Ok, before you keep reading, take a deep breath. Have an adult beverage (if of legal age). What I’m about to say won’t be considered…popular. Ok. Are you ready?
Peter Laviolette should not be fired as the Nashville Predators’ head coach.
There…I said it, and I stand by it.
Sure, the Preds have lost 6 in a row and 8 out of their last 9, being outscored in those 9 games, 40-26, but teams go through through these stretches every year.
Now, I understand the premise of firing a head coach. You can’t fire a whole team or you make a move to shake things up, like changing goalies after your starter gives up 3 quick ones. But there’s one thing that no one can really, honestly say, and it’s that this team quits playing.
I’ve been watching this game for a long time. I’m by no means an expert. That’s evident by my style of writing where I tend to focus on everything but the X’s and O’s. I leave that to the amazing folks here. But in my time of watching this game (between watching the Stars when they came to Dallas to my move to Nashville), one thing is constant: if the team never gives up in horrible stretches, the head coach is not the problem. The Stars stopped listening to Ken Hitchcock in 2002 and that started some of the worst hockey I’ve ever seen.
That’s not the case here in Nashville. Tonight, for example, when you give a young, talented, “we-have-no-expectations-so-we’re-just-gonna-go-play” team like Vancouver SEVEN cracks on the man advantage, when you already have the worst penalty kill in the league, you will lose. Every. Time.
Just look at the penalties taken tonight: cross check, high stick, slash, slash, high stick, and holding. I have always referred to stick penalties as “lazy penalties” because they typically take place when a player loses position. Lazy players can’t fall on the head coach. The individual players need to look inside themselves and figure out what the issue is.
After the loss to the Canucks, Matt Duchene offered his take on the Preds current slide, “5 on 5, we’re great. We’re outshooting teams 2-to-1 and we’re getting 50 shots a game. But yeah, things aren’t bouncing our way right now, but at the same time, we’re not making things easy for ourselves.”
Conversely to the 5-on-5 point, the special teams for the Preds smell like something you’d drudge up from the bottom of the Cumberland. And, in most cases, it’s typically the assistant coaches who are in charge of the power play and penalty kills. Being dead last in power play percentage last year and at the bottom this year on the kill, perhaps the ire should be spread out to either ends of the bench instead. I don’t know what it is about the intangibles assistant coaches bring to hockey teams, but look what this team accomplished with Phil Housley on the bench.
Should there be changes? Absolutely. A full 1 1/4 seasons with having one aspect of special teams at the bottom with this roster is unfathomable. At any given time, this team has 3-4 potential number one defensemen in the lineup on the same night. The team has arguably 2-3 of the most creative play-making centers in the league and 2 of the most exciting, explosive wingers. The team is slumping. It happens. Eighty-two games is a lot of games and winning 2/3rds of the time is exceptionally rare (only 12 times in the history of the NHL has a team won 55 or more games, and the parity of teams is much more rare-Montreal 3 times, and Detroit, Edmonton, and Washington twice). When there are slumps, guys hold the sticks too tight, passes go bouncing off, posts get hit, pucks ricochet off shin pads. But there’s a reason why hockey players and coaches almost never use “I” or “me.” It’s gonna take 20 players and the coaching staff to come together and figure their way out of this.
And for those of you already screaming for Mike Babcock to become the new coach for the Preds. Do me a favor. Just don’t. Do not go there. Lavy’s not going anywhere. Not during the regular season, anyways.