At the final press conference of the 2018-19 season for the Nashville Predators, David Poile and Peter Laviolette were both frank about the disappointment following a first round exit to the Dallas Stars.

Questions from the media ranged from free agent strategy to trade possibilities to the various strengths of this team moving forward. But the biggest concern on everyone’s mind was the Predators power play.

You know, the power play that ranked dead last in the league in the regular season and then went 0-for-15 in the playoffs.

“It’s not like it goes neglected”

Peter Laviolette did not mince words with his feelings on the power play. He gave one of the most lengthy and comprehensive answers on that subject that he’s probably ever given.

“Just to give you a little bit of background, the coaches and assistant coaches worked so many hours to try and put our teams in the right frame of mind, and everything is under my supervision. Last year our power play, both in the regular season and the playoffs, operated at around 22 percent. Through the course of my time here, it hasn’t been an issue. It hasn’t always been perfect, but certainly we didn’t feel the year that we did this year.”

Laviolette then went into the details of how much the team practiced the power play on a daily basis.

“As you guys know from the way we practice, there’s hardly a practice that goes by where we don’t work on it. And even more to the point this where it was struggling, we found time. If there was no practice time available because it was moving toward the end of the year, we would use the beginning of a pregame skate. We would go out 15 minutes early, 20 minutes early to try and get repetition on the power play. The meetings that take place, again, are on a daily basis for the power play. It’s not like it goes neglected.”

So it would seem that the team did make the power play a primary focus for improvement. But eventually the unit was so bad that it took some bigger changes from Laviolette to try and solve the problem.

“Kevin McCarthy, the assistant coach who ran the power play last year and did a terrific job, he was in charge of the power play to start the year. I think there was a frustration that was growing from everybody inside the room, from Kevin and from the players and from myself.

About two thirds of the way through the year, I did something that was really hard. I took a coach that had been in charge of something and moved him to the penalty kill and tried to give it a new set of eyes and a new look with Dan Muse taking over on the power play. We tried to run our meetings differently internally. Instead of one big group meeting, we focused more on the five guys and the individuals that were on the ice and the pre-scout and how they were going to go about their business.”

Laviolette then went on to mention how as a group they broke down tape on the top power plays in the league, talked to power play consultants, and got the advice of newly acquired power play specialists like Brian Boyle and Wayne Simmonds.

The one responsible

Finally, Laviolette came to his main point in all of this: who is responsible for the single worst power play in franchise history?

“Probably everybody shares in some of the responsibility, the players and the coaches. Ultimately, I’m the one who is responsible. I take the blame of things that don’t go well on this team. I’m not running from it. Ultimately, everything runs through me. There’s not a meeting or a message that doesn’t go on inside of this room that’s not mine.

So it’s me and I’ve got to be better with what I’m doing because the messaging that I’m sending down through the ranks to the coaches, to the players, it didn’t work. As we move forward, we try to learn from it.”

He obviously seemed prepared to address the issue before coming to the press conference. At the very least, we can give him credit for that. But it certainly seems like preparation isn’t the issue anymore.

The issue seems to be with the ideas and insight that go into the preparation. It’s no longer about trying to change the ways they do things, it’s about changing who is in charge of things.

I’ve already written about how I do not think firing Peter Laviolette would be wise. But there is no excuse for the way this power play drained this team’s ability to be great. If David Poile ultimately decides that Peter Laviolette is the one who should take the blame for this power play failure and make a change there, I don’t think many people would disagree with him.

— Featured image via Isaish J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports —
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