After a three-week search, the Washington Capitals have found their new head coach. Peter Laviolette will be the Capitals’ 19th coach in franchise history and seventh of the Alex Ovechkin Era (15 seasons). For Ovechkin, Laviolette will be just the second coach he’s played under who had prior coaching experience in the NHL.
The news was first reported by Elliotte Friedman.
Hearing Peter Laviolette will be the next head coach in WASH
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) September 15, 2020
Update, 8:21 AM: Darren Dreger says it’s a three-year contract.
Peter Laviolette agrees to 3 year deal to coach the Washington Capitals.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) September 15, 2020
Update, 8:28 AM: We also have a rough idea of his salary, via Pierre LeBrun:
Laviolette still had another year left on his old Predators deal at $2.5 million. I’m told going forward the Caps are picking up all of that. Preds are off the hook. https://t.co/YbKiqTrQCe
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) September 15, 2020
Told that the deal is worth north of $4 M per year https://t.co/0o17lMtm2f
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) September 15, 2020
When Brian MacLellan fired Todd Reirden on August 23, the Capitals general manager cited his desire for a veteran head coach who could “push some buttons” after a second consecutive loss in the first round of the playoffs.
MacLellan added in a team release that the organization has “higher expectations for our team, and we felt a fresh approach in leadership was necessary.”
The fiery Laviolette would certainly fit that bill. The Franklin, Massachusetts native has coached a total of 1,210 games in the NHL during a 18-year coaching career that saw him behind the bench for the New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, Philadelphia Flyers, and Nashville Predators. His record is 637-425-25-123. Laviolette, who toiled in the minor leagues for most of his career, played 12 NHL games as a player, all for the New York Rangers during the 1988–89 season.
As a coach, Laviolette led the Carolina Hurricanes to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup in 2006. He also coached the Philadelphia Flyers (2009–10) and Nashville Predators (2016–17) to the Stanley Cup Finals on two other occasions. He’s only the fourth coach in NHL history to lead three different teams to the Stanley Cup Final.
The Nashville Predators fired Laviolette in January after the team was on the cusp of missing the playoffs. The team had abysmal special teams through January. The Capitals got permission from the Predators to interview Laviolette as the coach still has one year left on his contract.
“Under the leadership of Peter and Kevin, our organization reached unprecedented heights — from our franchise-altering run to the Stanley Cup Final to a Presidents’ Trophy and our first two Central Division titles,” Predators general manager David Poile said in a press release then. “Their passion for the game, ability to motivate a team and drive to be the best makes this a difficult decision. On behalf of the entire organization, I would like to thank Peter and Kevin for all their contributions to the Nashville Predators over the past five-and-a-half seasons.”
Laviolette was one of three apparent finalists for the Capitals job including Mike Babcock and Gerard Gallant. Former Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau also talked to the Capitals early on in the process according to The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir.
While Laviolette has turned teams around quickly, he also has a history of imperiling the offense of those clubs according to Micah Blake McCurdy.
Laviolette, incidentally (not incidentally) consistently and severely harms the offence of his teams. With a proper coach the Preds’d be cup faves or close. pic.twitter.com/ohgPwT0CuA
— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) November 29, 2019
Laviolette also has had some problematic interactions with players. Laviolette punched Ville Leino in the head while coaching the Flyers.
— coach sporps #blm (@OVECHKlN) August 31, 2020
“There are a lot of emotions in the game. Coaches get fired up and things happen.” Leino later told ESPN. “I don’t think Peter tried to hit me, and it looks worse in the video than it was… Peter was a very passionate and emotional coach. That made him good, but sometimes stuff like this happened. Nevertheless, it shouldn’t happen.”
Laviolette later explained to The Tennessean that” I was trying to get my team motivated and I went to punch my fist into my hand. I nicked the back of his helmet. By no means was it meant as any physical abuse nor have I ever had any physical abuse with a player.”
Daniel Carcillo also said that his former coach “was one of the guys that likes to be a ‘rah-rah’ guy, send you out to fight when you know that he never fought.”
Last night, we talked the #Preds recent slump, Kyle Turris getting back to the lineup, gave out a Kobyashi Maru, and spoke to @CarBombBoom13 in-detail about the abuse issues coming to light around hockey and more (starts at 16:05).
— The Neutral Zone (@NeutralZone1045) December 5, 2019
“First was a suggestion by (Carcillo) that I used my position of power inside of a locker room to bully or … challenge players to go out there and fight,” Laviolette said in response. “That couldn’t be further from the truth.”
The Capitals will hope that Laviolette’s passion can come out in a positive way and push the team to the next level after scuffling in the playoffs the two years after winning the Stanley Cup. Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are entering the twilights of their careers and this is the team’s last big chance to win the Stanley Cup again with the team’s current core.\
Update, 9:31 AM: The Capitals have made it official:
The Washington Capitals have named Peter Laviolette the team’s head coach, senior vice president and general manager Brian MacLellan announced today.
“Peter is a successful NHL head coach who has won a Stanley Cup and brings a wealth of experience to our team,” said MacLellan. “We feel he is a great communicator who will motivate our players to play with passion, structure and discipline, while helping our young players reach their potential. In addition, he is a high-character individual who is highly respected for his coaching pedigree, all of which make him the ideal person to lead our team to compete for the Stanley Cup.”
“I’m thankful and excited for the opportunity to lead this hockey club,” said Laviolette. “This is a winning organization with high expectations. I look forward to coaching this tremendous group of players and bringing my experience and vision to the team.”
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