The Washington Capitals announced on Tuesday morning that they have hired Peter Laviolette as the 19th head coach in team history. The team relieved Todd Reirden of his duties on August 24 after consecutive first-round exits in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. According to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, the Capitals signed Laviolette for three seasons at just under $15 million.
“I’m thankful and excited for the opportunity to lead this hockey club,” said Laviolette in a press release. “This is a winning organization with high expectations. I look forward to coaching this tremendous group of players and bringing my experience and vision to the team.”
In 1,210 career NHL games, the 55-year-old has gone 637-425-123 (.588 points percentage) with the Nashville Predators, Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes, and New York Islanders. He is 75-68 (.524 winning percentage) in 143 Stanley Cup Playoff games and took the Predators to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017 and the Flyers to the Final in 2010 after winning the Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006. He also led the Predators to their first Presidents’ Trophy in 2018.
During his tenure, the Predators’ 2.63 goals-against per game ranked fifth in the NHL, 2.94 goals-per-game was tied for eighth, and 80.7% penalty-killing percentage was tied for 15th. Though, their 17.8% power-play efficiency under Laviolette was 28th. He has been nominated for the Jack Adams Award twice.
The Predators fired Laviolette and assistant coach Mike McCarthy on January 6 after the team started 19-15-7.
Laviolette was the second head coach in Predators’ history after Barry Trotz coached 15 seasons there. Trotz was the Capitals’ head coach from 2014-18.
Reirden was hired by the Pittsburgh Penguins as an assistant coach on September 1.
After Reirden was fired, MacLellan expressed the need for an “experienced coach” and “one who will press some buttons.” He felt like the culture “was starting to slip a little bit.”
The Capitals ended the regular-season by going 19-16-3, including 8-9-3 in their final 20 games, before the NHL paused due to COVID-19 after a 26-6-5 start to the season. Their average of 3.44 goals-against per game after December 22 was the most of any of the 24 qualifying round teams. The Capitals arguably came up short of expectations in Reirden’s first two seasons as head coach, falling in the first round to teams they should have beaten and getting outplayed and, some argue, out-coached in both series. Reirden did not want to discuss his job security after the team’s 4-0 season-ending loss in Game 5 against Trotz’s Islanders.
The team scored just eight goals in five games against the Islanders after averaging 3.42 goals-per-game during the regular season, second in the NHL, and allowed an average of 3.07 goals-per-game, 18th. In addition, the Capitals’ power-play failed to live up to its potential under Reirden as their 20.1% power-play efficiency over his two seasons were tied for 15th. However, the penalty-kill performed well under Reirden as it was 12th with an 80.7% efficiency.
Under Laviolette this season, the Predators ranked sixth in the NHL with an average of 3.44 goals-per-game but 24th with an average of 3.27 goals-against per game. A year after their power play was last in the league, the Predators were 24th with a 16.8% efficiency this season at the time he was fired. Their 74% penalty-killing rate on January 6 was 29th in the league, ahead of only the Detroit Red Wings (73.6%) and Winnipeg Jets (71.6%).
Laviolette is the first coach the Capitals have ever hired to have won the Stanley Cup as a head coach before coming to Washington.
The Capitals also reportedly interviewed former Vegas Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant and ex-Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock for the job.
The Washington Capitals have named Peter Laviolette the team’s head coach, senior vice president and general manager Brian MacLellan announced today.
“Peter is a successful NHL head coach who has won a Stanley Cup and brings a wealth of experience to our team,” said MacLellan. “We feel he is a great communicator who will motivate our players to play with passion, structure and discipline, while helping our young players reach their potential. In addition, he is a high-character individual who is highly respected for his coaching pedigree, all of which make him the ideal person to lead our team to compete for the Stanley Cup.”
“I’m thankful and excited for the opportunity to lead this hockey club,” said Laviolette. “This is a winning organization with high expectations. I look forward to coaching this tremendous group of players and bringing my experience and vision to the team.”
Laviolette, 55, becomes the 19th head coach in Capitals history and brings 18 years of NHL head coaching experience to the organization, having previously coached the New York Islanders (2001-03), the Carolina Hurricanes (2003-08), the Philadelphia Flyers (2009-13) and the Nashville Predators (2014-20). Laviolette compiled a career coaching record of 637-425-25-123, ranks second in wins among U.S. born coaches and 16th most in NHL history.
Laviolette became the fourth American-born coach to win the Stanley Cup in 2006 with Carolina. In his career, Laviolette has led 11 teams to postseason appearances and has an overall record of 75-68 in the playoffs. Laviolette is the fourth coach in NHL history to lead three different teams to the Stanley Cup Final (Carolina: 2006; Philadelphia: 2010; Nashville: 2017), joining Dick Irvin, Scotty Bowman and Mike Keenan.
Laviolette-coached teams have consistently ranked well offensively and defensively. In 13 full seasons, his teams have ranked in the top 10 in goals seven times. In six seasons with Nashville, Laviolette led the Predators to 248 wins. In his first season in Nashville in 2014-15, the Predators improved by nine wins and 16 points in the standings, with Laviolette and his staff representing the team at the All-Star Game. In the spring of 2017, the Laviolette-led Predators became the third club seeded lowest in its conference to advance to the Stanley Cup Final since the League adopted the conference-based playoff format in 1994. The club followed that up with the best record in franchise history (53-18-11, 117 points), a Presidents’ Trophy and a Central Division title in 2017-18. In six seasons under Laviolette, the Predators ranked fourth (excluding Vegas) in the NHL with a 52.1 shot attempt percentage at five-on-five (19,082 shot attempts for, 17,565 against). Additionally, Nashville was tied with Los Angeles for the least amount of goals against in the NHL (1,051) in his five full seasons.
With each of his previous NHL coaching stops, the team saw an overall improvement from their season prior to his arrival. The Islanders finished with 96 points and the eighth-best record in the League in 2001-02 after finishing the previous season 30th in the NHL with 52 points. In 2005-06, Laviolette’s first full season with the Hurricanes, Carolina finished with 112 points and captured the Stanley Cup after finishing with 76 points the year prior. With Philadelphia, the Flyers improved to 106 points in 2010-11 after finishing with 88 points in 2009-10. Laviolette led the Predators to 104 points in his first season in 2014-15 from 88 points the season prior.
Internationally, Laviolette has coached Team USA at the World Championship in 2004, 2005 and 2014. He has also represented his country in four Olympic Games, first as a player in the 1988 Calgary Games and the 1994 Lillehammer Games, then as a head coach at the 2006 Torino Games, and as an assistant at February’s 2014 Sochi Games.
After recording 268 points (78g-190a) in 594 minor-league games in the American and International hockey leagues (Indianapolis, Colorado, Denver, Flint, Binghamton, Providence and San Diego) from 1986-97, and appearing in 12 games for the New York Rangers in 1988-89, Laviolette began his coaching career with the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers in 1997. After posting a 37-24-9 record and reaching the conference finals in his rookie coaching season, he was hired as head coach of the AHL’s Providence Bruins, and led the team to an AHL-best 56-16-4-4 record and a Calder Cup in 1998-99, just one season after the team had gone 19-49-7-5 and finished last in the league. Following the 1999-2000 season, the 1999 AHL Coach of the Year was promoted to assistant coach of the parent Boston Bruins, which he held for a single campaign (2000-01) before starting his NHL head coaching career with the Islanders in 2001-02.
A native of Franklin, Mass., and graduate of Westfield State College, Laviolette and his wife, Kristen, have three children – sons Peter and Jack, and daughter Elisabeth.
By Harrison Brown