The sooner Bill Peters can tick the box of coaching an NHL playoff team, the better for him and the Calgary Flames.
The 53-year-old from Three Hills, Alta., was introduced Monday as the Calgary’s new head coach. The Flames fired Glen Gulutzan last week after two seasons and a 37-35-10 record in 2017-18.
Peters had a quick turnaround between his first and second NHL head-coaching jobs. He’d resigned from the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday after four seasons and a year remaining on his contract.
Peters went 137-138-53 with the Hurricanes but wasn’t able to get the team into the playoffs.
Flames captain Mark Giordano, defencemen Dougie Hamilton, Travis Hamonic and T.J. Brodie and centre Sean Monahan sat in on the news conference at Scotiabank Saddledome and listened to their new coach talk about post-season hunger.
“Guys are disappointed not to be continuing to play in the playoffs and I’m right there with them as a coach,” Peters said. “I want to be playing in the playoffs.”
Carolina has new ownership and reassigned former general manager Ron Francis within the organization last month. Peters’ tenure there would have eventually been subject to the new GM’s approval.
“With a new owner and a new GM coming in, they needed the opportunity to hire their own coach and that’s how I made that decision to be honest with you,” Peters said.
He’s Calgary general manager Brad Treliving’s second head-coaching hire and the fourth coach of the Flames in nine years after Gulutzan (2016-17) Bob Hartley (2012-16) and Brent Sutter (2009-12).
Peters was head coach and Treliving one of general managers of the Canadian team that won gold at the 2016 men’s world hockey championship in Russia.
Treliving asked the Hurricanes for permission to speak to Peters last week about coming to Calgary. The GM said he didn’t talk to any other candidates before signing Peters to a multi-year contract.
“Bill and I don’t have a long relationship,” Treliving said. “We had a situation where we worked together over a small period of time, but you do your homework. This is somebody I believe fully in.
“Bill does have experience. He’s dealt with top players. I have nothing but belief that Bill is going to come in here and do a phenomenal job.”
Peters is coaching Canada again at the world championship May 4-20 in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Calgary has finished outside the playoffs seven of the last nine years. Giordano hopes Peters is the man to reverse that trend.
“You can just see the intensity, but the plan and the focus is there,” the captain said. “As you get older, you realize the window starts closing quicker and quicker to win.
“For myself, as an individual, I haven’t played in enough playoff games.”
The Flames were playing their best hockey of the season when they beat Peters’ Hurricanes 4-1 at home Jan. 14. Calgary was third in the Pacific Division and in playoff position, but then began a slow swan dive over the final weeks of the regular season.
A 17-20-4 record at the Saddledome and a power play that ranked 29th in the league at 16 per cent were a drag on Calgary’s playoff aspirations.
Under Peters, the Hurricanes ranked first in the NHL in faceoffs won (54 per cent) and in least shots-against per game (28.9)
“Faceoffs are important,” Peter said. “That’s your first 50-50 battle of your shift.
“I want to have the puck, possess the puck, make sure we have value on the puck when we have it. Take advantage of playing on the good ice at the Saddledome.
“Specialty teams have to be dialled in. All those primary categories, I’d like to be in the top 10 in. If you’re in the top half of the league in a 31-team league, 15th or 16th, you’re on the bubble. I don’t want to be a bubble team.
“I want to be a team that gets off to a good start, sustains that quality start, and has a playoff spot wrapped up and you’re fighting for home ice.”
After navigating the Spokane Chiefs to Western Hockey League and Memorial Cup championships in 2008, Peters spent three seasons coaching the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs and then joined the Detroit Red Wings coaching staff.
He was an assistant for Mike Babcock in Detroit for three seasons before heading to Raleigh, N.C.