clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Caps Coach Candidates: Peter Laviolette

Taking a look at potential options to fill the Caps’ coaching vacancy; next up, a seasoned NHL head coach and one-time Cup winner.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

San Jose Sharks v Nashville Predators Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images

With the Caps and Todd Reirden having parted ways, the search is on for the next bench boss - so we’re taking a look at some of the possible candidates, what they bring to the table, and where they might come up short. Up next? Long-time NHL bench boss and one-time Stanley Cup winner Peter Laviolette.

Early Career

Peter Laviolette, who was born and raised in Franklin, Massachusetts, began his hockey career at Westfield State College in Westfield, MA. He spent the majority of his professional career with various minor league teams, including the Binghamton Rangers and Providence Bruins. He played 12 games with the New York Rangers during the 1988-1989 season. He also represented the United States at the Winter Olympics twice, once in 1988 and again in 1994 when he was captain of the team.

Laviolette’s first coaching job was as head coach of the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers in 1997-1998. Next season he moved to the AHL, where he coached the Providence Bruins to a Calder Cup Championship and was named AHL Coach of the Year.. After one more year in Providence, he moved up to the big leagues in Boston as an assistant coach.

NHL Coaching Record

Peter Laviolette has made four stops in his NHL head coaching career to date, each with varying levels of success - let’s break it down.

After not being promoted to head coach in Boston, Laviolette left the Bruins organization to take over as head coach of the New York Islanders in 2001. He took a struggling Islanders team that had finished at or close to the bottom of their division for seven straight seasons and turned them into a bit of a contender. He also led the Islanders to back-to-back playoff appearances after they missed seven postseasons in a row. However, the team made first round exits both years and after just two seasons on Long Island, GM Mike Milbury fired Laviolette.

Next stop: five(ish) seasons and a Stanley Cup in Raleigh, North Carolina. After the Carolina Hurricanes fired Paul Maurice, their coach of nine seasons, in December of 2003, they brought in Laviolette. He coached 52 games in that first season, a rebuilding year in Carolina, and went 20-22-6-4. Next season, however, was a completely different story; with a newly revamped roster, Laviolette’s Hurricanes took the Southeast Division by storm and won it with 112 points (52-22-8). The team had six 20+ goal scorers, including 21-year-old Eric Staal who tallied a career-high 45 goals and 100 points. During the 2006 postseason, Laviolette coached the Canes to the franchise’s first and only Stanley Cup in 25 games, including two very tight seven-game series against the Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers. Laviolette was the runner-up for the 2006 Jack Adams Award for NHL Coach of the Year, losing the closest vote ever recorded for the award 155-154 to Lindy Ruff.

Fun fact: the same season Peter Laviolette coached the Hurricanes to a Stanley Cup, he also coached the US men’s hockey team at the 2006 Winter Olympics.

After his first full season with Carolina, things went a bit downhill for Laviolette. The 2006-2007 Hurricanes were riddled with injuries and struggled to finish third in their division. Next season saw a rough start, but a mid-season hot streak propelled them to a solid division lead. However, the Washington Capitals had the hot sticks at the end of the season and, combined with a bad final stretch for the Canes, knocked Carolina out of a playoff spot. Despite bringing the Stanley Cup to Raleigh just three seasons prior, Laviolette was fired as head coach in November of 2008 the Canes missed the playoffs two seasons in a row and got off to an unmotivated start in 2008.

One year later, Laviolette began his third NHL head coaching job when the Philadelphia Flyers brought him on, replacing John Stevens in December of 2009. Laviolette coached the Flyers to their third consecutive postseason appearance that year, which included a gutsy conference semi-final series against the Boston Bruins. The Flyers became the third team in NHL history to come back from a 3-0 series deficit and advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they were defeated by the Blackhawks. Laviolette’s next three seasons in Philly, while not reaching the same level of playoff success as his first year, were okay. He coached a rookie Sergei Bobrovsky in 2010-2011, made improvements to the Flyers’ power play, and led Philly to two more postseason appearances before finishing six points out of a playoff spot in the 2012 lockout-shortened season. However, the slow but steady downward trend was hard to ignore and three games into next season, he was fired. Since his first full season in Philly (2010-2011), Laviolette won 117 games, which was 10th-most in the NHL.

Last stop on the Laviolette head coaching job train: the Nashville Predators. The Preds hired Laviolette to replace Barry Trotz, the only coach the 15-year-old franchise had ever known. He found plenty of success in his first season in Nashville, coaching the team to a 47-25-10 record. They set a new franchise record home win streak of nine games and Laviolette was invited to coach one of the teams at the 2015 NHL All-Star Game. They finished second in the Central Division and started what would be a five-year playoff appearance streak for Laviolette’s Predators. Under his leadership, the Preds had the best seasons in franchise history, including advancing to the Cup Final in 2017 and winning the 2017-2018 President’s Trophy. However, that was not enough to keep him in Nashville. The consensus was that he got complacent in his coaching and was unable to motivate a somewhat stagnant team. Nashville’s power play struggled for a season and a half, their penalty kill got stale and predictable, and they were having trouble in net. Laviolette could not bring the team out of their funk, and he was fired just days after the Predators’ blew a two-goal lead over Dallas Stars in the 2020 Winter Classic.

Before and After

So let’s look at his career in context: how did each team do before Laviolette’s arrival and after?

