116Bill Peters
Photo Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Would Bill Peters be an upgrade over Glen Gulutzan?

From the very moment that it became evident that the Calgary Flames weren’t going to make the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs, fans and pundits alike have been sizing up the coaching market looking for a replacement for now-former Flames bench boss Glen Gulutzan. It’s only natural, given the chasm between the team’s expectations and performance over the past 82 games.

While the anticipated “Black Monday” of coaching firings didn’t materialize across the league, there are likely several teams considering their options as they begin their offseasons.

One interesting potential option, now that the Flames have cut ties with Gulutzan, is Carolina Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters. But would Peters necessarily solve the Flames’ current problems?

Availability and cost

Peters reportedly has a window in his contract where he can explore other options and potentially opt out of his 2018-19 contract. Teams are said to be sniffing around him.

For reference, Gulutzan is making around $800,000 and is also under contract for 2018-19. If the Flames decided to make a swap, they’d still be on the hook for Gulutzan’s final year and would end up tripling their head coaching costs – and that’s if Peters comes to town on the same salary he has in Carolina. Most likely he’d be fetching closer to $2 million to coach here, which would more than triple next season’s coaching costs.

Comparing experiences

Peters is 53 and is originally from Three Hills, Alberta. His bike was run over when he was 15, an incident that broke his knee and ended his serious pro hockey aspirations. He played a little bit in the AJHL, college and one game as an emergency replacement in the Central Hockey League, but otherwise spent his time running hockey schools and doing managerial work.

He’s coached continuously since 1996, spending time as an assistant and eventually gaining head coaching experience in four different levels: the University of Lethbridge (CIS, 2002-05), Spokane (WHL, 2005-08), Rockford (AHL, 2008-11) and Carolina (2014-18). He won a Memorial Cup in 2008 with Spokane.

Peters is seven years older than Gulutzan and is from small town Alberta rather than small town Saskatchewan. He went to college and got his degree, then worked his way up through the coaching ranks. He has less playing experience than Gulutzan and about equal head coaching, but has slightly more coaching experience if you factor in time as an assistant coach. He’s less gung-ho about analytics than Gulutzan, but is said to be much more blunt and a bit less of a “player’s coach.”

He’s very much a chip off the Mike Babcock block, which makes sense given he had him as a coach in college and then served as an assistant under him in Detroit.

Team progression

Peters’ entire NHL head coaching career spans four seasons in Carolina where the Hurricanes missed the playoffs every single season. That said, the team maintained pretty solid possession numbers for his entire tenure. His first and last seasons were utterly undone by bad goaltending.

Season CF% PP% PK% S% Sv% Pts%
2014-15 52.4 18.8 84.7 6.2 90.9 .433
2015-16 51.5 16.8 84.3 6.9 91.5 .524
2016-17 51.3 17.7 84.2 7.3 91.3 .530
2017-18 54.5 18.4 77.5 7.0 90.9 .506

While Carolina couldn’t shore up their goaltending during his four years there, they did a pretty solid job developing young defensemen. Players that came up under Peters and have seemed to settle in nicely include Noah Hanifin, Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce and Haydn Fleury. The development of young forwards wasn’t nearly as successful during that span, unfortunately.

Coaching style

Talking to colleagues who cover the Hurricanes, the emphasis under Peters has been structure. He’s all about positioning and anticipation. Sports Illustrated’s Alex Prewitt profiled Peters a year ago, and their chat was illuminating in terms of how he views the game. Responding to praise about his young team’s discipline, Peters offered an explanation of how a team stays out of the box.

We’ve got a real mature, young group. We skate good, so we can establish and maintain body position. And if you lose body position instead of getting lazy and putting your stick in, drop your head and go to work, make up space. That’s why the game’s gotten so fast, because everyone can skate and you lose body position and have to work twice as hard to get it back. Better off knowing what you’re doing and being in the right spot.

In another chat, this one at The Coaches Site (from their annual conference), Peters discussed the importance of faceoffs, winning 50/50 battles and situational awareness. In short? Know where you are, know what your options are, and know how to react quickly to what’s happening.

The criticisms I heard about Peters were that he’s a bit of a hard-ass and he shuffles lines a lot. Given that the criticisms often heard about Gulutzan were him being perhaps too much of a “player’s coach” and not shuffling lines much, this might be a nice change of pace.

