75Bill Peters
Photo Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Coaching Carousel: How to stop the vicious cycle

Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving wasted no time in turfing head coach Glen Gulutzan a little more than a week after the season ended in utter failure, and it was clear to everyone his haste in making moves was because he already had a replacement all but officially on board.

On Monday, the inking of the 17th head coach in franchise history was made official and the team welcomed Bill Peters to the fold without so much as interviewing another candidate.

A quick decision made with little hesitation, the team’s tactician of transactions is comfortable knowing he has hitched his future to that of his latest coach’s — the third Treliving has issued contracts to in less than four calendar years after handing his inherited Bob Hartley an extension during the 2014-15 campaign, and then hiring Gulutzan when the players tired of the former’s tyranny.

Treliving, though, knows of the dangers of the Coaching Carousel, which has been historically difficult to slow here in Calgary — churning through seven different bench bosses in the 11 years since the lockout of 2004-05. That’s Edmonton Oilers, Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers territory turnover… a recipe that hasn’t been successful for any of those teams’ championship aspirations. The Flames themselves have won a single playoff round in 13 seasons.

The Flames GM believes Peters is the man who can stop the cycle and provide stability, but he also knows that in order to truly slow the momentum of the carousel, a significant roster shakeup or two may have to accompany the addition of the latest master of messaging. He alluded to the fact as he announced the Gulutzan firing by ensuring everyone listening knew his players — and even himself — were not being relieved of their own responsibility in the mess of a season.

As assembled, this is a potentially dangerous core group of players.

That might sound dramatic, but players hold a great deal of power in today’s NHL. Never has their relationship with their coach been more important. Hence Peters’ intention to spend the summer really getting to know his new charges.

“We all know the players have changed quite a bit,” Peters said of the Millennial NHL while chatting with Flames Nation voice Pat Steinberg and colleague Rob Kerr on Sportsnet960’s afternoon show on Monday. “It’s a different way of communicating. They’re used to more instant gratification, instant answers. They have questions and they want answers. And they’re good questions. They’re a very intelligent group. There’s more time spent with the individual than there ever has been.”

Peters needs to be able to both challenge and unite the group, whatever it looks like come the fall.

In just a few years, the Flames’ carryover players have already learned they have the power to create change through both their actions on the ice and words off it, while remaining relatively unscathed as individuals. When they soured on the hardness of Hartley and missed the playoffs following a surprise season that saw the motivated and resilient squad make it to the second round and earn their head coach the Jack Adams Award, they commented on the coach’s difficult demeanor and sealed his fate during exit meetings.

Inconsistencies plagued the team in two years under Gulutzan, who was unable to establish any sort of identity for this collection of players, guiding them to a first round sweep one spring ago and then watching them stumble down the stretch to miss them altogether this season. The players were happy with their friendly and genuine good guy Gully, but their apparent collective acceptance of defeat didn’t make the GM and those above him happy.

So Gully was sent to the Gallows, too.

The hope is Peters lands somewhere in between Hartley and Gulutzan on the humiliating hierarchy — the perfect mix of motivator and mate. Because if he doesn’t, what’s to prevent the current batch of players from firing up that carousel again?

For that reason, the new dynamic duo of Treliving and Peters will spend coming days, weeks and months picking apart the roster, with Peters gleaning what he can from his introductory talks and debriefings. Important decisions will be made to ensure the culture Peters plans to bring to the dressing room is going to be well-received.

“Culture’s huge,” Peters said Monday. “You’ve got to be there for each other. You’ve got to have each other’s backs. You’ve got to be proud of the logo that’s on the front of the jersey.”

The coach went on to reference the C of Red rocking, but may have meant the Red Mile from the run of 2004. Either way, that’s what he wants to “get back to” in his time with the Flames.

Displaying a surprisingly deep knowledge of the Flames roster and prospect pool considering he’s only had a few days to study, Peters has said all the right things over his first couple of days at the helm, maybe even winning over some of the skeptics in the fan base.

