Fire someone. Fire anyone.
Yes- after every embarrassing loss, fans of any sports team will be calling for someone's head. But after the Predators' pathetic 7-2 home loss to the Blackhawks tonight, there should come a reckoning of an obvious pattern.
It seems like this has been the Preds' M.O. for the last few seasons. This, meaning an inordinate ability to tear off five blowout wins against competitive teams, then proceed to turn around and lose five games horribly to fringe teams.
The power play is loads better than it was last year. Matt Duchene was added to the lineup this summer. The offense of 2019-2020 has been demonstrably capable of shredding defenses, and the defense remains a force other teams must negotiate with. The Preds, for all intents and purposes, came out of the offseason at least somewhat a better team than the one that lost to the Stars in the first round of the playoffs. So what is this team's elusively crushing Achilles Heel? At this point, the answer has to be the coaching.
The thing is, Peter Laviolette, Kevin McCarthy, Dan Muse, and Dan Lambert have enough high-quality arrows in their quiver to dominate the league. The offensive mashup of Duchene, Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, Mikael Granlund, Ryan Johansen, Colton Sissons, and, well, basically every other forward, should be lethal every single game. Additionally Preds' defensemen get on the scoreboard more than any other team's defense in the NHL. So it just doesn't add up when the offense is struggling to score goals this much over a span of four games. The coaches have played with every line combination under the sun, but nothing is working like the well-oiled machine should. It's not a question of talent- that's there in droves. It's easy to chalk it up to a collective struggling mentality, but having this frequency and this devastating of mental lapses just doesn't happen with an NHL team.
Laviolette's tenure in Nashville is a popular point of contention. The head coach is in his sixth season manning the Preds team. He has never made it past a fifth season in any of his coaching tenures with New York (NYI), Philadelphia, or Carolina, the latter with whom he won a Stanley Cup. David Poile, and Nashville as a whole, stuck with Barry Trotz for 15 seasons, but primarily out of security and never having that taste for blood that reached new heights after the 2017 Final. Now that the fans and players alike are hungry for a championship, it makes each loss more frustrating than the last. Not everything is the head coach's fault, but a manager is held responsible for the failings of his or her employees. Problem is, Laviolette signed a contract extension in October of 2016 that will keep him behind the Preds' bench until the end of the 2020-2021 season.
Dan Lambert was just brought on this summer as an assistant coach and hopeful power play savior. In that respect, he's been a success. The Preds are situated comfortably in the middle of the league with a 20.29 percent PP conversion rate. Lambert has helped spur the offense into action; the Preds are currently tied with four other teams for fourth place in Goals For. If Poile makes any changes, Lambert is unlikely to be the one to go.
The most popular candidate for the chopping block should be Kevin McCarthy. Though not explicitly stated, McCarthy is Laviolette's main informant on the defensive aspect of the team. As a former defenseman himself, McCarthy has led some very strong defensemen in Nashville since coming aboard in 2014, and the numbers speak for themselves. Since his hiring, the Preds have never allowed over 220 Goals Against in a single season. In fact, over the past two seasons, the Preds have allowed the second (in 2017-2018) and third (in 2018-2019) lowest Goals Against in the league. But the defense's lapses are damning, and though it's not always statistically obvious, even the layman can see that when this Preds defense slides, they slide hard. It may be time to shake up the static McCarthy style of leading the defense.
The Preds have now lost their last four games, allowing a whopping 23 goals and only responding with 10.