Head Coach Peter Laviolette Introduced to the Nashville Media

Thursday, 05.08.2014 / 3:50 PM / News
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Head Coach Peter Laviolette Introduced to the Nashville Media
Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette addressed the media for the first time on Wednesday via conference call from Minsk, Belarus where he is coaching the United States at the 2014 World Championship. Here\u2019s what he had to say:

Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette addressed the media for the first time on Wednesday via conference call from Minsk, Belarus where he is coaching the United States at the 2014 World Championship. Here’s what he had to say:

Opening Remarks…
Let me first start by saying I wish I was there [in Nashville]. I’m glad I’m here [in Belarus], but I would have liked to have been there and done this in person and taking these questions and handling them up front. I’ll be happy to do that in the near future once I return and make my trip into Nashville. I’m really, really excited about this opportunity. The one thing about coaching that, I think, you learn the most is that when you’re out, you recharge and you refresh and you’re eager to get back in and start over. I’m really looking forward to this and really thankful for the ownership in Nashville, and certainly David Poile, for the time we spent together in the last year, for him reaching out and to trust me to be the coach of the Nashville Predators. Again, this is something I’m really looking forward to and I’m anxious to get started.

On why he chose Nashville over all of the other open positions…
My relationship with David prior to the Olympics once I got named to the U.S. team, of course I knew him before that and he knew me, but we spent a lot of time talking over the phone and in meetings. The opportunity to get to work with a first-class general manager, and one of the best in the League, that’s appealing to me.

The organization has a terrific fan-base and the building has a great environment that comes with playing hockey games there. I’m really anxious to coach in that building and for those fans and for the players that are there. I’m excited about all of that as well. I think the team as well, they’ve got some terrific players in place, some young, promising players in place. They’re a team that just missed making the playoffs this past year so I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to try and get them back into that and being able to compete for the Stanley Cup.

On whether or not he looked at the Nashville roster before talking to David about the position or after…
I think that with being in the League and looking at the teams, you have a general idea of the roster and what they have, maybe not to the depth that you do once you really examine it. Even after you examine it, I find that the best way to learn about players is to actually get on the ice and coach them or be behind the bench and work with them. That’s when you really learn more about players. I’ve got my work do to in order to get up to speed on the entire team. It’s easy to pick the big names and understand what they’re capable of doing on the ice, but I’d like to have a better understanding of the entire organization before I come to camp. My work is just beginning, and I’ll have a better handle, I think, once I approach training camp and certainly through training camp.

On what issues come along with coaching in a non-traditional market like Carolina and what he knows about not only coaching in Nashville but being a part of the community…
I think they’re similar markets. My wife and I, from a non-hockey point of view, are really excited to become part of the Nashville community. We have been embraced and have embedded ourselves in every city where we have been.

My oldest son is a West Virginian, my second son is a Rhode Islander, my daughter, who is 12 years old, is a Long Islander, so she’s a New Yorker, my dog is a North Carolinian and our turtle is a Philadelphian. I really don’t want to add to my family right now, we’re good. We’re at a stage where we are in a good spot. We’re just looking to come to Nashville and enjoy it, not add to the family.

I think one of the things my wife and I have done everywhere we’ve been, and we made this pact a long time ago, is that we would not separate and we would not keep the kids somewhere else or be split apart. We would go to whatever community it was and we would 100 percent buy into the team, the fans, the players and the community. It’s important for us to do that, and when you’re able to build something special, and we had that opportunity in Carolina, it’s so meaningful. It really is, because you feel like you were a part of it, you didn’t just steer it, you were actually a part of what the community was able to give, and the players, and their families and the fans. That’s what really makes being successful special.

On characterizing the system he plays…
I always want to be careful when I answer questions when I’m taking over a job. I’m following one of the top coaches in the League in Barry Trotz. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and what he was able to do there in Nashville. I know that I’ve got my work cut out for me because he’s a terrific coach. Anything that I say moving forward is not a knock on what has not happened in the past.

I do think that every coach has an identity, or a belief, in how the game should be played. Ultimately that’s what can make a team successful, if the coach has an identity that he can believe in and he can instill that in the players and they can perform to the best of their abilities and the team can be successful. In saying that, and I guess the simplest way, when I was talking to David to try and describe it, there was a thought that you can play the game moving forward, checking forward, taking up time and space the whole time, or being a little bit more layered and protective. I don’t want to characterize what I hope to do as reckless, because it’s led to success at different levels and I fully believe in it, but to sum it up, I guess it would be moving forward. Instead of sending one man, you send two men.

When my family and I got to a community, we do our best to get involved in all aspects, and that, to me, is what makes it special. If the community, the fans and the players are involved and the organization is involved and supportive then it’s building something that really is special. When you actually experience the success, it really reaches a pinnacle and not just from a trophy point of view, but you’re actually able to pull everything together and believe in one thing. That’s the feeling that I think a lot of people left with, including myself, when Carolina won a championship. It was the experience.

I think Sports Illustrated picked Carolina to finish last. I think it was a mistake, I think when Sports Illustrated was going through the hockey pools and picking teams to win the Stanley Cup, we were 29th in the league, and I remember the last line said ‘feel free to make them 30th’. When it started to build, you have that experience to do something special and make everybody feel like they’re a part of it before the ending comes.