Winning over the players is next.

But make no mistake, they’re being interviewed for a future with the Flames in the process.

Peters is seeking competitive players who play disciplined games and are accountable to their actions.

“I want players who can’t be intimidated,” he said. “I don’t want a player, whether he’s big, small or medium-sized, to compromise his game because he’s playing a certain individual.

“I’m fine with penalties through aggression and competing. I’m not fine with penalties that are stick penalties that are in the O-zone, that are reaching penalties or hooking, tripping – those types of penalties that are avoidable.”

And in the end…

“You’ve got to hold guys accountable. If something’s not working, you’ve either got to change the system or change the players. There’s a reason things don’t work.”

The system isn’t changing much — Treliving made sure of that by bringing in someone of the same ideology as Gulutzan. The method of implementation, however, seems like it will be significantly different.

The roster may be, too.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      If Billy is as wound up and intense as advertised, then there are going to be intense clashes with some of his, shall we call them, more contented and mellow players.

      I have for a long time wondered about Gio’s leadership as captain. No doubts about his ability as a player or his being a great human being and member of the community, but is he really a leader of his peers? Frankly, I have my doubts. However, if Peters tries to strip him of his “C” then might that be seen as a public admonishment of Cappy and grease the rails of the outbound track for the beloved leader?

      Maybe the time has come for the Flames to become Chucky’s team. I am pretty sure the hot-headed Chucky and the control-freak Peters are going to engage in some epic conflicts, which is not a bad thing at all.

      • Mickey O

        I wouldn’t call Tkachuk a hot-head on, or off, the ice. He’s actually pretty mellow in interviews, but you know he’s biting his tongue. On the ice he makes calculated decisions to drive the opposition player’s nuts. I can’t ever see Giordano losing the C, but a pretty easy solution is to punt on Brouwer and give Tkachuk his A, eh.

      • T&A4Flames

        “then there are going to be intense clashes with some of his, shall we call them, more contented and mellow players.”
        Good. Isn’t getting some fire out of your more mellow types what a coach is supposed to do?

      • Cfan in Van

        More unsubstantiated doubts about Gio’s leadership. I honestly never understood that, and funny that it’s only been brought up the last 2 years. Nothing’s changed about the way he approaches the game, his effort levels game to game, or his feedback during interviews. I just don’t understand how people form this opinion, is it because he hasn’t single-handedly solved the teams problems?

        • Derzie

          Yeah, all he does is play the way Peter’s says he wants guys to play. Let’s trade Gio (sarcasm in FULL EFFECT). He’s the heart of the team and kills himself every game. A true leader.

        • BlueMoonNigel

          In the last 2 seasons, many have said the Flames iced their most talented teams since the early ’90s, yet the club was goosed in the playoffs last year and failed to make it this year. The issue of leadership amongst the players must be examined. Don’t be afraid to go there.

        • deantheraven

          Easy, fella. Nobody can argue with Gio’s efforts on the ice. He is a true success story, a Norris-caliber player who went undrafted and rose to the highest level of the game.
          But that’s all us fans see. We never get anything NOT unsubstantiated about what goes on in the room. Only the players know the whole truth about their leaders- coaches and players. Sometimes they speak out. Sometimes the interviewer asks good questions. Sometimes, not so much of either.
          Rarely does a player or coach really say anything more than
          My dream gig is to make a documentary where I set up a gazillion cameras and get to see and hear everything that goes on around the team, from the start of training camp to the Stanley Cup ( playoff at least, right?)
          We fans see, truly, the tippy- tippiest tip of the iceberg. Whatever the players say (in radio/tv interviews) when they speak about the team is all we have as “evidence”. All the rest is conjecture, and that’s why we’re here. Enjoy the ride.
          The leadership always comes into question when a team underachieves. Giordano is a part of the leadership group, so it’s a fair question.

      • Rockmorton65

        Can’t see the coach “stripping” the C. They did it with Modano in Dallas and it was a disaster. However, it’s a real possibility that Gio passes it to Monahan.