The Hurricanes didn’t have a ton of success under Peters, particularly this season, but you could potentially pin some of that on (a) rough goaltending and (b) a really young defensive group learning on the job. Given the Flames’ challenges exiting their zone and creating off the rush, I could see a structured system from Peters being quite appealing – particularly given how developed the team’s blueline group is.

Would he be an upgrade?

If the Flames management group doesn’t make wholesale changes to the team’s composition, it’s easy to see the style of game Peters seems to want to play translating well. Defensive zone structure was one of the big bugaboos of the 2017-18 Flames and once the team wasn’t able to cement good habits early on, things just snowballed from there. Emphasizing structure and removing turnovers inside the blueline would go a long way towards getting the Flames where they need to be.

On the other hand, Peters’ teams have had tons of puck possession during his entire tenure in Carolina and haven’t scored a ton. They struggled to score almost to the same extent the Flames struggled to score, though you could make an argument that Carolina didn’t have nearly the young firepower that the Flames do. The big question is whether Carolina’s offensive troubles were talent-related or systemic, and it’s hard to delineate the two.

When I argued that the coaching staff wasn’t going to be left intact, I made one big declaration:

They have two years to maximize the output from this core group before big contracts expire and they have to deal with the Seattle expansion draft.

Is a hard-ass head coach with an emphasis on defensive structure and puck possession the right guy to get the absolute most out of this team between now and 2020? Based on the evidence I’ve found (and the people I’ve spoken with) he might not be the perfect person for the job, but he’s probably a better fit for what this group needs moving forward than Gulutzan was.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    My takeaway from this piece is how little the Flames paid Gully. Peters gets paid twice as much as Gully by a club that on a very good night might have 70% paid attendance.

    We can wax on about how the Flames should go back up the Brinks to pay AV or Trotz or Boudreau et al, but this club is not going to spend big bucks on a coach, so lower your expectations way down.

    I would say that if the Flames don’t hire a retread coach like Guy Boucher or Todd Richards or hire internally, you can fully expect to have to google the name of the new guy because chances are you will only have vague knowledge of him. In short, the Flames will go jack cheap with their new coach.

    • buts

      You say this all the time….what makes you think this? They are a cap team and Darryl, Brent and Keenan were near or at the top of coach’s pay when employed here.

    • Hockeysense9393

      Obviously Sutter has his philosophies on what kind of personnel is needed to win (on his team) lol. I’m pretty sure that Lombardi asked Sutter what he thought before making any type of decision with the Kings. Sooo…nooo…Sutter and BT would most likely not work well together lol.

      • Hockeysense9393

        To note on this as well…Sutter and Lombardi were essentially the same people lol. They grew together for many years in San Jose and then of course Lombardi brought his buddy in the Kings fold, when he was available. I can’t see Sutter even thinking to attempt a comeback with the Flames. If anything…he’ll bide his time and wait for Haskol to be fired by Hextall haha. Those are all “old school” buddies through the years….and they seem to take care of each other.

        • everton fc

          But if Daryl’s still close to King…

          Daryl could not work with Burke. Not many should want to. That would be the nail in the coffin here. Burke is an obstacle, in my eyes…

  • SgtRoadBlock

    Peters just a older GG, i don’t see any one on the open market i would sign unless it Mr.Roy lol …….But he would never come,
    Just cause the Coaching spot open does not mean people will be running to BT to get hired’

  • seamax

    I don’t know what kind of coach he is, but I’ll never forget the way he carved up Eddie Lack after one of his appearances his last year in Carolina. So he’s one step ahead of our GM, at any rate.

  • imthedude63

    Its a lateral move and man oh man did Gully come cheap. We need a winner. Take out 04 and how many playoff series have we won….1 in 28 years. Don’t be cheap Flames. You get what you pay for…

  • RKD

    Definitely not, he missed the playoffs all 4 years in Carolina. The Flames need a coach that can get the max out his group, be ready at the start of the game, help them with their mental fragility and improve special teams. Peters doesn’t strike me as that guy. There are better options out there.

    • Rudy27

      What good is playoff experience as a coach if you can’t inspire the team to make it to the playoffs! Not saying Peters is the best option, but I’m sure he got a good taste of playoff hockey as an assistant under Babcock with the Wings.

