The Washington Capitals on Tuesday hired Peter Laviolette as the team’s next head coach, bringing an experienced coach to an organization that has recently suffered frustration early in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
And one of his first jobs may be to figure out who his starting goaltender will be.
Laviolette, 55, replaces Todd Reirden, who was fired from the team in August after two seasons of first-round exits following its Stanley Cup win in 2018. The Penguins hired Reirden as an assistant coach nearly a week and half after the move.
Laviolette, who will join Washington on a three-year deal, has 18 years of NHL head coaching experience with the Islanders, Hurricanes, Flyers, and Predators. He has led three teams to the Stanley Cup Final — winning the Cup with Carolina in 2006, and falling short with the Flyers (2010) and Predators (2017). He also won the Calder Cup when he was coaching the Providence Bruins in 1998–99.
Laviolette grew up in Franklin, Mass., and attended Westfield State. He not only twice played for Team USA in the Olympics, but in February he was named head coach of the US national team.
“Peter has a track record of establishing a culture, and it’s one of his priorities,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said at an online news conference Tuesday. “And part of that culture is getting guys to play the right way and holding them accountable to play the right way. I think it’s a big priority when you talk to him, so I have confidence, because he’s done it in the past, and it’s a priority the way he speaks about it, the way he communicates about it.”
When MacLellan described what the organization wanted in its next head coach on the day of Reirden’s firing, the word he emphasized was “experience.” The Capitals needed a veteran coach who could get immediate results from a veteran group. Laviolette, MacLellan reiterated Tuesday, exemplifies just that.
Laviolette was fired by the Predators in January after a disappointing first half of the season. He had been Nashville’s coach since 2014-15 season and compiled a 248-143-60 record with the team. He also led the Predators to the Presidents' Trophy in 2017-18.
With the hire, Laviolette became the first coach in franchise history to arrive in Washington with a Stanley Cup on his résumé.
“I look at it as a great opportunity,” Laviolette said of coming to Washington. “You have a terrific cast of talent that’s big and strong and can play the game aggressive and has a chance to be successful on a nightly basis. For me it’s an incredible opportunity. I can’t speak from experience working with this group because I haven’t been there yet, obviously. But I am excited to get in there and start to work with them and build something special.”
But part of that cast might be missing.
Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby is expected to reach free agency, said MacLellan, who talked with the agent for the five-time All-Star last week.
Holtby, who will turn 31 Wednesday, is coming off a five-year, $30.5 million deal that he signed in 2015. He won the Vezina Trophy in 2016 and helped anchor the Capitals to a Stanley Cup championship in 2018. This season, Holtby posted a 25-14-6 record, with a .897 save percentage and 3.11 goals-against average.
Free agency will open at noon Oct. 9.
Golden Knights question what went wrong
Peter DeBoer didn’t prepare a speech to give his Vegas Golden Knights in the event they lost Game 5 of the Western Conference final to end their run in the NHL bubble in Edmonton, because he didn’t think they’d lose.
But they did, 3-2, late Monday night, and the Dallas Stars are off to their first Stanley Cup Final since 2000.
The Golden Knights coughed up a two-goal third-period lead and allowed up a power-play goal in overtime, leaving DeBoer and the Golden Knights to grapple with the question: How could this happen?
Vegas controlled the play for much of the series, outshot the Stars, 166-118, and looked like the better team, yet it the one headed home.
“I felt even the games we lost here in the bubble I felt we could win — we could’ve won,” DeBoer said. “We were right there. It’s a very slim margin. We just couldn’t get a timely goal in order to put us in the position to be on the right side of that ledger.”
Stars journeyman goalie Anton Khudobin (34 saves) did his best Thatcher Demko impression and his teammates forced Vegas to take shots — a lot of them — from mostly outside. Dallas coach Rick Bowess said, “We’ll give them that,” while conceding this wasn’t really a blowout series by any means.
“We’re finding ways to win right now, and that’s all that matters,” Stars captain Jamie Benn said.
Dallas trailed, 2-0, in the opening seconds of the third period Monday night, and finally got on the board with Benn’s goal midway through the period.
Joel Kiviranta tied the game with 3:47 left. Denis Gurianov scored the winner on a one-timer during a power play 3:36 into overtime.
“We’ve done this all year. We’ve come back from behind all year,” Bowness said. “Down 2-0, there was no panic. We just were a very confident group that we could respond to the challenge.”
The 65-year-old Bowness, who joined the Stars as an assistant coach before the 2018-19 season, became the interim head coach in December after second-year head coach Jim Montgomery was fired. Montgomery, who took the Stars to the second round of the playoffs and a double-overtime Game 7 loss to eventual Stanley Cup champion St. Louis in his only full season, later entered alcohol rehabilitation.
“Bones is a big part of this team,” Benn said. “It’s been a crazy year for all of us, and I’m sure especially him.”
Bowness is now in his third Stanley Cup Final in 10 seasons, his first in charge. He was on Tampa Bay’s staff five years ago when the Lightning last made it, and with Vancouver in 2011.
“It’s a feeling you can’t describe,” Bowness said. “You only get so many cracks at going to the Stanley Cup finals and you’ve got to take advantage of it. For me as a coach, it’s just gratifying for the players. They worked so hard.”
Wild lock up Brodin for seven extra years
The Minnesota Wild signed defenseman Jonas Brodin to a seven-year, $42 million contract extension, making another long-term commitment to a key piece of their blue-line group.
Brodin’s new deal will begin with the 2021-22 season and carry a $6 million annual cap charge through 2027-28.
The 27-year-old native of Sweden, who was drafted by the Wild with the 10th overall pick in the 2011 draft, had a career-high 26 assists in 69 games in the virus-shortened season. He led the team with 112 blocked shots and was second on the club with a plus-15 rating.
Brodin is sixth on their all-time list with 555 games played, trailing current fellow defensemen Jared Spurgeon (third) and Ryan Suter (fourth).
Spurgeon is signed through seven more seasons, Suter for five and Matt Dumba for three, giving Minnesota a considerable amount of stability on the back end.