        Monahan with the C and Gio, Tkachuk with A’s.

  • FL?MES

    I still can’t believe the times when the team would implode and the camera would shows players on the bench laughing and smiling. That behaviour was disrespectful to the coaches, management, owners and fans who follow and support the team. Who does that on a competitive team at any age or level? If GG was incapable of dealing with it BT should have stepped in and put a stop to it.

    • Mickey O

      Yeah, that was bad all around. That won’t fly with the new guy – Rebar Peters would be sorely tempted to just reach over and give the offending players a cuff around the earhole. The maintenance crew better have some paint at the ready because there wouldn’t be too much left on the dressing room walls after the game.

        • Mickey O

          Not usually the type of guy that does a re-post, but this quip seemed to be a hit a couple of days ago:

          Gulutzan orders a skimmed milk latte with extra whipped cream, and a gluten-free bagel on the side.
          Peters orders a black coffee from the bottom of the pot, and stirs the sludge using a piece of rusty rebar.

          Apart from the fact they are both drinking coffee, there is no way they are clones of each other.

          – Just continuing with the theme. “Rebar” is a pretty good nickname for Peters though, must admit. Walter, you can take the credit for the Byng gem. Maybe Rebar Peters will catch on around here as well.

  • Skylardog

    In the past, roster failures cost coaches their jobs. We had good coaches, but expected miracles from weak teams.

    Now we have a good roster, but are insistent on hiring coaches that have had no success at the NHL level. The outcome has the potential to be the same, mediocrity.

    But then again, maybe BP can find success with a better roster than he had in Carolina and prove he is elite.

    While the article points to comments that show he is familiar with the players. Great. But we are already seeing him follow in GG’s footsteps in terms of Brouwer, pairings on D, pairings as a basis of forward lines, and an admitted little change in system.

    I am hopeful, but deeply concerned.

    • FL?MES

      BP is not a fool and is probably saying what he knows he has to in order to reassure and comfort everyone. Once the season starts and he sees what he has to work with I am sure he will make adjustments. Also, if BT makes a trade or two it will force his hand to adjust. Just wait and see…

    • Mickey O

      Have to disagree with most of what you posted at the end, Skylardog. Brouwer is far from a cinch to be even on the team next year. Peters praised Brouwer as a person (not his play) and merely stated that he’s coached him before. He said he’ll give Brouwer a chance to bounce back – yeah like maybe on another team.
      Pairings is a concept that works and then it is easier to mix and match the third player on the line. Peters will have Backlund and Frolik back together on the PK.
      Say what you want about possession and Corsi, but you want the puck more than chasing to get it back.

      Gulutzan and Peters may want to play the speedy, possession game. But they are polar opposites when it comes to individual personalities implementing a similar system.

      • Cfan in Van

        Not to mention the D-pairings comment. He flat out stated that Brodie used to be much better back when he played the other side. Is that not enough to interpret winds of change in respect to D-pairings?

        • Mickey O

          If Brodie is still around, Peters might try something radical and just switch Brodie and Hamonic so they are both on their off side. He mixed up his lines a lot in Carolina, and he gives the impression that he works with the strengths of the players that he has available instead of concentrating on any beloved system first.

    • BringtheFire 2.0

      Who’s on this “good” roster of yours, Skylar? Hathaway, Bennett, Brouwer? Hamonic and Stone? Stajan? Lazar?

      Yeah. Fantastic from top to bottom.

    • deantheraven

      Like your thoughts ‘Dog, but I can’t get with the ‘BP’ nickname. GG will always be GG and not Gully around here. So we’re working on a better start for Peters. ‘Rebar’ (although there might be intellectual property issues there) and Beets, so far.
      “Later on After Hours, it’s Chucky and Beets.
      Nickname Bill Peters anything. As long as it’s one that doesn’t remind me of Wing Night.

