Luke DeCock

After four fruitless seasons, Bill Peters' exit the best for him and Hurricanes both

Carolina Hurricanes coach Bill Peters on Friday exercised his option to walk away from the final year of his contract after four seasons without a playoff berth.
Carolina Hurricanes coach Bill Peters on Friday exercised his option to walk away from the final year of his contract after four seasons without a playoff berth. cseward@newsobserver.com

Ah, the great moments of the Bill Peters era. There was … or … uh … yeah.

Really, it comes down to yapping at Eddie Lack from down the hallway last year – “make a (bleeping) save” – or his epic rant in February about how sending the same team out again would be “unacceptable” at which point the Carolina Hurricanes proceeded to send the same team out again for the next game. Maybe even the preposterous co-captaincy that helped sink this season before it even started. Never anything on the ice.

Peters spent four years with the Carolina Hurricanes, made some bad commercials for water-purification systems, never made the playoffs and exits with essentially the same record as his predecessor, Kirk Muller.

Peters was a terrific tactician who never connected with his players. This season, they had clearly tuned him out by December. He should have been fired then.

Then again, if Scott Darling isn't grossly negligent in net, the Hurricanes are in the playoffs right now (or at least, would have been earlier this week) and Peters is still in charge. Beyond his faults as a motivator, Peters also never had much to work with: abysmal goaltending, a popgun offense and a team that lacked any sense of what it was really supposed to be. It wasn't fast and it wasn't skilled and it wasn't tough. It was … just kind of there.

A different coach might have been able, might still be able, to coax an identity out of that roster, but Peters never could, no matter how impressive the possession numbers were. There's also his inability to get through to Jeff Skinner, the Hurricanes' one truly special goal-scorer. The two of them share the blame for that, to be sure, but Peters couldn't, or wouldn't, find a way to make it work. The less said about the inexplicable decision to make Jordan Staal and Justin Faulk co-captains – and snub Justin Williams – the better at this point.

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His departure, his choice to exit his contract, is the best for everyone: He gets to cash in on his reputation as a coaching genius north of the border and the Hurricanes save the $1.6 million – $1.6 million! – they owed him for next season. It didn't take a genius to see this coming; Peters disappeared the moment the season ended, wasn't invited to take part in exit interviews and never met with the media.

Rarely has a coach evaporated so quickly after the final game. Given his lack of success, soon it'll be like he was never here at all.

Dave Tippett and Rod Brind'Amour are the immediate front-runners to replace Peters, although there will be others considered. Given the lack of a general manager at the moment and the way the hockey world has recoiled at new owner Tom Dundon's insistence on exerting control over the team, it'll be curious to see how many are willing to pursue the position.

But either Tippett or Brind'Amour will be fine, even if some Hurricanes fans will cringe at the idea of putting yet another ex-Hurricane in a position of responsibility, especially one tainted by his association with the Peters regime and the Muller regime before that.

Tippett's a proven pro and may be the right kind of guy to take this group to the next level. He may also be more interested in a turnkey operation like the Washington Capitals, if they exit the playoffs early yet again. His friendship with the demoted and exiled Ron Francis is probably a negative, but he and Dundon know each other from Dallas. He was the most obvious option in December, and he remains the most logical option now.

As for Brind'Amour, it's hard to imagine his stock falling among fans given the unbelievable esteem in which he was held as a captain and player, but being on the bench for seven seasons of frustration will do that to anyone. But consider this: There were questions about Brind'Amour when he was promoted to captain to replace Francis, since to that point he had been the lead-by-example type as a lieutenant to Francis.

Seems silly now. Brind'Amour, unshackled of his deference to Francis, turned out to be the consummate leader, better even than his predecessor, not only by example but with an innate sense of when his voice was needed and how to relate to individual players in different ways.

Brind'Amour has spent the past four seasons deferring to Peters. His skills as a motivator are unquestioned. With the right staff alongside, Brind'Amour may be as good an option as anyone to lead this franchise to glory.

Again.

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

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