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.
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.
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.
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.
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