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SLAM DUNK!

Flames coach Bill Peters talks about setting expectations, helping players to be their best and what can be learned from how LeBron James competes

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com
Check back Tuesday for the second part of Your Flames Authority George Johnson's conversation with new bench boss Bill Peters.

 

The bible of achievement, of ambition, doesn't vary whatever game you might fancy.

Sunday, we were treated to the King James version.

"I'm not really a basketball guy,'' new Flames coach Bill Peters is confessing Monday at the Scotiabank Saddledome. "I love Game 7s in hockey, baseball. Basketball, not so much. But last night, LeBron James going to an eighth consecutive final?

"C'mon …

"Eight. Let that sink in a minute. Eight.

"Are you kidding me?

"How good do you have to be to play in eight consecutive finals? For two franchises.

"The plays he makes defensively, running guys down, swatting balls away. When he's dialled in, he's … unbelievable.

"You what he does? He expects. Of himself and of everyone else. He's smart; he knows what he needs around him. The reporter on TV said: 'You're hard on players.' He said: 'I'm not hard on players at all.'

"What he does is expect a certain standard. He understands what's needed to reach a certain level. That's not being hard. That's being realistic.

"Expecting and understanding. That's how you begin to get there."

A blueprint for what Peters aims to begin instilling in the Flames come training camp.

The floor plan for success begins construction in September, of course. Monday, though, the new guy in the neighbourhood was understandably more concerned familiarizing himself with everything at event level and in the upstairs offices at the 'Dome.

"It's even a little puzzling getting around the dressing room to the video area,'' he acknowledged wryly of the unfamiliar working digs.

"I'm taking lefts when I should be taking rights.

"Nothing's second nature yet. Just not as dialled in as you'd like to be or will be.

"No different than the players. When they hear my terminology and the expectations we have, they're going to be a little unsure in the beginning, too.

"They might be turning left when I want them to turn right.

"So it's going to take a little while for all of us."

Hired April 23 to plot course for a return to the post-season, Peters returned from helming a disappointing Canadian fourth-place finish at the World Championships in Denmark last Monday, drove to Spokane for the wedding of the daughter of a good friend 48 hours later, then packed up the family vehicle again for the 690-km trek to Calgary.

A week in town, spending some time with his mom in Red Deer before heading back to Raleigh to get organized there (his kids are finishing school in N.C. this week) followed by Dallas and the NHL Entry Draft, June 22-23.

"Tre (GM Brad Treliving) and I,'' he mused, "are like two ships passing in the night. I'm here today and he's in Buffalo at the Combine. But we are going to cross paths this week. We're already talking on the phone daily.

"But it'll be good to in the same room at the same time to get specific on what we're going to do from now to the draft. Then back to Calgary to gear up for free agency."

One thing that's going to take some getting used to, having spent the past four years in Raleigh, N.C., Peters admits, is the additional mileage teams are required to trek over 82 games on this side of the league.

"I'm looking forward to getting the final copy of our schedule to see what our travel looks like. I coached in the Western Conference in Detroit but it was a unique situation, playing in the West but living in the East.

"The last four years I've had very moderate travel challenges. Everything's close proximity and we'd be home in bed by midnight a lot of times coming off the road.

"That's not going to happen often here. So you've got to be intelligent in how you plan.

"It's a factor. People might think your (complaining) and moaning but it's not an excuse. It's a factor. You lose practice days. You're always on the move or there's the CBA to factor in.

"I like to think you've got keep the motor running. No different than a diesel engine. I believe hockey's a rhythm sport. Guys want to be on the ice, guys want to touch pucks, stay sharp. So you've got to find a balance there."

Pulling, prodding or prying the most of the talent at his disposal is, in Peters' view, the essence of his job.

"Every individual,'' says Peters, "has a ceiling of some sort. We want to make players better. That's in everyone's best interests.

"People are always saying: 'Oh, you're hard on players.' Or: 'You're a players coach' or 'You're not a players coach' …

"We want to max out the individual. We want to max out the team.

"You know what the hardest thing for people today, in every walk of life? Holding people accountable. Holding your peers accountable.

"Every team has its own set of challenges. I like the fact our team is in good shape with a real strong core and lots of guys pushing for jobs.

"We've got a passionate fan base in a high-end city with an ownership group that wants to win. So now it's up to us, management, coaches, staff, players.

"We want the rink to be a destination our players are excited to reach every day. We're fortunate to be involved in a kid's game for a living. Truly blessed.

"So let's not lose sight of that, respect that we're in the best league in the world, respect each other's time and put in the work.

"It isn't hard. So don't make it hard."

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