Laviolette, who will join Washington on a three-year deal, has 18 years of NHL head coaching experience with the New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, Philadelphia Flyers and Nashville Predators. He has led three teams to the Stanley Cup finals — the Predators in 2017, Flyers in 2010 and Hurricanes in 2006 — and won the Cup with Carolina.
“Peter has a track record of establishing a culture, and it’s one of his priorities,” Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan said during an online news conference Tuesday. “And part of that culture is getting guys to play the right way and holding them accountable to play the right way. I think it’s a big priority when you talk to him, so I have confidence, because he’s done it in the past, and it’s a priority the way he speaks about it, the way he communicates about it.”
When MacLellan described what the organization wanted in its next coach on the day of Reirden’s firing, the word he emphasized was “experience.” The Capitals needed a veteran coach who could get immediate results from a veteran group. Laviolette, MacLellan reiterated Tuesday, exemplifies just that.
Laviolette became the first coach in franchise history to arrive in Washington with a Stanley Cup on his résumé.
“I look at it as a great opportunity,” Laviolette said of coming to Washington. “You have a terrific cast of talent that’s big and strong and can play the game aggressive and has a chance to be successful on a nightly basis. For me, it’s an incredible opportunity. I can’t speak from experience working with this group because I haven’t been there yet, obviously. But I am excited to get in there and start to work with them and build something special.”
The organization wanted — and needed — a coach who can push the players, hold them accountable when they aren’t at their best and reset the team’s culture. Laviolette, now with his fifth NHL organization as coach, will have his shot with an aging core that isn’t getting younger.
Laviolette said he has yet to speak to Alex Ovechkin but is looking forward to coaching the captain and the rest of the veteran group. He said he still needed to reach out to staffers and coaches before making any decisions about assistant coaching changes.
Washington, which won the Stanley Cup in 2018, was searching for a coach who could get the most out of the team now. Laviolette has been known to find success early in his coaching tenures, which matches up with Washington’s needs.
“I see a team that’s had success recently, regular season success, some postseason success, and for me that’s the great opportunity,” Laviolette said. “I don’t necessarily look at it and say, ‘Well, it’s got to happen this year or it’ll never happen.’ I’m excited to go in and be here and be a part of this and add any layer that I can as a coach to try and help (us) get to that next step.
“So it’s kind of a difficult question for me. If you’re asking me, ‘What do I see?’ I don’t look at it that way and say, ‘Well, it’s next year or nothing.’ I look at it and say, ‘This is just a great opportunity, and I can’t wait to get started.’ ”
In his first full year with Carolina, he led the Hurricanes to a Stanley Cup, beating the Edmonton Oilers in the finals in seven games.
Laviolette was fired by the Predators in January after a disappointing first half of the season. He had been Nashville’s coach since 2014-15 season and compiled a 248-143-60 record with the team, which included a run to the 2017 Stanley Cup finals. He also led the Predators to the Presidents’ Trophy in 2017-18
“The freshness of coming into a team that I haven’t been in before always excites me just because it’s not only new to them but it’s new for me as well and it’s a chance for really a group to start on Page One on Day One and to build something that could be really, really good,” Laviolette said.
The Capitals also interviewed Mike Babcock and Gerard Gallant for the job. Bruce Boudreau, Washington’s former coach, was also linked to conversations about the opening.
Babcock was fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs in late November, and soon after reports surfaced that accused him of mistreating players and using psychological intimidation as a motivating tactic, concerns that would need to be addressed if he returned to the NHL. Babcock was Detroit’s coach when the Red Wings won a Stanley Cup in 2008 and was the coach of Team Canada when it won gold at the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics.
Gallant led the Vegas Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup finals in their inaugural season, when they lost to the Capitals in 2018. Gallant, who is considered a players’ coach, was fired in January after only 2½ seasons at the helm.
“To be a coach and to be able to be on the inside and be a part of that and watch something like that happen, that’s what coaching is all about for me,” Laviolette said. “So coming to Washington, that’s my priority is to try and build something where when the players take the ice they truly feel like they’re invincible.”
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