Nashville general manager David Poile thought he made the key moves to win the Stanley Cup. With the Predators struggling to keep pace in the playoff chase, he fired coach Peter Laviolette on Monday despite winning a Presidents’ Trophy and back-to-back Central Division titles.
Assistant coach Kevin McCarthy also was dismissed. The Predators (19-15-7) have dropped four of five heading into Tuesday night’s game against the Boston Bruins. They are 11th in the Western Conference standings with 45 points.
There was no word on a replacement for either coach, but the Predators scheduled a news conference for Tuesday morning. Poile praised their work in a release.
“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,” he said. “Their passion for the game, ability to motivate a team and drive to be the best makes this a difficult decision.”
The 55-year-old Laviolette went 248-143-60 in 5 1/2 seasons with Nashville, reaching the playoffs each of his first five seasons. The Predators lost to Pittsburgh in six games in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. They won the Presidents’ Trophy and made it to the second round of the playoffs in 2018. They were eliminated in the first round a year ago.
Poile traded away defenceman P.K. Subban, Nashville’s highest-paid player, and signed free-agent forward Matt Duchene to a $56 million, seven-year contract on July 1. But the Predators sputtered through the first half of this season. They hadn’t won more than two straight games since a four-game streak in late October.
This marks the sixth NHL coaching change of the season.
Laviolette was just the second coach in Predators history. Barry Trotz was behind the bench for the organization’s first 15 seasons, with Nashville simply allowing his contract to expire.
Before coming to Nashville, Laviolette coached the New York Islanders (2001-03), Carolina Hurricanes (2003-09) and Philadelphia Flyers (2009-14). He has 637 wins over 18 years as an NHL coach.
He coached the Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup championship in 2006 and reached the Stanley Cup Final with Philadelphia in 2010.
The Predators are 5-3-2 over their last 10 games, which includes blowing a lead in the franchise’s first appearance in the Winter Classic last week in Dallas.
Nashville ranked last in the NHL last season on the power play and brought in Dan Lambert as an assistant to help improve that area. Currently, the Predators rank 24th in the league, converting just 16.8% of power plays. The Predators are even worse on the penalty kill — 29th out of 31 teams, killing 74% of penalties.
They rank sixth in the NHL with an average of 3.44 goals per game, but the Predators have struggled to hold leads while giving up goals in bunches.