A Look in the “Three-Year View” Mirror: Examining Peter Laviolette’s Teams In His Third Season Behind the Bench

After winning the Stanley Cup in 2018, the Washington Capitals followed the resignation of then-Head Coach Barry Trotz by promoting then-associate coach Todd Reirden to the top spot behind the bench. The two subsequent first-round exits resulted in Reirden being dismissed and replaced by veteran coach Peter Laviolette, who is now entering his third season in Washington.

While Laviolette’s first two seasons have also resulted in a first round postseason departure as well, a revamped Capitals roster this offseason headlined by free agent goaltender Darcy Kuemper to provide stability in goal makes the 57-year old Laviolette’s third campaign as the Caps’ bench boss one to watch.

In his storied NHL Head Coaching career, Laviolette has manned the bench of four other clubs. In this piece, we will take a look at his track record in his third season behind the benches of his past clubs (those that he coached for three or more seasons) as he enters Year no. 3 with Washington.

CAROLINA HURRCANES
Seasons Coached: 2003-04 to 2008-09
Third Season: 2006-07
Record (Regular Season): 40-34-8 (88 pts), 3rd in Southeast Division
Postseason Result: DNQ

Analysis: The 2006-07 season marked Laviolette’s third season and second full campaign behind the Carolina bench, coming after leading the ‘Canes to a Stanley Cup championship in the 2006 postseason. Despite entering the season as the defending champions, the Hurricanes missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2007, falling to a third-place finish in the Southeast Division, and ranking 17th (of 30) in Goals For, and 19th in Goals Against; in 2005-06 Carolina had been third and 18th, respectively, in those categories.

The Hurricanes averaged 2.94 Goals For per Game, while allowing an average of 3.02 Goals Against per Game.

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
Seasons Coached: 2009-19 (hired 25 games into the season) to 2013-14 (fired three games into the season)
Third Season: 2011-12
Record (Regular Season): 47-26-9 (103 pts), third in Atlantic Division
Postseason Result: Lost in five games to the New Jersey Devils in Second Round

Analysis: Much like his third season in Carolina, the 2011-12 season marked Laviolette’s third with the Flyers and second full campaign as the bench boss. Two seasons after leading the Flyers to the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals (in which they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks), Philadelphia finished third in the then-Atlantic Division, ranking third in the NHL in Goals For, while concluding the season in the bottom-tier in Goals Against (21st of 30). The Flyers’ power play finished above the league average in percentage points, while their Penalty Kill fell just below the average success rate of the rest of the league.

Philly averaged 3.17 For per Game, while allowing the opposition an average 2.74 Goals Against per contest, which ranked them 16th and 26th, respectively, amongst the NHL’s clubs. In the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Flyers advanced past the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games in the first round before falling to the eventual Eastern Conference champion New Jersey Devils in five games in the second round.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS
Seasons Coached: 2014-15 to 2019-20
Third Year: 2016-17
Record (Regular Season): 41-29-12 (94 pts), fourth in Central Division
Postseason Result: Lost 4-2 in Stanley Cup Finals

Analysis: The most recent team which Laviolette has coached three or more seasons, his third go-round behind the bench of the Nashville Predators finish 4th in the Central Division with 41 wins and 94 points, ranking 11th in Goals For and 15th in Goals Against. The Preds’ special teams were middle of the pack that season, with the power play percentage of 18.9% ranking Laviolette’s squad 16th, and the penalty kill’s 80.9% effectiveness landing them 15th in the league.

Nashville was among the upper-tier of the league’s teams in Goals For per Game, averaging 2.9 goals a game against their opponents, while the 2.68 Goals Against per contest placed them once again in the middle of the pack at 16th. Laviolette’s squad swept the Chicago Blackhawks in four games in the opening round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, before passing the St. Louis Blues in six games in Round 2. They also downed the Anaheim Ducks in six contests in the Western Conference Finals to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they met the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Despite drawing to within one game of sending the series to a decisive Game 7, the Pens downed the Preds 2-0 in Game 6 to capture their second consecutive Stanley Cup.

LOOKING AHEAD

Six seasons later, “Lavy” is entering his third season behind the bench of the Washington Capitals, who remain committed to capturing a second Stanley Cup in the Alex Ovechkin era with a veteran core that has not tasted second round postseason hockey in four years. With an infusion of talent into the roster and a stable goaltending situation, the Caps seem to be in a good place heading into the 2022-23 season. Two of Laviolette’s teams that he has manned the bench for in three or more seasons have reached the postseason, with one advancing to the Stanley Cup Final. Now comfortable with his players and familiar with each of their skillsets, it will be upon Laviolette to maximize each using his experience as a coach.

Stats provided by Hockey-Reference and NHL.com 

By Michael Fleetwood

About Michael Fleetwood

Michael Fleetwood was born into a family of diehard Capitals fans and has been watching games as long as he can remember. He was born the year the Capitals went to their first Stanley Cup Final, and is a diehard Caps fan, the owner of the very FIRST Joe Beninati jersey and since then, has met Joe himself. His favorite player became former Capital Nate Schmidt after he met Schmidt in a Hershey hotel while in Hershey PA to see the Bears play, shortly after Schmidt was injured during a conditioning stint. Michael is also a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Orioles, and enjoys photography, watching WildEarth TV's SafariLive live safaris, and watching animals in his spare time. (Photo by Adam Vingan in 2014 at the Capitals Development Camp).
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6 Responses to A Look in the “Three-Year View” Mirror: Examining Peter Laviolette’s Teams In His Third Season Behind the Bench

  1. Anonymous says:

    Third times a charm! Let’s go!

  2. steven says:

    Hate to be the downer but my faith in the HC is 0, yes zero. I dont see where he has produced any different results that Reardon did and just dont see him doing any different this year. HE may be comfortable coaching one way however the needs of the team come before his needs and he fails to understand that. With the improvements in the other teams in our division and the fact that we just squeaked into the playoffs last eyar I think it is going to be real hard for this team with this HC to, and that is if they make the playoffs, past the first round.

    • Lance says:

      I’m mixed on Lavi. He has gotten a lot out of the team in the regular season. They’re fun to watch. He’s not a pushover in any sense.

      What I can’t figure out is why he doesn’t seem to adjust to a more defensive style…occasionally or ever or as needed. Lavi’s game seems to be skate, skate, skte and create offense and interfere with the other team’s transition game. That works well a lot of the time. But sometimes you need a big, bruising defenseman or two back and guys blocking shots daring the other team to skate through the middle with the puck. The Caps don’t have Dmen like that now and they don’t seem to want them. I’ve watched hockey for 40+ years and that style seems to work really well at certain points of the playoffs.

      • steven says:

        Different styles at different times. However Lav seems to have found a style tht he likes and wond budge from it. A coach, in my opinion, is best when he molds the players not into what he wants but what is the best that the players can perform. I dont think that lav has that ability.

        • Lance says:

          Hi Steven, it seems like a lot of coaches stick to one approach. Trotz is big on the defensive game. Cooper in Tampa opens up the offense most of the time. Lavi pushes the offense. Part of it is personnel. Ovie isn’t gonna win any Selke’s. But sometimes you’ve gotta get the guys to rally in the D zone. That’s just hockey. Even the 1980s Oilers played defense occasionally. 😃

          • steven says:

            True, however the GM is responsible for seeing tht the coach can work with and make the players that he has signed better and that is not the case here. Both, from what I see are failures the last 3/4 years. And although there have been some good signings this summer there have also been bad ones like MoJo. When a team has obvious better adn younger players the GM has to make a stance with the HC about players and not pacify him with older useless players even if they accept little salary.

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