It’s been a summer of change for the Carolina Hurricanes. The front office was revamped in late April, with Ron Francis
assuming general manager duties and Mike Vellucci
being added to the executive management team alongside longtime Canes front office staff member Brian Tatum.
The most recent change was the hire of Bill Peters as the 13th head coach in franchise history.
Peters was introduced in a Friday press conference, which you can read about and watch here.
Here are seven takeaways from the hire of Peters.
1. The Search
Francis – while juggling a number of items including NHL Draft prep and player evaluation in advance of free agency – also took on the task of finding a new head coach shortly after taking over the role of general manager.
Peters first interviewed with the Canes on May 20 – exactly a month before the day of the introductory news conference – while Francis and Vellucci visited CEO and Owner Peter Karmanos in Detroit.
There was constant communication over the next month, as Peters would interview with two additional unnamed teams. Meanwhile, the Canes did their due diligence in interviewing nine other unnamed candidates before whittling their short list down to three.
“It gets very detailed and very comprehensive, but as I said right from the start, it’s something that’s so important for your hockey team that you have to take the time to make sure you go through it and get the right guy,” Francis explained. “That’s what we did.”
What sold Francis and his staff on Peters versus the other candidates?
“I think you saw it right here. This is a passionate individual. He wants to win, he wants to turn this thing around and he wants us to be successful,” Francis said. “He’s going to hold guys accountable, he’s going to demand that they come and compete every night, and I think our fans deserve that.”
The Canes had Peters in on Wednesday before hammering out the terms of his three-year contract on Thursday, when the hire was announced.
“Bill was highly sought after, and I’m thrilled he chose to join our organization,” Francis said. “I’m confident we have the right guy to lead the Canes going forward.”
Do not mistake this being Peters first head coaching gig in the NHL as a lack of coaching experience. In fact, Peters has a wealth of head coaching history – and a successful history, at that.
Before joining Mike Babcock’s staff as an assistant who dealt mainly with the defensive and penalty killing units, Peters was the head coach of the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League for three seasons. There, he guided the team to a 122-97-21 record, including consecutive 40-win seasons and Calder Cup playoff berths in 2008-09 and 2009-10.
Prior to that, Peters served as the head coach of the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League for three seasons where he recorded a 111-82-23 record and won 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.”
3. Accountability and Work Ethic
Accountability is a word utilized so often in hockey circles that the definition of it can sometimes be lost. What does the word mean to Peters, and how does he plan to ensure that accountability exists in the locker room and on the ice? Here’s what he had to say:
“I have the ultimate hammer as the coach, and the hammer is the ice time. 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.”
A consistent, solid work ethic is going to be the foundation for the Canes’ team identity under Peters. Those who pull their weight will be rewarded, and those who don’t won’t.
“The work ethic part of it is not negotiable. 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,” Peters said. “The guys will know what’s expected. The guys that can deliver and play on a consistent basis are going to be the guys going out over the wall and getting the opportunity.”
Expect to see these philosophies engrained on day one and carried forth into practices and games alike.
“I think the pace of practice is going to be really high, allowing us to play how we practice,” he said.
4. What Needs Fixing
As a part of his thorough preparation for his second interview with the Hurricanes, Peters identified three main areas that require immediate improvement in order for the team to return to the playoffs:
1) The power play: “We have enough skill to have a good power play.”
2) The start of games: “If you’re playing from behind in the NHL and you’re anybody but the LA Kings, you’re losing.”
3) The home record: “No question about that. We have to be a harder team to play against here in Raleigh.”
5. Style of Play
What brand of Hurricanes hockey can you expect to see from a Peters-led team? One focused on puck possession and responsible play in the defensive and neutral zones, which will breed offensive results.
“If you’re not good defensively in the NHL and you don’t know how to play in your own end, you know which end you’ll play in: you never get out of your own end. It’s that ‘here they come again’ feeling. You hit the red line, and they’re just down your throat. We call that being half-iced. You never get to go play in the offensive zone,” he explained. “So in order to be a good hockey team, you have to be good in the defensive zone, you have to be efficient, get through the neutral zone and go have fun in the offensive zone. That’s where everyone makes their money and where everyone wants to be, but in order to get the opportunity to play in the offensive zone, you better have the other two zones looked after.”
6. Filling Out His Staff
Rod Brind’Amour, who served as an assistant coach – albeit in a smaller role – under Kirk Muller’s coaching staff, will join Peters as an assistant coach. In the coming weeks, expect Peters to flesh out the remaining vacancies, including another assistant position and, in all likelihood, a goaltending coach.
“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.”
Peters said that he had already started working with Brind’Amour on Friday morning before the press conference.
“We started hammering away, right away,” he said. “He had a flight to catch at noon, otherwise I think we’d still be in the office.”
Francis on his first nearly two months as general manager of the Canes: “Let’s just say that sleep has been very overrated. There have been a lot of nights that I’ve been waking up at four or five, and my mind is just going, thinking about everything. But the thing that’s been great for me is that I’ve got a great, hard-working staff.”
Peters on how much his family will enjoy Raleigh: “I think my wife and kids are going to be busy entertaining people as we’re busy winning hockey games.”
Francis on naming a coach prior to the Draft: “In my eyes, from a timing standpoint, it certainly helps,” he said. “This process is very time consuming. To get it done and behind us now gives us the extra time to focus on what we need to next week.”
Peters on respect: “The respect is earned over time. I don’t expect instant respect from everybody. I’ll get on the phone today and start making calls and building relationships with our players, and respect will be earned both ways over time.”
Peters on goal-scoring: “We’ve got to score more goals. We haven’t scored enough goals here in Carolina to match what our talent level is.”
Peters on becoming a professional: “Just because you come out of junior and college and start drawing a paycheck doesn’t make you a professional, in my opinion. It’s when you start to eat, [study] nutrition, look after your body and train. That’s what makes you a professional.”