The Carolina Hurricanes’ players know little about new coach Bill Peters other than what they’ve gleaned from a few conversations with him.
That will change quickly. The Canes’ preseason training camp begins with player physicals on Thursday, and the first on-ice practices are Friday at PNC Arena. For the players, that will be the real introduction.
“Everyone has played long enough to kind of know what’s going to happen,” forward Jeff Skinner said. “Coaches want players that are going to work hard and trust the system.”
But if most of the Canes can only speculate what Peters’ approach will be, former Canes forward Tim Brent has a better idea. So does forward Kyle Hagel, who has been invited to the Canes’ training camp.
Brent and Hagel played for Peters with the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League. Brent, who was with the Canes for two seasons, was the IceHogs’ team captain in 2008-2009, Peters’ first season.
“First of all, he’s an intelligent and articulate guy,” Brent said via email from Russia, where he plays for Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the KHL. “He can get his point across (and) he can teach so everyone understands.
“He would welcome feedback from players, especially his core guys and older guys. Many coaches say they have an open-door policy, but Bill truly did. If you had a question about something, or had an idea about something, he would listen. The feedback went both ways – it didn’t mean the players always got to do what they wanted – but he’d have no problem explaining why we were doing something a certain way.”
Brent said a very high standard of mutual respect was built in Peters’ first season as an AHL head coach.
“Whether you were 19 or 35, you were treated like a man – which in my opinion made guys want to play hard for him,” Brent said.
Peters, hired in June to replace the fired Kirk Muller, conducted some of the on-ice sessions during Carolina’s prospects conditioning camp in July. He maintained a brisk pace and said he would take the same approach during training camp and practices once the season begins.
“His practices were always very high tempo and upbeat,” Brent said. “Not a lot of teaching on the white board out on the ice. No standing around.”
Hagel, who played a full season in Rockford in 2010-2011, called Peters a straight-forward and detailed-oriented type who was to the point and didn’t like to repeat himself or a drill.
“If a drill gets explained once early in the year you’re expected to know it the rest of the year,” Hagel said. “Our power play and (penalty kill) meetings were not 15-20 minutes, going over tons of different things. He’ll come in prepared – like two points to hammer home. He addresses those two things and that’s it.”
Brent called Peters, who coached Rockford for three years before becoming a Detroit Red Wings assistant coach, someone who was “enthusiastic for competing and winning.”
And when the team wasn’t winning? Players at times see a different side of a coach when the losses pile up and pressure builds.
Some coaches are edgy, too stubborn, too quick to blame the players. Others keep their cool, make changes for the better and move on.
Hagel, 29, recalled the IceHogs going through a rough stretch under Peters in the 2010-2011 season.
“A real slump in the middle of the season – we were like 2-13,” Hagel said. “But (Peters) was malleable. He did change his approach, but in how our day was organized when we came to the rink. That got us out of our slump.
“He’s definitely process-oriented. But he’s not going to do something over and over again to the point of exhaustion if it’s not working. He’s smart enough to adapt and make changes.”