Days after the firing of Glen Gulutzan, the Flames are bringing in Bill Peters as their new coach. Peters, 53, spent four years as coach of the Hurricanes before resigning late last week.
Here’s hoping Bill Peters enjoyed his 48-hour holiday, because two days after resigning his position as coach of the Carolina Hurricanes, the 53-year-old bench boss has already landed behind another NHL bench.
According to multiple reports, it is expected that Peters will be introduced as the Flames next coach at a Monday press conference. The announcement is coming mere days after Calgary relieved Glen Gulutzan and assistants Dave Cameron and Paul Jerrard of their duties. The firings were the result of a disappointing season for the Flames in which a promising off-season was met with underperformance at the most crucial point in the campaign and, subsequently, a finish 11 points shy of a wild-card position in the Western Conference.
The hiring of Peters doesn’t come as much of a surprise, of course. Almost as soon as the Gulutzan firing was announced, speculation began to run rampant about Peters as next in line to take the Flames’ job, particularly amidst reports of the very opt-out clause that he would later trigger to leave his post with the Hurricanes. There also exists a history between Peters and Flames GM Brad Treliving, who worked together as members of Team Canada’s 2015-16 World Championship squad. And as a native of Three Hills, Alta., reports were abound that Peters preference was to return to his home province for his next move behind the bench.
In Peters, the Flames are set to bring aboard a bench boss who has, over the past few seasons, shown a penchant for coaching the type of strong puck-possession game that has been so heralded in the post-lockout era. Carolina was consistently one of the best possession teams in the league under Peters’ watch, with shining all-around underlying numbers. Unfortunately, the Hurricanes’ analytics success didn’t translate to the standings, as Carolina went a modest 137-138-53 in four seasons with Peters at the helm. Not once did the Hurricanes appear in the post-season under Peters, though they did finish within 10 points of a wild-card spot on two occasions.
True as that may be, though, Peters’ groups in Carolina were almost always sunk by poor goaltending. Case in point: this past season, the Hurricanes had the second-worst save percentage at 5-on-5 and the worst overall mark at all strengths even after acquiring and then signing Scott Darling in the off-season with the expectation he would step into the No. 1 role and finally right the ship. The disastrous seasons in the crease were a recurring theme, too, as during the entirety of his tenure with the Hurricanes, Peters’ teams did not even once finish with a 5-on-5 save percentage better than third-worst in the NHL. At all strengths, the best season Carolina had between the pipes saw them finish fourth-worst in the league.
However, Calgary is no doubt of the mind that pairing Peters with experienced, veteran goaltender Mike Smith — a netminder who, realistically, was in the conversation for the Flames’ most valuable player through the front half of the season — will exorcise the crease demons that have haunted Peters during his coaching career. Whether that comes to fruition or not is to be seen, but it should be noted that under similar possession-style coaching, Smith turned in a .923 SP at even strength this past season. That is far better than Darling’s .898 SP at evens.
And while it’s no knock on the roster Carolina has assembled over the past few seasons, Peters will step behind the bench of a Flames team that almost inarguably has more raw talent than the Hurricanes. Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan alone give Peters a top-flight duo the likes of which he hasn’t worked with prior as a bench boss, and that’s not meant as a slight to Jeff Skinner, Sebastian Aho or Teuvo Teravainen. Likewise, the Calgary defense has more name value than that with which Peters worked in Carolina. The foursome of Dougie Hamilton, Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie and Travis Hamonic could make for one of the top defense corps in the league if they’re performing to the peak of their abilities. Peters’ previous work with Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Justin Faulk and Noah Hanifin suggests the Flames’ blueline should flourish.
One of the biggest questions Peters faces out of the gate in Calgary, though, is what he’ll do — or who he will bring aboard as part of his staff — to help inject some scoring into a power play that was on life support much of the season. When the campaign closed, the Flames had the NHL’s third-worst power play, this despite Calgary earning the fifth-most power play opportunities of any team during the regular season. The Flames only managed to cash in 43 times on their 269 power play attempts, though, good for a meager 16-percent success rate with the man advantage. Historically, however, Peters’ teams haven’t been all that much better on the power play; from 2014-15 to 2017-18, Carolina’s power play operated at 17.9 percent across 328 games. Only five teams were worse over that same four-season stretch.
Even if the power play continues to struggle, though, winning cures all, and the expectation of Peters is that his coaching style matched with a bigger-budget team, a more star-studded roster and better goaltending is going to produce results. Because make no mistake, Peters may have missed the post-season each of the past four seasons in Carolina, but in Calgary next season, it’s going to be playoffs or bust.
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