TARRYTOWN — Peter Laviolette’s NHL journey has come full circle, even if it wasn’t the easiest of roads to get to this point.
His lone NHL playing experience came as a member of the New York Rangers and Tuesday morning, almost 34 years later, the long-time head coach has been introduced as the 37th head coach in franchise history.
“This is one of the best franchises in sports and it’s in one of the best cities in the world. I’m appreciative and excited to be here to coach this team,” Laviolette stated.
The hiring of Laviolette closed an almost month-long coaching search that had the general manager searching far and wide for a replacement for Gerard Gallant. In the end, though, it seemed from the early stages of the process, all roads led to the former Stanley Cup-winning coach.
“When I started this process, I wanted to have a detailed and thorough search, and I’m happy to report that the search led to Peter Laviolette. I truly believe his resume speaks for itself and commands respect on many different levels,” Rangers general manager Chris Drury explained.
That resume Drury talks about shows that one of the winningest coaches in NHL history has now been given the reigns of a franchise searching for its first championship in over 30 years. Laviolette is eighth on the list of the winningest coaches in NHL history and has helped three separate franchises reach the Stanley Cup Final. That experience will be sorely needed for a Rangers team that was just eliminated in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
With stars on almost every level of the ice, the biggest thing that the new head coach is set to focus on is gelling with his players and making sure they can play together
“There’s a lot of skill and talent on this team. We definitely need to embrace that because we find that the teams that go deep in the playoffs, they are loaded with skill…but when you watch the playoff games right now, it’s just a reminder that the compete inside the game is what makes teams great. It’s what drives them to success,” Laviolette stated. “It’s not something you can just ask for. You have to practice that on a daily basis. It’s part of the DNA of who you are and it has to start in training camp.
Laviolette isn’t wrong about the skill of the current Rangers group. They possess one of the best goaltenders on the planet, a strong core of skilled offensive players, and levels of excellent defensemen that can add to their offensive capabilities.
Finding a way to blend that talent with the principles that he wants his team to play under will be the next focus for the Massachusetts native.
“For me, it’s always been a little more of an aggressive approach. Defense is always a priority… For me, it’s about the attack. It’s about pressuring. It’s about puck pursuit,” Laviolette said.
Being able to adjust to the roster while still maintaining key principles is something all great head coaches can accomplish in any sport. With this now his sixth team that he’s been named a head coach for, he’ll be tasked with that same sort of demand that all other organizations have asked of him.
If there’s one thing that was conclusive from Laviolette’s first remarks as the head coach of the New York Rangers, it’s that he understands what the franchise, players, and fans want in their hockey club. The first step to reaching that end result though, is to start from the beginning.
“My message to everybody is: Let’s go to work. Let’s get working. I think the messaging for me with the players is that we’re going to start working in training camp to try to prepare ourselves for the playoffs and a push.”