Introduced as the 17th coach in Calgary Flames history Monday, Bill Peters’ pledge is to be “demanding without being demeaning.”
It’s a mantra that prompted GM Brad Treliving to hire Peters with an eye on getting more out of a group that underachieved under Glen Gulutzan.
So, as the 53-year-old native of Three Hills, Alta., spoke of his approach as a coach, he wanted it known his tack wouldn’t include publicly throwing players under the bus as he did so famously to Eddie Lack late in the 2017 season.
After all, having been nestled in the NHL’s backwoods of Carolina the last four years, it’s quite possible Flames players and casual hockey fans know little more about Peters than what he offered up reporters one day after the backup goalie had yet another horrific outing.
Search it up – we’ll wait.
“You won’t get the Eddie Lack sound bite so play that today and move on,” said Peters Monday of the 51-second clip in which he talks about how Lack had to earn the respect of his teammates for being ranked 60th in save percentage in a 30-team league.
“I learned from that. Not a proud moment as a coach. It was a little over the top. I apologized to Eddie that day. I apologized to (Carolina GM) Ronnie (Francis) when it happened, so let’s get that one out of the way.
“First call after I leave here is get ahold of Smitty (Mike Smith), (David) Rittich, (Tyler) Parsons and (Jon) Gillies and make sure they know they’re not going to get that one. You’ve got to build relationships with these guys and get on the same page and accomplish things together as a team.”
Six days after Treliving fired Gulutzan, the GM confirmed the highly anticipated hire came without a single interview with another candidate. A rare move indeed, making many wonder if a coaching change would have even been made had Peters not had a rare out-clause in his Carolina contract exercised Friday.
Despite suggesting experience was a top criterion as part of his coaching search, Treliving hired a man with four (all playoff games) less experience than Gulutzan.
In four years as bench boss with the Hurricanes, Peters never once made the playoffs, making his hiring a curious one with many fans in Calgary who had their eyes on the likes of Darryl Sutter, Alain Vigneault or Dave Tippett.
“I understand the thought,” said Treliving of the criticism that comes with hiring a man with a losing record (137-138-53) in Carolina, albeit with a young team that spends well under the salary cap.
“My job isn’t to go out and do what’s necessarily politically correct, or what’s safe, but my job is to do what’s best for the hockey club and I have nothing but belief Bill is going to come in here and do a phenomenal job.
“There were some great candidates out there. And this wasn’t one hiring a friend per se. Bill and I don’t have a long relationship.”
The pair met two years ago when Treliving was co-GM of Canada’s entry at the world championships where Peters coached the team to gold.
“We worked together over a small period of time but you do your homework and this is somebody I believe fully in,” said Treliving, who said the intense Peters received glowing endorsements from many around the league.
“Bill does have experience. When I talk about experience I’m not just talking about head coaching. He was an assistant three years and he has international experience with top players in the game at the worlds and as an assistant at the World Cup. He’s won a memorial Cup with Spokane (2008).
“You learn what the person and coach is about and I think Bill was the person we needed to have.”
On Wednesday Peters heads overseas to lead Canada again at the worlds.
Before then he’ll continue delving into his new team – a squad he’s familiar enough to know how he plans to shape their style of play.
“We have an identity we want to work towards for sure,” said Peters, who said he wants his defencemen jumping up to provide plenty of offence and chances.
“Everybody wants to be the hardest working team in the league. You want to be in that conversation.
“We want to have speed in our game, whether it’s puck speed, foot speed – we want to play quick, we want to have the puck and we want to attack. We want to do the heavy lifting quick in the back end and get it to the offensive zone and express ourselves there – let our top-end talent show.”
He said he believes in pairs, not trios, and will keep Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan together.
His research and the significant move or two Treliving will undoubtedly author this summer will dictate more of the team’s exact style, but make no mistake – the coaching change was made to get more out of the existing group.
“One thing I want to make sure we’re doing as a staff is getting out from the coach’s room and spending time with the players to build relationships with the players,” said Treliving, hinting that wasn’t done enough under the previous staff.
“You can do a lot of things tactically when you find out what it is that drives each player and pushing those buttons to drive and maximize the abilities of players.
“Ultimately that’s coaching.”
A handful of players still in town looked on at the press conference including captain Mark Giordano, Monahan, Michael Stone, T.J. Brodie and Travis Hamonic.
They either laughed or looked relieved when Peters pointed out the Lack lecture wasn’t his style.
“It says a lot that he apologized for that,” said Giordano. “What I see is he looks like he has a clear plan and is very structured.”
Calling the firing of Gulutzan the most difficult decision he’s made professionally, Treliving said Peters is all about accountability.
“I felt we lacked a little something Bill’s able to bring,” said Treliving.
“It’s a feel, it’s an intuition, having been around him. To me it’s maximizing the potential of each player and I think Bill has the ability, and will do that.”
He’d better, or Treliving will likely be the one to pay the ultimate price.