Commentary

DeCock: Peters not obvious choice, but just might be good coach for Hurricanes

ldecock@newsobserver.comJune 20, 2014 

New Head Coach Bill Peters and Carolina Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis speak to the media during a press conference on Friday, June 20, 2014, at PNC Arena in Raleigh. Video by Jill Knight/jhknight@newsobserver.com

THE NEWS & OBSERVER

  • Canes coaches

    Paul Maurice, 1995-2003, 268-291-145

    Maurice was 30 when he moved to North Carolina along with the Hartford Whalers, but he’d already been a head coach for two seasons. He took the Hurricanes to the playoffs in 1999 and 2001 before their run to the Stanley Cup finals in 2002. After the team finished last in 2002-03, Maurice was on a short leash, and he ran out of slack in December 2003.

    Peter Laviolette, 2003-08, 167-130-30

    Laviolette, who successfully revitalized the New York Islanders during a brief stint there, changed the culture of the Hurricanes going into the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season and foresaw the changes to the game coming out of it. His strategic vision and motivational skills were essential to the Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup victory in 2006, but he was unable to get the Hurricanes into the playoffs during the next two seasons and was fired in December 2008.

    Paul Maurice, 2008-11, 116-100-30

    The Hurricanes brought back Maurice, who had an unsuccessful run with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the interim, to try and salvage something from the remainder of the team that won the Cup. He infused stability and tweaked the foundation left behind by Laviolette, sparking a late-season surge that led to the Eastern Conference finals. Maurice’s next two teams both missed the playoffs.

    Kirk Muller, 2011-14, 80-80-27

    One of the game’s most respected leaders as a player and a rising star among NHL assistant coaches, Muller was in his first season as a minor-league head coach when the Hurricanes sought him out in November 2011, going outside the organization to replace Maurice. The Hurricanes missed the playoffs in all three seasons Muller was in charge, although only one was a full season. Muller was fired on May 5 new general manager Ron Francis.

    Luke DeCock

  • More information

    William Robert Peters

    Born:Jan. 13, 1965.

    From:Three Hills, Alberta, Can.

    Family:Wife, Denise; daughter, Aleze, 15; son, Ayden, 9.

    Coaching experience:

    2014- Carolina Hurricanes head coach.

    2011-14 Detroit Red Wings assistant.

    2008-11 Rockford IceHogs (AHL) head coach.

    2005-08 Spokane Chiefs (WHL) head coach.

— Bill Peters was not the easy or obvious choice for the Carolina Hurricanes.

He isn’t anyone’s old friend, former teammate or protégé.

He’s not among the Hurricanes’ distinguished alumni.

He’s not a television personality or Hall of Fame player.

He’s not flashy or dramatic.

He’s not an experienced NHL head coach.

(And this is relevant only for the Hurricanes, but he’s not Paul Maurice.)

All of that just might be the best thing for the Hurricanes. Too many times, this organization has turned to the known and the expected. Peters, an assistant coach with the Detroit Red Wings, was neither.

New general manager Ron Francis cast a wide net. Ten interviews. Three second interviews. Some big names. Some lesser-known ones. He took his time. He went a direction very few would have guessed.

Peters hits all the targets Francis was aiming for when he started this search more than seven long weeks ago. He’s a teacher who won over Francis and his assistant general managers with his intensity, preparation, organization, honesty and attention to detail during the interview process. He promised accountability and discipline, and has shown elsewhere in his career he can deliver.

He has not been an NHL head coach before, which raises red flags because that was one of the issues with his predecessor, Kirk Muller. Francis said Peters’ success in junior hockey and the minor leagues eased those concerns, not to mention his pedigree with the Chicago Blackhawks (as their AHL coach) and the Red Wings (as an assistant to Mike Babcock), two of the NHL’s most consistently competitive franchises.

He’s 49, young enough to have many years ahead of him if all goes right, old enough to have put together an impressive coaching resume.

Just because no one knew his name a month ago doesn’t mean he’s not the right hire. Francis is essentially staking his reputation on Peters, and he makes a pretty good case why he’s the right fit. Francis’ presence is also a reason why Peters might be a better fit now than if Jim Rutherford were still here.

Peters will benefit from new faces on every front: a new general manager with a new staff apparently committed to heading off in his own direction despite his connection to the previous administration, willing to bring aboard a new coach from outside the organization and listen to what he has to say with an open mind.

Unlike Muller, who also came from outside, Peters will have a fighting chance. Muller was trapped by the stagnancy of the old regime, unable to fight off the calcification that infected the Hurricanes for too long. Muller brought a new voice, but no one had any interest in listening.

Asked why he chose the Hurricanes despite interest from elsewhere, Peters said all the right things about the talent on the roster, but one of his later comments certainly rang true to anyone who has watched the Hurricanes fail to make the playoffs the past five years.

“We haven’t scored enough goals to match what our talent level is,” Peters said.

Hard to put it more succinctly than that.

Can Peters get more out of this group than Muller did, and Maurice before him? We’ll await the answer, but there’s no question whatsoever that the Hurricanes’ players will face a new level of intensity and accountability from a coach who is all business – and will expect nothing less from them.

DeCock: ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock, 919-829-8947

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