Laviolette made some form of improvement over his predecessor in each of his four stops as a head coach in the NHL. He has a knack for taking struggling teams and snapping them into shape.

There is no denying the improvements Laviolette made on Long Island. The 2000-2001 Islanders went 21-51-7-3 for a points percentage of .317, but next season with Laviolette at the helm the team went 42-28-8-4 and finished with a points percentage of .585. Specifically, he revamped their offense and took their goals-for from 185, ranked 29th in the league, to 239, ranked sixth. There wasn’t a marked difference for the Islanders immediately after Laviolette was relieved of his coaching duties, but they did trend in a gradually negative direction until the 2011-2012 season.

The narrative for the years before and after Laviolette’s tenure in Carolina is pretty similar. He took over a struggling and rebuilding Canes team midseason after a pretty miserable season and a half with Paul Maurice. Next season, his first full one in Raleigh, he...oh that’s right, he coached the Hurricanes to a whopping 112 points in the regular season and their first Stanley Cup. The real kicker here was, as with the Islanders, the improvements Laviolette made to their offensive production; the Canes ranked dead last in goals-for two seasons in a row with 171 and 172, but in Laviolette’s first full season they ranked third in the league and scored a whopping 294 goals. After Maurice was brought back on to replace Laviolette in 2008, the Canes were able to maintain their level of success and strength of play for the rest of the season before experiencing a bit of a dip in offense and a bigger dip in defense for the next few years.

Laviolette’s effect in Philadelphia is a bit of a different story. He inherited a relatively strong Philly team that got off to a rough start in 2009 and helped them turn their season around, ultimately reaching the Stanley Cup Final. Their defense improved slightly, but their offensive production actually declined that year. In his first full season he brought the Flyers back to their high level of offense while also continuing to strengthen their defense. After Laviolette’s departure just three games into the 2013-2014 season, the Flyers did not look too worse for wear. They managed to rebound from their tough lockout-shortened season with Laviolette and found their way back to the postseason. However, the team lacked consistency; they had a series of up and down years and have not managed consecutive playoff appearances since Laviolette’s time as coach.

Finally, on to Nashville. The Predators had been relatively successful under Barry Trotz but suffered two dud years at the end of his tenure, missing back-to-back postseasons for the first time in nine years. Enter Peter Laviolette, who sparked some offense, revamped the defense, and took the Preds back to the playoffs. The big struggle for Laviolette in Nashville came on special teams, which slowly but surely got worse while he was behind the bench. This, of course, came to a head in his final season and a half. He also only took the Predators past the second round once in his five postseason appearances. It is hard to compare the Preds before and after Laviolette’s departure because the sample size under John Hynes is small, only 28 games, and was interrupted when the season paused in mid-March. However, the numbers look pretty similar so far. Through 41 games with Laviolette, the 2019-2020 Predators went 19-15-7 with a points percentage of .549, CF% of 52.92, and xGF% of 52.88. Through 28 games with Hynes, they went 16-11-1 with a points percentage of .589, CF% of 48.4, and xGF% of 49.74. One of the biggest differences is in the team’s shooting percentage - 10.13% with Laviolette and 7.93% with Hynes.

Caps Connection

Peter Laviolette does not have any past connection to the Washington Capitals, but he does have a bit of a present one as of Sunday. According to the latest 31 Thoughts from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, “Washington has permission to talk to Peter Laviolette, and he is very much a contender.” Because the Predators fired Laviolette midseason, he is still technically under contract and they therefore have to grant permission for any team to speak with him about a coaching job.


Peter Laviolette has the potential to bring a lot of discipline and accountability to a Capitals team that sorely needs it. However, he also seems to rub some players and management the wrong way.

Here’s what former Hurricanes trainer Pete Friesen had to say about Laviolette in a 2017 profile in The Tennessean:

“A lot of coaches are good tacticians, but Peter actually gets players to believe in a system. He can outline a whole freaking process and execute it, step by step. I’ve been a trainer for 37 years and he’s the best coach I’ve ever worked with. And I don’t just mean coach, I mean human being. In my mind, he’s another John Wooden.”

On the flip side, this is what then-owner of the Hurricanes Peter Karmanos Jr. said shortly after firing Laviolette:

“I didn’t like our coach. His private persona and his public persona were two different things.”


  • 1,210 games of NHL head coaching experience
  • Additionally, has coached one team to a Stanley Cup and two other teams to Stanley Cup Final appearances
  • Big focus on discipline and accountability for players
  • Known for helping rookies and young players develop their big league game, specifically by trusting them in big situations
  • Builds trust with his players and makes them want to win for him


The Bottom Line:

Overall, Peter Laviolette would make a solid choice for the Caps’ coaching vacancy. He is a no-nonsense bench boss that could certainly help get the Capitals back on track. Players like Jakub Vrana and Evgeny Kuznetsov that need some extra motivation would definitely benefit from Laviolette’s coaching style. The organization is notorious for not shelling out the big bucks for head coaches, but Laviolette has made it clear that he wants to coach again so salary might not matter as much this time around if he has the chance to coach Alex Ovechkin. He is also best suited for a shorter term contract, which could work in Washington’s favor. While he is not at the top of the list of head coach choices, Peter Laviolette is absolutely a viable option. The Capitals have a tendency to sleepwalk their way through chunks of the season, and Laviolette might be just the remedy for that.