On September 15th, the Washington Capitals announced the hiring of former Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette as the 19th head in franchise history. Coming off of a disappointing 2019-20 season with the Predators, Laviolette looks to bring the Capitals back into the fray of Stanley Cup contending teams.
In this piece, we’ll take a look at team statistics under Laviolette in Nashville in order to get an idea of how teams perform year over year under his tutelage. Additionally, we’ll look at how teams perform in Laviolette’s first season as head coach.
Nashville’s Team Stats from 2014-15 to 2018-19
For the purposes of this post, we’ll take a look at the full seasons where Laviolette coached the Nashville Predators. All statistics provided here are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.
The Predators had their best season regarding expected goals for percentage in Laviolette’s first season in Nashville. For context, Nashville finished with 102 standings points, good for second in the strong Central Division, and sixth overall in the NHL.
Also, their expected goals for percentage of 54.29% during 5-on-5 play was good for second in the NHL, only trailing the New York Islanders by .09%. The success in the expected goals for percentage statistic translated to success in actual goals for percentage, where the Nashville Predators led the NHL with 56.85% goals for percentage during 5 on 5 play.
The Predators were always on the right side of 50% for expected goals for percentage, including in 2016-17 when Nashville advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals, but lost the series to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Predators generated more high danger goals for than their opposition in three of five years with Laviolette at the helm.
For context, in Laviolette’s last full season coaching the Predators in 2018-19, the Capitals finished 20th in the NHL with a 47.69% high danger goals for percentage compared to the Predators, who finished fourth in the league overall in this metric.
In the three year period from the 2015-16 season through the 2017-18 season, the Predators were 10th in the NHL for high danger goals for, where the Capitals were 12th.
Interestingly enough, although they were relatively close in high danger goals for percentage in this three year period, the Predators were 8th in the NHL in high danger chance for percentage with 51.73%, where the Caps were 23rd with 48.22%.
In fact, the Predators only gave up 1755 high danger chances against, the least in the NHL in that entire three season period (other than the Golden Knights, who came in the last of those three seasons), and the Capitals gave up 2137 high danger chances.
What it really comes down to is the Predators gave up far fewer high danger chances against, where the Caps closed the percentage gap by producing more high danger chances for. This is most likely due to the defensive system that the Predators and Laviolette installed in Nashville.
This is something to keep an eye on in the 2020-21 season, as the Capitals have really struggled with high danger chance against suppression, even when they led the NHL in standings points in that three season period.
The Predators are always a pretty sturdy possession team. Although they don’t have the high-end offensive talent up front that the Capitals do, with all due respect to Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, and Viktor Arvidsson, the Predators play a strong possession game. If the Capitals can improve there, they will have success.
Laviolette’s Team Performance in First Season
Now, let’s take a look at how teams perform in Laviolette’s first season as head coach. Here are his team’s records and season outcomes in Laviolette’s first season, courtesy of HockeyDB:
Overall, the best outcome in Laviolette’s first seasons as a coach with a team was in 2009-10 with Philadelphia, where he was hired mid-season to replace John Stevens on December 4th, 2009. The Flyers went all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals to be defeated by the Chicago Blackhawks.
In this case, it’s all about the context. In the 2000-01 season, the Islanders finished dead last in the NHL with 52 points, and a record of 21-51-7-3 (ties were a thing back then). When Laviolette took over the reins, the Islanders saw a jump up to 96 standings points, and finished second in the division to the Flyers by 1 standings point.
In the season prior to Laviolette taking over in Carolina, the Hurricanes finished 22-43-11-6 for 61 standings points, which was last overall in the NHL. When Laviolette took over the Hurricanes midseason, they were 8-8-8-6, and finished the season third in the Southeast Division with 76 points.
In 2008-09, the Flyers were second in the Atlantic Division with a 44-27-11 record, good for 99 points. Laviolette took over the team after the Flyers stumbled out to a 13-11-1 record in the 2009-10 season and finished with a record of 41-35-6. The improvement in the standings wasn’t present in this stint, but the Flyers went all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals.
In 2013-14, the Barry Trotz-led Predators finished the season 38-32-12 for 88 standings points and 6th in the Central Division. In the following season, Laviolette led the Predators to a 47-25-10 record and 104 standings points, good for second in the extremely strong Central Division. For context, the Central Division in 2014-15 featured four teams who finished with more than 100 standings points, and the last placed team in the division had 90 standings points.
Overall, teams saw improvements in their first seasons under Laviolette. He’s a solid coach who pushes success in the first three seasons of his tenures, which is makes the three year term on his contract with the Capitals perfect.
By Justin Trudel