The Nashville Predators are not very good right now. But you probably already knew that.
If you’ve watched this team from day one, you know the drill. The offense is good at times, but frustratingly inconsistent. The defense gives up too many dangerous chances, and the goaltending isn’t stopping nearly enough of them. And the special teams… my god, the special teams are bad.
But if you were hoping for a mid-season coach termination to be this team’s saving grace, here’s a few reasons why I think that won’t happen.
No obvious replacement for Laviolette
The most important aspect of any coach firing is the replacement. In this case, who is your eventual replacement for Laviolette?
There are no obvious choices.
I actually threw this idea out on Twitter earlier today, just to get an idea of the coaches folks might be looking at.
Ok, #Preds fans. Your disdain for Peter Laviolette and company is loud and clear.
Let’s say he is fired, either mid-season or off-season. Who are your suggestions for his replacement?
— Alex Daugherty (@AlexDaugherty1) December 15, 2019
Here are the options according to my very knowledgeable Twitter followers (in no particular order):
- Karl Taylor (current head coach of the Milwaukee Admirals)
- Phil Housley (currently an assistant with the Coyotes)
- Mike Babcock (recently fired by the Maple Leafs)
- Daryl Sutter (retired; fired by the Kings last year)
- Dan Bylsma (currently an assistant with Red Wings)
- Pete DeBoer (fired last week by the Sharks)
- Rikard Grönborg (head coach of the Swedish national team)
Honestly, there are no obvious options in that list. Except of course that Babcock and Sutter are obviously VERY BAD options.
Karl Taylor is doing a great job in Milwaukee, but making the jump from AHL to NHL head coach is a rarity. Jared Bednar with the Avalanche did it, quite successfully too, but his first year and a half was awful. Plus, I don’t see Poile disrupting two of his teams at once with a coaching change.
Phil Housley could work, but I doubt the Coyotes allow him to jump ship mid-season. If he comes back, it would be sometime next summer. Also, his tenure at Buffalo wasn’t all that impressive.
All of the other options are either re-treads, terrible, or too old. The Swedish coach is an intriguing idea, but that seems more like an off-season hire to me.
In short, there just is not a name out there that makes any sense right now. If the Preds fired Laviolette, you’d likely be looking at a Dan Muse or Dan Lambert interim, with almost no obvious path forward for the future. The likelihood of replacing Laviolette with someone just as bad (or worse) is just as likely as replacing him with someone better.
David Poile just doesn’t fire coaches
The next thing to consider is who is in charge here. David Poile just doesn’t fire that many coaches.
In his 36 years as a general manager, David Poile has only ever fired three head coaches. Of those, two came during the middle of season, both when he was with the Washington Capitals: Bryan Murray in 1989-90 and Terry Murray in 1993-94. The only other coach he fired was Barry Trotz, though technically Trotz wasn’t actually a firing. He wasn’t retained after the 2013-14 season, with Peter Laviolette being named the next coach of the Nashville Predators in May of that year.
NHL coach turnover is high, especially when the urgency to win is higher than it’s ever been. Most coaches only last two or three years on the job. To only fire three coaches in 37 years is incredible to think about.
Could Laviolette be the fourth? The track record says no.
The real root of the problem
Finally, is firing the coach going to change the fact that the Preds’ goaltenders have been the worst pairing in the NHL for over a month?
We’ve seen too many games this year with Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros simply not playing up to the level we expect. They can’t stop everything, but surely they should be expected to stop something, right? It’s been awful to watch them let in goal after goal.
It’s been said that bad goaltending gets coaches fired. All too often, one extended stretch of poor play in net can put a coach on the chopping block. Goaltending is probably the most important factor in any successful team and the most damning factor in any unsuccessful team.
But I think Poile is smart enough to know that firing a coach because his goalies cannot stop a beach ball would be a hasty move. No system or coaching change can improve a goaltender’s performance. If the goaltenders play like they should, this is a playoff team, and maybe even a good one.
GIF Me That Good Stuff
The best play of the week for the Nashville Predators and probably the early contender for goal of the year.
This is filthy from Matt Duchene. Absolutely filthy. #Preds
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) December 13, 2019
Preds Quote of the Week
“We need to invest more in the game, I thought [Colin Blackwell] invested a lot. He played the game hard, he was fast, he was attacking the game all night, he was physical, he was passionate… the [4th line] had a lot of purpose in their game.”
-Peter Laviolette on Colin Blackwell and the 4th line after Saturday night’s 4-1 loss to Dallas.
This quote continues to stand out in my mind. One of those “call your players out in the media without actually calling them out in the media” both because of the tone and the subject matter. He was livid after the game and this seemed directed at certain players who weren’t playing with the passion they needed to win.
Let’s Do That Hockey
A very important four game road trip. Also, mostly six o-clock Central starts!
- Monday, December 16th @ New York Rangers (6:00 PM; FS-TN)
- Tuesday, December 17th @ New York Islanders (6:00 PM; FS-TN)
- Thursday, December 19th @ Ottawa Senators (6:30 PM; FS-TN)
- Saturday, December 21st @ Boston Bruins (6:00 PM; FS-TN)
Ok, ready for some good news?
Here you go: the Nashville Predators finally have some good offensive talent in their pipeline.
Philip Tomasino and Yegor Afanasyev, two of the Preds’ picks in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, are absolutely tearing it up for their junior teams. Tomasino has 17 goals and 24 assists in 31 games for the Niagara Ice Dogs, and Afanasyev has 11 goals and 17 assists in 27 games for the Windsor Spitfires. Both players rank 2nd on their team in points, with Tomasino sitting at 15th overall in scoring in the OHL.
Here’s some nice plays to feast your eyes on. First, three goals by Tomasino, who put together a six point night back in October:
— Here’s Your Replay ⬇️ (@HeresYourReplay) October 5, 2019
And here’s a lethal snipe by Afanasyev off the faceoff for his 2nd goal of the game:
Here is Afanasyev’s 2nd goal of the night! pic.twitter.com/8VFr9UoJAg
— Windsor Spitfires (@SpitsHockey) December 13, 2019
While both of these players are at least a year or two away, with the way the team is playing, it’s nice to know that the Nashville Predators have something to look forward to in the pipeline.
By the way, if you want great up-to-date coverage of Preds’ prospects, be sure to give On The Future a follow on Twitter. Eric and the rest of the crew at On The Forecheck do a great job and they are nice folks too!
— Featured image via James Guillory/USA TODAY Sports —