The Nashville Predators introduced new assistant coach Lane Lambert to the local media via conference call this afternoon, with Barry Trotz emphasizing the strong organizational culture which led to Lambert's promotion from the AHL. That "promote from within" mentality could ultimately lead to what Barry Trotz told Lambert he hoped for someday here in Nashville:
"I want you to be the guy to replace me."
Brent Peterson, of course, is stepping down from on-ice duties and will take on a new role with the club, which opened the position for Lambert.
Trotz lauded Lambert for "developing players and creating a winning environment" in Milwaukee, and credited him for getting so many players ready for the Predators to call upon during an injury-riddled 2010-11 campaign. Trotz also talked about the familiarity there, having worked with Lambert now for several years (recall just how important stability is within the Preds organization).
The specific roles for the coaching staff are still up in the air, given Peter Horachek's candidacy for a head coaching position in Dallas. One quality that Trotz talked up quite a bit was the "interactive" nature of his staff, and how the Predators coaches aren't as compartmentalized as perhaps on other NHL teams. That sort of working relationship certainly lends itself to bringing in the familiar face, rather than someone from outside.
In fact, Trotz said that once word got out that Peterson would be shifting roles, he started receiving resumes from a number of prominent hockey people looking for an opportunity to join the Preds as an assistant, but that he had Lambert pegged for the job early on. Those are still being kept at hand, however, given the uncertainty of the Horachek situation and the possibility that another assistant will also need to be hired.
Lane's pro hockey career began as a 2nd-round draft pick by the Detroit Red Wings in 1983. He was chosen after Steve Yzerman, and before Bob Probert, as part of a class which also included former Nashville Predators Stu Grimson as Detroit's 10th-round pick. He played 283 games at the NHL level running through the 1988-89 season, and has been with the Milwaukee Admirals for the last 5 seasons, including 4 as head coach.
He listed the development of a winning culture on a day-to-day as his proudest accomplishment in Milwaukee, and the relationships built over time with the players who came through the system.
Current Milwaukee Admirals assistant coach Ian Herbers is "in the mix" for the head coaching vacancy there, but Paul Fenton (assistant GM of the Preds, and GM of the Admirals) is currently gathering names to conduct that search.
The press release from the Preds follows:
Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that Lane Lambert, formerly the head coach of the team's primary developmental affiliate, the American Hockey League's Milwaukee Admirals, will join the Nashville coaching staff as an assistant for the 2011-12 season. Poile also announced the re-signing of goaltending coach Mitch Korn.
"Lane is one of the best young up-and-coming coaches in the sport today," Poile said. "Similar to our philosophy on player development, we believe in promoting from within whenever possible. Lane has successfully coached and mentored more than half the players on our current roster, and many more who are coming through the pipeline, so he will fit seamlessly into Barry Trotz's staff."
In four seasons as the Admirals head coach from 2007-11, Lambert led the club to a 178-118-37 record, the sixth-most wins in the AHL in that span while giving up the second-fewest goals (821). Milwaukee posted 40-or-more wins and 90-or-more points all four seasons under Lambert as well, making them the first team in League history to reach the marks in eight consecutive campaigns. The Melfort, Saskatchewan native helped the Ads capture a pair of West Division titles in his tenure in Milwaukee, posting the Western Conference's highest point total in 2010-11 (102 pts, 44-22-14 record) despite seeing 10 of his core players recalled to the Predators during the campaign. He also captured a division title in 2008-09 when he led a young squad to 49-22-9 record, tying for the most points (107) in the AHL. The win total tied a club record since the team joined the AHL for the 2001-02 campaign.
Eleven members of Nashville's 2011 playoff roster played for Lambert in Milwaukee, and 17 of the 33 players who suited up for the Predators for at least one 2010-11 regular season game spent time playing under his tutelage.
Prior to joining the Admirals as an assistant coach in 2006-07, Lambert spent one season as an assistant for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, and three seasons as a coach in the Western Hockey League - two as head coach of the Prince George Cougars (2003-05) and one as an assistant for the Moose Jaw Warriors (2002-03). Lambert finished an 18-year playing career with the Houston Aeros in 2000-01.
Korn, who joined the organization on July 23, 1998, has worked with the Predators' goaltenders and those in the Nashville developmental system for the last 13 years. The well-known goaltending coach has helped several Nashville goaltenders burst onto the NHL scene, the most recent being 2011 Vezina Trophy finalist Pekka Rinne, who ranked second in save percentage (.930) and third in goals-against average (2.12) this past season. His success cultivating netminders dates back to the 1998 Expansion Draft. Two-time Czech Olympian, 2010 World Champion and NHL All-Star Tomas Vokoun developed into one of the NHL's elite netminders under Korn's watch, while Chris Mason would follow, becoming a legitimate NHL starter after several seasons of working with Korn. In 2007-08, Dan Ellis developed into a No. 1 goalie after playing in just one NHL game prior to joining the Predators, leading the NHL in save percentage (.924) in his first full campaign, before giving way to rookie Rinne in 2008-09.
"Mitch Korn is the best goaltending coach in the National Hockey League, as evidenced by his development of this organization's goaltenders from Year One with Mike Dunham and Tomas Vokoun, to this past season with Vezina Trophy finalist Pekka Rinne and promising rookie Anders Lindback," Poile said. "Our goaltending is a big part of our success, and Mitch is at the forefront of that."
Prior to joining the Predators on July 23, 1998, Korn spent seven seasons coaching the netminders in the Buffalo Sabres organization, where he enjoyed great success while working with two-time Hart Trophy-winner Dominik Hasek. While working with Korn, Hasek captured four Vezina Trophies and led the NHL with the best save percentage five times. Korn also saw Buffalo's goaltending tandem (Hasek and Hall-of-Famer Grant Fuhr) capture the NHL's Jennings Trophy (lowest team goals-against average) during the 1994-95 season. Besides Hasek and Fuhr, Korn also coached Olaf Kolzig, Steve Shields and Martin Biron.
Korn, who runs goaltending and defensemen schools around the country in the off-season, also contributes regularly to several hockey publications including USA Hockey Magazine and Goalies' World.