Predators fire Laviolette after 5-plus seasons

NHL

The Nashville Predators fired head coach Peter Laviolette and assistant coach Kevin McCarthy on Monday, with the team outside the playoff picture after 41 games.

No interim coach or new head coach was immediately named. The Predators face the Boston Bruins at home Tuesday night.

The news comes after general manager David Poile said in a Jan. 2 radio interview that he was “not contemplating making a coaching change at this time” but instead was “open for business” for a trade. But after Nashville lost in a shootout to the last-place Anaheim Ducks on Sunday night, Laviolette was removed the following day.

“Under the leadership of Peter and Kevin, our organization reached unprecedented heights — from our franchise-altering run to the Stanley Cup Final to a Presidents’ Trophy and our first two Central Division titles,” Poile said in a statement. “Their passion for the game, ability to motivate a team and drive to be the best makes this a difficult decision. On behalf of the entire organization, I would like to thank Peter and Kevin for all their contributions to the Nashville Predators over the past five-and-a-half seasons.”

Laviolette has coached the Predators since 2014, amassing 248-143-60 record. Nashville made the playoffs every season he was behind the bench, including a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017, in which the Predators lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

He had previously taken the Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers to the finals. He won it with Carolina in 2006.

McCarthy was hired at the same time as Laviolette — May 6, 2014.

But this season was a struggle for a team with high expectations. The Predators are 19-15-7 for 45 points, sitting seven points out of third place in the Central Division and four points out of the last wild-card spot in the Western Conference. While they’re sixth in offense (3.44 goals per game), the Predators have had an uncharacteristically bad season defensively at 3.27 goals against per game, which is 24th. Last season, they were fourth at 2.58 goals against per game.

Laviolette had recently shut down questions about his job status, including one asking if he was feeling any additional pressure after the Predators lost in the Cotton Bowl Winter Classic to division rival Dallas. “I’m not getting into that right now,” he replied, ending the news conference.

As for potential replacements for Laviolette, Dan Lambert and Dan Muse remain on the coaching staff. Karl Taylor is the head coach of the AHL affiliate in Milwaukee. Lane Lambert, a highly regarded former Predators assistant, is currently associate coach with the New York Islanders. Then there is the plethora of coaches who lost their gigs in the past year, chief among them Mike Babcock, Peter DeBoer and John Hynes.

For Laviolette, speculation will no doubt begin about a reunion with Ron Francis — whom he coached and whom he coached for in Carolina — as the first head coach of the NHL’s Seattle franchise.

Predators president and CEO Sean Henry said Laviolette and McCarthy left “an indelible mark on the entire Smashville community.”

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