire a nobody?
There are plenty of changes that can be made with the Nashville Predators right now. We will analyze all of these changes in the coming days. But changing the head coach, for this team right now, would be a mistake.
— Featured image via Terrence Lee/USA TODAY Sports —