2. Is Peter Laviolette their answer as the head coach?
If there’s one thing that can be learned from Peter Laviolette’s coaching career, it’s that his first few years with a new NHL team tend to be his best-sellers. In just his second year with the Carolina Hurricanes back in the 2005-06 season, Laviolette won his one and only Stanley Cup. In his first season with the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2009-10 season, his team made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. In his first season with the Nashville Predators in the 2015-16 season, his team made it to the Second Round of the Playoffs. The very next year, Laviolette coached the Nashville Predators to a Stanley Cup Finals appearance.
If his track record says one thing, it’s that he hits the ground running. That is exactly what the Washington Capitals needed when they brought in Peter Laviolette to take over the responsibilities as Head Coach. In his NHL coaching career, Lava has coached 1,210 games, totaling 637 wins, 425 losses, and 25 overtime losses, giving him a career point percentage of .588% (per hockey-reference). So obviously, he can win games in the regular season, but how has he been in the Playoffs?
In the postseason, Laviolette begins to plateau as his career Playoff record stands at 75 wins and 68 losses in 143 games. In that span, he’s made it to three Stanley Cup Finals, three Conference Finals, and made it to the Second Round seven times in 12 postseason appearances. To summarize, Head Coach Peter Laviolette doesn’t make it past the Second Round often, but when he does, he’s gone to the Finals. This can be decompressed in one of two ways:
A.) The Washington Capitals will continue to struggle in the First and Second Round of the Playoffs
B.) Should the Washington Capitals leave their Playoff woes behind them, and find a way past the Second Round, they’ll be bound for another run at the Cup.
To make the second option less of a hopeful prediction and more of a reality, Laviolette will need to demand more out of this team than anyone ever has. During the regular season, the Capitals are always one of the most “favored” teams to win it all, but they never do. Why is that? It’s because they lose focus of their identity in the postseason and they get inside of their own heads. Laviolette will need to be a strong leader while providing a proper gameplan. The Capitals don’t need a coach who will change the culture. They already have a winning culture.
What the Capitals need is a coach who will create an effective gameplan. Someone who can improve their power play that was ranked 17th in the NHL in 2019-20 (19.44%). Someone who can further improve a penalty kill unit that, while ranked 6th in the league (82.57%) in 2019-20, allowed nine short-handed goals against (4th most last season).
They need a coach who can keep the Washington Capitals playing a physical and demanding style of hockey that will force opponents to play with frustration. If Laviolette can do all of this, then he’s surely the right guy for the job. If he’s hired to be a culture guy, then this team might be destined to repeat history in 2021.