The Nashville Predators had just won the Western Conference championship, defeating the Anaheim Ducks in six games. Head coach Peter Laviolette looked calm and collected. He didn’t look like he had just carved out a piece of NHL history. As he sat at the podium following his team’s victory, Laviolette spoke in humble overtones. He didn’t trumpet his maturing legacy. Also, he focused on the Predators enjoying the franchise’s first trip to the Stanley Cup Final. Additionally, he was asked by a reporter to expand on his mindset after becoming just the fourth coach in NHL history to lead three teams to the Cup Finals. He deflected the attention with a joke.
Peter Laviolette joined Scotty Bowman, Dick Irvin and Mike Keenan in an elite coaching fraternity. However, what separates Laviolette from the legendary trio is the organizations that he guided to the Cup Finals. Sure, the Philadelphia Flyers (2010) is a traditional market and has a foundation to compete for Cups. But the Carolina Hurricanes, who claimed the 2006 title in a remarkable Cinderella-type story line. Let alone a team based in Tennessee? Now that’s coaching.
The fourth American-born coach to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup, Peter Laviolette started his journey in 1997 as head coach of the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers. An impressive playoff run boosted Laviolette’s coaching prospects. He was hired that off-season to coach the AHL’s Providence Bruins, a move which paid immediate dividends. In his first season, the club claimed the 1999 Calder Cup championship. It didn’t take long for the NHL to come calling. In 2000, the Boston Bruins elevated the Franklin, Massachusetts native to assistant coach. The apprenticeship lasted one season. After The Boston Bruins passed him over for their head coaching position, Laviolette took on the New York Islanders’ playoff-starved challenge. After missing the postseason for seven consecutive seasons, the rookie coach guided the Islanders to the playoffs during both seasons he served on Long Island.
His next stop in 2003 was Raleigh, North Carolina. A nontraditional market which unexpectedly became engulfed in a post-lockout Stanley Cup fever. The Nashville Predators gig isn’t turning out too bad, either. The community has taken a page from the Detroit Red Wings fans’ playbook. However, instead of throwing Octopus they have taken to throwing Catfish. At each level and in each market he has coached, Laviolette gets the most out of his players. Peter ignites a firestorm of community enthusiasm. His career playoff coaching mark is 64-54.
In his usual press conference style, he was calm and collected. Laviolette on Monday seemed to credit everyone for his success but himself. He said he was fortunate that Nashville Predators General Manager David Poile gave him a great group of guys in the locker room that he works with every day. All the while, fans and pundits began to understand one thing. Peter Laviolette is finally getting the respect and recognition that he truly deserves.