Recently, Nashville head coach Peter Laviolette joined rarefied air, along with Scotty Bowman, Dick Irvin and Mike Keenan, the only coaches in NHL history to take three different teams to the Stanley Cup Final. Bowman of course has been there with four.
Naturally each of these teams had to be talented. More often than not they were deep. But bottom line, regardless of natural abilities, the boys had to buy into what the coach was selling. It would appear “Lavvy” has the ability to make that sale.
His 2006 Carolina Hurricanes team was the first to win the Cup under the salary cap. Sure Eric Staal was extra good, as was a young Justin Williams and the “Wizard” Ray Whitney. Others had good years, like Erik Cole and Cory Stillman. Current Penguin Matt Cullen was on the team. But look at those six names. Blown away by the talent and skill as all time or nearly all-time greats? Some would argue the Ron Francis led and Paul Maurice coached edition of the Canes that lost to the Hall-of-Fame Detroit squad in 2002 was better and deeper than 2006 despite finishing with substantially less (pre-cap competition) points.
What brought everything together in 2006? Lavvy did, and he really did it during the playoffs.
His 2010 Philadelphia Flyers team finished seventh in the Eastern Conference. It featured Mike Richards and Jeff Carter and a powerhouse Chris Pronger along the blueline. The goaltending was suspect and injured at times, in fact, Lavvy was forced to use three different goalies during the playoffs that year including Johan Backlund. The others were Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton; he was in the net when the Final ended. Ray Emery had played 29 games that year before getting hurt. Not exactly the poster boys for stability.
Lavvy joined the team mid-season replacing John Stephens. He pulled everything together, especially during the playoffs.
And now? What do I need to say about getting everyone in Nashville to pull the same rope during the postseason? This team is threatening to win the Cup after finishing eighth in the east, sixteenth overall. They play fast, they play hard, they pressure the puck and they’re exciting as hell. This is the kind of hockey you want to watch. Pressure pucks, pressure pucks, pressure pucks. Not trapping pressure, skating pressure. It’s why the penalty kill has worked so well against the vaunted Pittsburgh power play thus far.
His lineup changes in Game three and four also paid off; more speed, more energy, more pressure. He added Parenteau and Zolnierczyk and took out Fiddler and McLeod.
Bottom line, Lavvy has everyone buying in, especially in the playoffs. Yes they have a strong d-corps, but this isn’t even close to being a team of world-beaters based on talent. Win or lose, a big reason they’ve come this far is because Laviolette has guided them here.
Three different teams to the Stanley Cup Final in eleven years under the salary cap:
I’m sold Lavvy, so are your players.