  • Stu Gotz

    “He’s a bit of a hard ass and shuffles lines a lot”….that’s exactly what the Flames need !!
    Carolina has had poor talent including goaltending…Peters is highly credible and will be sought after by many teams. Sign him!

    • JR drum

      Peters would be great. Carolina always looks very good during their cowtown visit. The problem with this team imo is Duhgie. He is a coach killer. Very bad defensively, dumb lazy penalties ( hooking slashing). Yes he can shoot and skate. He would be a better winger and a coveted right hand shot. Or better on another team. They would get a boatload for him.

    • The Beej

      There was a good article on here a while back about AV not being able to do anything without an elite top 5 goalie and about how he slowly helped contribute to the decline of NYR. You should read it. I had thought he might be a good option as well based on what he got out of the Sedins. But when you look closer he is probably a land mine best to avoid.

      • ThisBigMouthIsRight

        That article was Corsi based bunk, Look what a “great Corsi” did for the Flames… Everyone has their Biases even the writers here. Look deeper than just advanced stats or we’ll be stuck in the same place next year as this year.

      • ThisBigMouthIsRight

        To make a comparable, One could say D, Sutter is a terrible coach because he relied on Kipper and Quick to get wins? Well? Yeah that’s part of how it works.. You Need Great Goal-tending to make it far in the Playoffs or even regular season. But so is Player usage and line matching etc… There is More to Coaching than just advanced team stats.

  • JR drum

    Peters would be great. Carolina always looks very good during their cowtown visit. The problem with this team imo is Duhgie. He is a coach killer. Very bad defensively, dumb lazy penalties ( hooking slashing). Yes he can shoot and skate. He would be a better winger and a coveted right hand shot. Or better on another team. They would get a boatload for him.

  • WillyWonka

    why doesn’t this article show his win-loss stats???

    so, PETERS is a “possession” guy is he? great. just like GG
    being such a possession monster, PETERS certainly must have an amazing record, right? all those years of positive possession and CORSI dominance would surely make him a winning coach.
    well, here is the win loss info that was left out of the article:
    W / L / OT-LOSS
    2014-15 30 / 41 / 11
    2015-16 35 / 31 / 16
    2016-17 36 / 31 / 15
    2017-18 36 / 35 / 11
    his record is WORSE than Gully!!!! he is another one of these coaches who has become drunk from the stupid CORSI koolaid

  • freethe flames

    I liked evertonfc list of candidates:Daryl Sutter
    Todd Reirden
    Alain Vigneault
    Lindy Ruff
    Tim Hunter (Long shot/assistant?)
    Rocky Thompson (Assistant)
    Sheldon Keefe (Long shot)
    Brad Larsen (Jackets Asst.)
    Todd Nelson
    WW can you give this list to you good buddies.

    • ThisBigMouthIsRight

      As I’ve seen on some hockey speculation pages, Calgary should also be talking to Dan Bylsma…
      Dan Bylsma owns one of the more impressive overall resumes of any of the candidates. In addition to his championship season in 2008-09, Bylsma led the Penguins to the playoffs in all six of his seasons in Pittsburgh, which also included two division titles.

  • Justthateasy

    I saw the choices today. Of the six or seven potentials my choice would be Sutter. Look how he sucked the life out of the Kings while he was there. He will squeeze these Flames til there’s nothing left to give. He will have input it into personal changes until we get the right combination. Maybe we will have a Cup in 4 years or less.
    If nothing else, we need to be tough at home again.

  • Hockeysense9393

    Rocky Thompson has a pretty good record (so far) for sure, but you need to remember that the Chicago Wolves are the Vegas AHL team? That…which still includes St. Louis top prospects being piped in? His AHL roster consists of older NHL players not on the Vegas roster, and St. Louis prospects… May be a little inflated?? lol. I’m thinking even Gully can have an outstanding record if coaching the Wolves. Before taking over the deep Wolves team, he pretty much toiled in the Oilers system….which isn’t quite the best format lol. Too small a sample size yet for Rocky I think……

    • Hockeysense9393

      I’m pretty sure I know the reply on this as well… He won a Memorial Cup with Windsor?? I’m not taking away from his coaching acumen…but also remember that Windsor lost in the first round to the London Knights, and were able to train and get ready for the Tourney due to hosting it. He could very well be the next coaching mind to show in the NHL, but ultimately I think his resume is still a little small. Experience is key…and he is moving in the right direction….BUT not quite ready yet for prime time.