NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Nearly a month after being hired to be the second head coach in the history of the Predators, Peter Laviolette was introduced to Nashville and its fans Sunday.
Laviolette was in Belarus preparing to lead Team USA in this year’s world championships on May 6 when Predators general manager David Poile announced that the 49-year-old Laviolette would take over the position that had been held by Barry Trotz since Nashville entered the NHL in 1998.
Several hundred fans listened to Laviolette speak and participate in a question-and-answer session Sunday. Fans cheered loudly when the subject of offense was mentioned.
“When you come to a market like this, you see so many great fans that are passionate about sports and they 100 percent get behind a team,” Laviolette said. “That was such a great feeling knowing that you are going to come to a city that represents their team like that and supports their team like that.”
Since hiring Laviolette, Poile has spoken of his history of coaching an up-tempo style of offense. Laviolette will look to generate production from a team that was in the bottom half of the NHL in goals scored during the 2013-14 season, averaging 2.61 a game.
With Shea Weber (23) and Roman Josi (13), the team’s top defensive pairing accounted for 36 of Nashville’s 214 goals scored this past season. Getting more goals from the team’s forwards will be one of Laviolette’s top challenges.
“I do see offensive potential in a lot of the forwards,” Laviolette said. “There’s a good mix and a good makeup of different personnel here. There’s a lot of character here. There’s a lot of work ethic here. There’s a good goaltending situation here.”
While leading Team USA in the world championship, Laviolette had the opportunity to coach two players from his new team in forward Craig Smith and defenseman Seth Jones.
With two goals and nine assists in eight games, Jones led all defensemen with 11 points. Smith had three goals and five assists.
Laviolette’s goal is getting the Predators back into the playoffs following two straight seasons of finishing outside of the Western Conference’s top eight teams. Laviolette guided the Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup title in 2006 and reached the finals as coach of the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010.
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