Lane Lambert making a smooth adjustment from the AHL to the NHL


The Nashville Predators organization is one known for promoting from within. Names like Shea Weber, Pekka Rinne and Ryan Suter were all home grown talent brought up through the team's minor league affiliate before they ultimately earned playing time in the National Hockey League.

And when Brent Peterson stepped down from his role as assistant coach last summer and the team needed to find a new assistant, the Predators stuck to their guns and hired someone from within.

In four years as head coach of the Milwaukee Admirals, Lane Lambert led the team to four straight 40-win and 90-point seasons as well as a 178-118-37 record - sixth best in the American Hockey League over that timespan. So it came as no surprise when Lambert was selected to replace Peterson as an assistant coach.

And for the most part, Lambert's transition to the NHL has been a smooth one.

"It's been good, it's been a good experience," Lambert said. "I think with every person coming into the NHL - whether you're a player, coach or whatever capacity you're in - there's always a little bit of a learning curve and there's things you have to make adjustments to. Certainly I've been no exception to this rule. It's been fun, it's been challenging and there's been some growing along the way."

The main adjustment Lambert had to make in coming over to the NHL was not necessarily the actual coaching duties but the skill of the players compared to those in the AHL.

"The biggest thing that Lane will tell you is that he can't believe the big difference between the AHL and the NHL," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said. "It's not about how we do things, it's just on the ice. There's a big separation between the American Hockey League and the NHL."

"It's just so much faster. The players are so much bigger. It's just better - plain and simple," Lambert said. "No one can say the game isn't way better than it was back when I played. It's just a better game all the way around and it's because of size and speed."

It's helped that Lambert has some familiarity with many of the players.

Because Nashville puts such an emphasis on developing its own talent, Lambert coaches many of the same players that he did in Milwaukee.

"It's been helpful from the standpoint in terms of certain buttons to push, knowing what to expect and then also continuing, helping them on their career path," Lambert said. "It's been rewarding from that standpoint to see them take that next step and to be able to help continue with the growth that they need to have to become star players in the National Hockey League."

Take Colin Wilson, for example. Wilson took the classic Predator route to the NHL.

He was selected seventh overall in the 2008 draft and spent the first part of the season in Milwaukee before getting a midseason call up to Nashville.

"He really helped my development in Milwaukee. I was struggling a bit when I went there and he got me playing a lot better," Wilson said. "So in here, every detail that I need to work on, he's on me for. And I like that."

Jonathon Blum is another player who spent a lot of time in Milwaukee under Lambert. Blum was called up at the end of last year and has enjoyed having a familiar face behind the bench this season.

"When I was down in Milwaukee for a year and a half, I learned a lot from him. He was always a guy you could come in and talk to when times were tough and stuff like that when you needed guidance, and it's the same thing here," Blum said. "He really transferred over pretty well from head coach to assistant coach. I think he's done a great job."

Wilson and Blum are just two of many current Nashville Predators who have been influenced by Lambert both in Milwaukee and Nashville. Eleven members of Nashville's playoff roster last year had played for Lambert. And with the team opting to go with youth this offseason, many players on the current roster have been influenced by his leadership.

And there is a mutual appreciation between Lambert and Trotz. Lambert benefits from working under an established coach like Barry Trotz, and the Nashville boss enjoys having a different perspective on things in the room.

"Sometimes you look at things a certain way, and he's come in and looks at things a little different and makes us grow as coaches as well," Trotz said. "He's a real detailed guy with a lot of passion. He's had a lot of impact on the young guys and the team. I think that's really important."

"It's been great. [Trotz] lets you coach. He lets you do your job, and he doesn't micromanage," Lambert said. "There's a lot of strengths that he has, but one of those is being able delegate and let people do what they do in order to have it run successfully and smoothly. That part of it's been really good and really nice coming from a head coaching job to an assistant coaching job. You want to feel like you have a say in things, and we do."

So what does the future hold for Lambert? A head coaching job in the NHL is the ultimate goal, of course, but he's happy where he is and is in no hurry to go anywhere.

"Everybody wants to reach the top level of whatever they're doing," Lambert said. "You know I've got a goal for that, but there is no timeframe, no timetable. It's just about getting better everyday."

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