DAVID POILE wanted to take his time and wait until at least June to officially replace the only coach the Predators have ever known.
But with four other NHL head coaching vacancies and windows closing fast, it did not take Poile long to realize he'd been working with his top candidate for months.
That's why Poile, son of the first Flyers general manager, Bud Poile, hired Peter Laviolette yesterday to be the second coach in the 16-year history of the Predators.
Laviolette, 49, was out of work since Oct. 7 after being fired by the Flyers three games into the season. According to reports, Laviolette signed a 5-year deal in Nashville worth an average of $2.5 million per season. His hiring relieved the Flyers of any obligations on Laviolette's multiyear contract.
Laviolette will bring longtime assistant coach Kevin "Kato" McCarthy with him. McCarthy was also with Laviolette on the bench with the Flyers and Hurricanes. Poile was already familiar with Laviolette, who spent a lot of time in Nashville prior to the Olympics while Poile picked the U.S. team. Laviolette served as an assistant coach under Dan Bylsma.
"I knew the timing was right, I knew the person was right, so we sped up our process," Poile told the Nashville Tennessean. "Subliminally, we already had a GM/coach relationship. With Peter Laviolette, in some form, I was interviewing him all year long."
Laviolette will replace Barry Trotz, the longest-tenured coach in hockey. Trotz was 557-479-160 for a .533 points percentage in 1,196 games with the expansion club from 1998-2014. This will Laviolette's first foray into the Western Conference, where he'll be asked to turn around an offense that hasn't featured a 30-goal scorer since 2009-10. The Predators' best season from one of their own drafted players is just 63 points from David Legwand in 2006-07.
In Nashville, however, Laviolette will have a puck-moving defense at his disposal that he sorely lacked for most of his tenure in Philadelphia. Shea Weber, Roman Josi and Michael Del Zotto roam the blue line in the Music City, where the Preds have qualified for the playoffs eight of the last 10 seasons.
"Being a perennial Stanley Cup contender requires buy-in, passion and commitment from every player on the roster,'' Laviolette said. "I can't wait to get to Nashville and get started on our journey."
Laviolette is 389-282-88 for a .570 points percentage in 759 games with the Islanders, Hurricanes and Flyers. He was 145-98-29 with the Flyers. In Carolina, another small-market town, Laviolette guided the Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup in 2006. His playoff track record is what piqued Poile's interest.
"I needed a coach that had a track record of winning, not only the regular season, but the playoffs," Poile said. "Peter has won nine of the 14 playoff rounds he's competed in. Peter is one of nine [active] coaches who has won a Stanley Cup. That's important for a young franchise, to bring that type of accomplishment to the organization."