On moving to the Western Conference after coaching teams in the Eastern conference…
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I’m experienced in the West, because I’m not, in the sense that my teams have been from the East. That doesn’t mean when you’re in the East, you don’t play teams from the West. We don’t plan differently when we’re in North Carolina or Philadelphia than when we’re in Nashville. There is routine that you go through when you’re with your club. When you’re preparing them for your opponent, you do your best to make small changes to your identity and your game plan to fit the opponent. So while I may not be as familiar with Phoenix as I was in Philadelphia with the Rangers, I feel like those are learned traits that when we approach a game, our team will be well prepared and ready to play those games. Even in regard to the travel or the arenas, I’m not as well versed in the West as I am in the East, but I’ve been there and I’ve done it before. I don’t really see it being a problem.

On the key to improving teams as quickly as he has during the first full season everywhere he has been…
I don’t have an answer. I’m not really sure. I can tell you that I believe in a certain style, and I believe in a certain identity. I’ve coached enough games at different levels, not just the National Hockey League, but in the East Coast Hockey League and the American Hockey League or the Deutschland Cup for USA Hockey in November, or the Olympics. I have a really strong belief for what I want to do to prepare a team for a season or for a game. I’ve fortunate to have coached in some great places, coach some great players, and coach for some great people. Those teams have found some pretty good success. I don’t really have an answer for you, I’m just fortunate for those opportunities that I got.

On describing the identity and characteristics that he wants to have…
I’d like a team that works hard together. I’d like a team that is on the attack, and that’s looking to move forward and turn pucks over and create offense from that. I want it done in a responsible way, and not a reckless way. Usually, I would love to go into a training camp trying to get a team to work hard and play an aggressive game. It’s been my experience that if you are able to get that message across and get that identity across then you can achieve success. That’s what I hope to do and what I plan to do.

On having the chance to talk with the players yet…
Well I can tell you that I talked to two, because they’re on my team [for the World Championship]. That was good. We were in the lobby about an hour ago and I saw Pekka Rinne, so that was my third. Of course I’m over here with Phil Housley and Lawrence Feloney so I’m getting an opportunity to work with those guys as well. The way that things happened as it approached the World Championship, and now that I’m over here, it’s been a little bit difficult doing that, but I certainly plan to spend the time catching up when I get back home.

On what the name of his turtle is…
My daughter is going to be excited that you asked that question. My turtle’s name is Frank. Frank was given to us by my sister’s son, my nephew, and I like the life of a coach, but man, you move a lot. When we got the turtle he was the size of a quarter, and when I looked it up online I found out they grow to be the size of a dinner plate. In the coaching profession it’s good to be mobile, and being able to move from place-to-place. I was thinking to myself, what are we doing with this turtle…why is this turtle ours? Our daughter insisted that I love this turtle and that it’s part of the family, so the turtle’s name is Frank.

On what he’s noticed about Seth Jones and Craig Smith after scouting and coaching them for Team USA…
Well, to be honest, I spent a lot of time watching Seth when I was in Nashville for a game and then in Pittsburgh for another game. The focus was on Seth at that time. I noticed a terrific, young defenseman that can skate, move the puck and have great escapability from trouble in the back end. He has a great presence about him on the ice, and a good stick. That’s exciting. He’s a young player in the National Hockey League and that position is very tough. He handled himself extremely well in his first year. I’m looking forward to continuing his development and growth.

When I was watching games for the Olympics I wasn’t watching systems or teams. My focus was on the player I was going to watch. Seth has been terrific over here. He’s a young player who I see still has more potential and more upside in his game already. He’s a great skater and has great stick-handling skills. We’ve played one game since we’ve been over here so far, and it’s been tough because of the travel and the time zones. We’ve only had three practices and a game. I can’t tell you that there are huge evaluations on these players after the time zones and the travel so far. Just watching them on the ice, I think there is a lot of potential.

We played the game against Germany last night, and Craig had a great night. He was on the top line with Tyler Johnson and Brock Nelson. That line was a really strong force. They scored some goals, and I think Craig hit the post in the third period. You can just tell that he has some dynamic offensive upside to him.

On getting fired three games into a season, and if it caused him to reevaluate his system…
When coaches come and go, it’s difficult to always understand why or agree or disagree with them. It’s just one of those professions where those things happen. It’s always best, in my position or situation, to look forward and hope that there is another opportunity or chance to get back in. I said this before, and I don’t mean it to sound cocky or egotistical, but I 100 percent believe in how I want to prepare a team and how I think the game should be played. From that point of view, I want to take what I know and move forward. I want to try and get that identity instilled into the team, and watch our team grow.

On what he looks forward to in coaching Shea Weber
There are a lot of things to notice and love about Shea on the ice. He’s another player who has a tremendous presence on the ice. He is able to consume a lot of minutes for your team. His size and his capabilities when playing against other top players along with the amount of minute she’s able to play up and down the lineup is amazing. The potential that he is able to bring with the numbers that’s he’s put up because of his skills, shot and power play. To be able to work with a player of his caliber is really exciting for me.

On what makes players say that they enjoy playing for him…
I’m sure I could find a few who didn’t like playing for me. You know, I’ve had such an unbelievable experience with being able to meet and work with extraordinary talent, and meet great people along the way. Some players didn’t have extraordinary talent, but they were a great person. Those are experiences as a coach that you will truly value forever. I think back to some of the players that I have been able to make friendships and relationships with them and their families, and being able to watch them. You get a job in Nashville as a head coach and you get texts back from a player who you’ve met along the way and that’s what’s great about sports and a team environment –you can form relationships that last a lifetime. That’s a great part of my job.

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