After an extensive and detailed coaching search, the Carolina Hurricanes got their man.
Bill Peters was introduced as the 13th coach in franchise history and fourth since the team arrived in North Carolina in a Friday news conference at PNC Arena.
“Bill was highly sought after, and I’m thrilled he chose to join our organization,” said Canes Executive Vice President and General Manager Ron Francis in an opening statement. “I’m confident we have the right guy to lead the Canes going forward.”
Peters, 48, comes to the Canes after spending three years behind the bench in Detroit as an assistant under Mike Babcock, in which he worked primarily with the defensive and penalty killing units. But that doesn’t mean he’s a stranger to being the bench boss.
Prior to joining Detroit’s staff, Peters served as the head coach of Rockford (American Hockey League), where he guided the team to a 122-97-21 record and two playoff berths over three seasons. Before that, Peters spent three years as the head coach of Spokane (Western Hockey League), where he posted a 111-82-23 record and captured a Memorial Cup title in 2008.
“Bill has been a head coach and a successful one at different levels. He comes from good organizations, and I’m sure as you saw, this is a guy that knows coaching,” Francis said. “We’re very comfortable, even though he hasn’t coached a game as a head coach in the NHL, that he’s going to be very successful at what he does.”
Peters first interviewed with the Canes a month ago in Detroit, when Francis and Assistant General Manager and Director of Hockey Operations Mike Vellucci were in town for a meeting with CEO and Owner Peter Karmanos.
From the get-go, Peters’ preparation and attention to detail impressed the Canes’ executive management.
“When we asked if he had anything for us, he had a booklet that broke everything down,” Francis said. “The next time, he had not only a booklet, but a PowerPoint with it. He’s extremely, extremely detailed. He’s going to communicate with our players, and they’ll know where he stands.”
“I think we developed a pretty good comfort level with myself, Mike Vellucci and Ron,” Peters said of the first interview. “As we went into the second interview, I got to meet a lot more of the management staff. It was very comforting with the communication we had over the past four weeks.”
Peters would interview with two other unnamed teams but ultimately chose Carolina.
“When I did my due diligence … we’re not far off,” Peters said. “I like our depth down the middle, and I think we have a great one pair in (Andrej) Sekera and (Justin) Faulk.”
“I don’t foresee a major makeover. As Bill mentioned, we’ve got some pretty good pieces in place. I know it’s been frustrating that we haven’t made the playoffs in the last five years,” Francis said. “We may do a few things … but we believe we have a pretty good group here that can compete and win, so there’s no real need at this point to make a major overhaul, in my eyes.”
The atmosphere of Raleigh also played a determining factor in Peters’ decision to want to coach the Hurricanes.
“If the reports were accurate, he was a candidate in all markets. We’re very pleased that he chose us and likes our organization,” Francis said. “Part of it, too, is what we have to offer in the city. Raleigh is a great market for families, and he’s a family man.”
“I think my wife and kids are going to be busy entertaining people as we’re busy winning hockey games,” Peters joked.
So, how does Peters plan on winning hockey games?
“The work ethic part of it is not negotiable,” Peters said. “You look around the league at any team that’s any good, they’re some of the hardest working teams in the league. That’s where it starts.”
If the work ethic isn’t there, the playing time won’t be there, either.
“I have the ultimate hammer as the coach, and the hammer is the ice time,” he said. “They all want ice time, they all feel they deserve more ice time, they all want to play in the situations that match their skill set. I’m all for that as long as you’re giving me the things that I need.”
In preparing his project for his second interview with the Hurricanes, Peters said three crucial areas of necessary improvement jumped out to him: the power play, the starts to games and the home record. Fixing those ailments is a process that starts off the ice in training and then on the ice in camp and practices.
“I think the pace of practice is going to be really high, allowing us to play how we practice,” he said.
In the coming weeks and months, Peters will flesh out his coaching staff. Rod Brind’Amour will serve as an assistant coach and will work with one of the specialty teams units.
“Assistants are huge. They work. They’re grinding. They’re bringing me the information,” Peters said. “We’re going to have a good, hard-working staff. We’re going to teach the game and bring people along.
“I want the best coach that’s going to fit,” he continued, mentioning how he had already formed a bond with Brind’Amour. “We started hammering away, right away. He had a flight to catch at noon; otherwise I think we’d still be in the office.”
Though the coaching search has now come to a close, the work continues behind the scenes, as the Canes revamped front office and new head coach continue to prepare for the season ahead. Peters will then make his NHL and Hurricanes head coaching debut behind the bench in October.
“We’re going to set the bar high and give our fans something that they can be proud of and will want to watch each and every night,” he said.