Outside of a few teams like our beloved Nashville Predators, Hockey isn’t exactly huge in the South.
Each year I hope for its popularity to rise exponentially. Certainly it is more popular in the South than ever before, but there is still much work to do for the NHL below the Mason Dixon line!
As a fan who never actually played ice hockey (I played some roller hockey and got hooked on the sport), I love this game. I started following the now defunct Birmingham Bulls of the CHL when I moved to Birmingham, AL. in 1998 from the great state of Tennessee, and still love the sport today, even though there are no hockey teams of note left in the Birmingham area.
For a time, as you fans know, the (now relocated) Atlanta Thrashers filled the void for me. I was always a die-hard Tennessee Volunteers fan and Titans fan, and having grown up in Tennessee I tended to follow and be a fan of all TN. sports. The Thrashers were simply closer to my new home. I grew to love the Predators though, and am an avid fan and follower.
New Laviolette EraIf you’re reading this article, you probably are as well, and certainly have been keeping up with the Predators this off-season, team acquisitions, and the advent of the Laviolette Era!
The Nashville Predators named Peter Laviolette head coach back in May of this year, and I was then and am now still hugely excited by the addition of Laviolette.
Not all will agree with me, but I thought highly of the only other Predators coach before Laviolette – Barty Trotz, but Laviolette brings a wealth of experience and hockey wisdom to the Predators that exceeds that of Trotz, and I’m excited for a new era of Predators hockey under Peter Laviolette!
There are two quality facets that Laviolette will bring to the Predators for 2014-15. He’ll bring with him an abundance of experience as a coach, and he’ll bring a faster, more “attack” approach to the Predators, something that frankly has been lacking.
Laviolette’s experience is unquestionable. From 2001 to 2003, Phil led the New York Islanders. From there Phil went to the Carolina Hurricanes from 2003 until 2008, where he led the Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup Final, and won the Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006! From 2009 to 2013 Laviolette took over the Philadelphia Flyers, and also took them to the Stanley Cup Final.
He was able to achieve great success in those last two cities taking over the teams in mid-season, and had that great success even without being able to fully put together the teams the way he wanted for a full-season. With the Predators, he’ll get a chance to ply that wisdom and potential success from the outset.
According to Jeremy Gover of Section 303, Laviolette spoke about how pumped he is to be getting a team early, working with them from the outset, and helping to mold the Predators into the team he envisions:
I can’t wait. It’s a time where you can really start to form an identity and mold a group into a unit of one. Where you can build a group to go out and beat to the same drum. You don’t get to do that when you get hired mid-season. It’s very difficult to implement things as games are going on.
As for the 2nd facet of a faster and more “attack” approach, Laviolette said as much at the end of August while speaking to the Nashville Rotary Club. In a report of the event by Brooks Patton, Laviolette was quoted on his approach:
I think the goal in training camp right away is to start to change the message on how we want to play the game. We want to play it fast, we’re going to be in good shape and we want to be on the attack. If we have the opportunity to not let teams out of the offensive zone, that’s exactly where we want to be.
It’s still too early to know how the Predators will develop under Laviolette, and which players will rise like cream to the top, but Laviolette has some great talent to work with, and has shown a talent for developing a team into a cohesive unit.
Fans know that the Predators have a ton of forwards who will by vying for starting roles (arguably too many), but Peter is excited to have that many candidates, and feels like there will be some good surprise play from a few of those forwards that fans might be surprised by.
In addition to natural goal scorers like James Neal, and good forwards in Seth Jones, and Craig Smith, there will be a number of other free agent acquisitions (Derek Roy, Olli Jokinen, Mike Ribeiro and Anton Volchenkov) that will by competition for the starting roles, and it’s great to have that many tools to work with, mold, and develop.
Other competition that might not be as fierce, but who could surprise the coaching staff and fans are players like Taylor Beck, Colton Sissons, Miikka Salomaki, and top pick Kevin Fiala. One thing is certain, there will be no shortage of talent for Laviolette to pick from, and if his history proves true again – Peter will have a great slate to create a work of art from in Nashville.
As the new Laviolette Era begins in Nashville, I’m excited about what the new coach and team can accomplish, and I cannot wait to see how the camp develops.
Training Camp for the Nashville Predators opens up on September the 18th, and we’ll quickly get a sense of how this team is going to develop under their new leadership.
Perhaps Peter Laviolette said it best as reported by Brooks Patton…
I like our group. I like our players, I like our core, I like our leadership and I think we’re going to be a good hockey team. We’ve got a lot of work to do but I think we’ll be a very competitive hockey team.
Amen brother! It won’t be long now until Hockey begins anew in Smashville! I can’t wait either!