Before there was Nashville, there was nearly Pittsburgh.

Peter Laviolette was named head coach of the Nashville Predators in May 2014 after being dumped by the Philadelphia Flyers eight months earlier.

Had he been out of work one month longer, though, he could have been on the other side of this year’s Stanley Cup Final with the Pittsburgh Penguins, general manager Jim Rutherford told Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun.

Rutherford was named GM of the Penguins just four weeks after Laviolette headed to Tennessee, and remains a fan of the coach after their time together in Carolina, where Laviolette guided the Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup 11 years ago.

“Interesting how things could have worked out differently, isn’t it?” Rutherford said Friday. “I really have a special admiration for what he did when we worked together. … We would have reunited. But the timing didn’t work out.

“I think that’s about as clear as I can say about what I thought about Peter Laviolette – the fact that if he was available, I would have hired him here when I first got here.”

Rutherford ultimately gave the job to Mike Johnston, who was later replaced with current bench boss Mike Sullivan en route to last season’s Stanley Cup win.

As the Penguins attempt to become the first team to capture back-to-back titles since the Detroit Red Wings did it in 1998, Rutherford will need to get by his former coach in order to accomplish the feat – no easy task given Laviolette’s pedigree.

“Peter did a terrific job in Carolina that year, coming out of the lockout and bringing the players together,” Rutherford added. “He’s been to the final a few times now and that’s not by accident.”

Game 1 of the series kicks off Monday in Pittsburgh.


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