The Americans are headed for the quarter-finals, thanks to the play of its many youthful contributors who are responding to head coach Peter Laviolette.
Ten years ago this spring Peter Laviolette coached Team USA in the World Championship. It was the first time he coached the United States in a tournament. Sure, he represented his country as a player at the 1988 and 1994 Winter Olympics, but he was being asked to manage the country’s national team.
Coming off a disastrous 2003 World Championship where the Americans finished in 13th place, Laviolette took an upstart team to a bronze medal. Their journey to the medal featured an upset win in the semi-final game against the Czech Republic on the Czechs home ice in Prague.
A decade later, Laviolette is one of the more accomplished American coaches whose return to the world stage, behind the bench, offers another opportunity to take Team USA deep into this tournament.
So far, they have clinched a spot in the quarter-finals with a young team. Many of the players are representing the senior men’s squad for the first time.
Just days before the tournament, the Nashville Predators named Laviolette its new head coach, and only the second in team history.
With a Stanley Cup and World Championship bronze on his resume, Laviolette comes to the Predators with a clear track record of success.
“Having reached the peak as a Stanley Cup Champion, Peter knows the intensity and urgency it will take to help our team reach its ultimate goal,” General Manager David Poile said in a statement announcing his hire. “He is a great hockey mind who not only has a winning resume, but has done it with an aggressive offensive philosophy while also excelling in helping young players reach their potential.”
When Laviolette coached Team USA ten years ago he was then recently appointed bench boss of the Carolina Hurricanes. In short order, Laviolette created a culture of winning and uptempo hockey. In his first full season after the 2005 lockout, the Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup.
Prior to that, he coached the Islanders for two seasons, leading them to the playoffs in both years.
After Carolina, he took the top job with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2009. He also went to the Cup finals in his first season in Philadelphia and took the Flyers to the postseason two other times. The team then missed the playoffs in the lockout-shortened 2012/2013 season and when the team got off to a slow start this season, he was fired three games into the campaign.
But now he has a young team in the Predators with many talented players in need of guidance and an identity.
“My challenge will be to impart a system that enables our young forwards to thrive and reach their offensive potential. Being a perennial Stanley Cup contender requires buy-in, passion and commitment from every player on the roster. I can’t wait to get to Nashville and get started on our journey.”
Of course he will be asked not only to improve a team that has been on that track over the past few years but also qualify for the playoffs and get his team deep.
He’ll have plenty of players count on, including a few here at this tournament in Pekka Rinne, Roman Josi and of course Seth Jones and Craig Smith on the American team, who he sees every day. Then there is also Calle Jarnkrok representing Sweden at Chizhovka Arena.
For now though, the challenge is to complete the Preliminary Round and focus on the quarter-finals. Now that the Americans have qualified for the playoffs and will be taking on a yet to be determined team from Group A, the hockey will only get more competitive.
Laviolette gets the most out of his teams when they play high stakes hockey. He’s no doubt expecting that despite the talent and calibre of the teams that will remain after Tuesday, Team USA will be ready to play and with an eye cast solidly on medalling.