  • Mickey O

    Treliving made an interesting comment that money won’t be an issue when it comes to hiring a new head coach. Peters will come relatively cheaply, so he’ll potentially have some money to play with in hiring the assistant coaches. I’d hazard a guess that at least one, if not both, of the coaches behind the bench with Peters will have been head coaches before.

    There will be no doubt who’s the bench boss and Peters isn’t the kind of guy to be intimidated or feel job insecurity from those around him. He exudes confidence and will do things his way. I’ve been using this line for years, and it applies here:

    “You can’t teach charisma.”

    Charisma is difficult to define and often, but not always, goes hand-in-hand with extroversion. Charismatic people also tend to be leaders and get the most out of people. That’s what I see in Bill Peters, and he’s going to be around for a long time.

  • The GREAT WW

    How to stop the coaching carousel?
    HIRE A GOOD COACH……!!!!

    The one time GG showed any passion last season (the stick throwing temper tantrum) was followed by a 7? game winning streak.
    Imagine what a coach can do who is passionate the whole season…

    WW

    • Mickey O

      Deer in the headlights was often the image of Gulutzan behind the bench. He was in over his head, he probably knew it deep down, and the players knew it. After a goal against he’d just be staring at his iPad wondering how this could a teaching moment for the next video session.

        • Mickey O

          That should be the job of the video person and the assistants though. If they are not going to challenge the play, don’t bother the head coach with the details. His job should be getting the team refocused after letting one in. The stats last year on this team giving up two or more quick goals were astoundingly bad. Most of that falls on the head coach by not getting things settled down in a hurry.

  • oilcanboyd

    The recent coaching carousel started when Tre fired his inherited coach Hartley. Under Hartley the Flames had a distinct identity: work hard and play 60 minutes of hockey, were an exciting team to watch and he was a motivator and was always good for a good one-liner before, after and in-between games. Under Tre’s first hire GG the Flames were none of that! Players seemed confused especially the D on what they were supposed to do and where they should be. Well the opposition figured them out easily! Tre’s second hire, we shall wait and see. I can’t see them dismantling the roster without seeing how individuals react under the new coach.

    • The Doctor

      Yes, and under Hartley our faceoff and possession numbers were terrible and we ended up regressing after lucking into the playoffs based on an unsustainably high team shooting percentage.

      • oilcanboyd

        well, the Flames had an outstanding year in possession numbers this past season, played boring and indifferent hockey, looked confused at times (esp the D) and where did it get them?

        • The Doctor

          Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not defending Gulutzan here. His deficiencies are well known and anyone familiar with my posting history would know that I have repeatedly criticized him for what you mention there.

          Unfortunately I think the team got into a Goldilocks and the Three Bears problem. Hartley: lots of personality and spark, but lousy possession and atrocious faceoff numbers (which were painted over in his second last season by an unsustainable shooting percentage but came back to bite the team in the butt his last season). Gulutzan: significant improvement in possession and faceoff numbers, but … you know the rest.

          • oilcanboyd

            Yes…With great hope we look forward to the upcoming season. It seems that Peters will bring some life back to the team. He loves the players he inherited, wants them playing with discipline while still enjoying playing the game. And the low shooting percentages last season are not sustainable either.

  • Off the wall

    Peters says, “ I want players that aren’t intimidated.”
    Sounds like a BIG cultural change for our team. We were pushed around last season, the few players that refused to be intimidated will flourish under Peters. The rest, are going to need to have the same mentality. Have your brothers back. It all sounds great in theory, and I hope Peters can be the person to truly implement this. I don’t see us as a physically tough team, so I really don’t know how that looks yet.
    Do we make any trades?

    Perhaps it starts with being mentally ready each game. That’s where GG failed. I doubt you’ll see the Flames not ready for their opponents this time, and that in itself may be the GLUE that holds this team accountable to one another.

    I don’t understand why some fans question Giordano’s leadership. He’s been a leader since (before) he was given the captaincy. I love Tkachuk as much as the rest of you, however I’m pretty sure he’s not going to be the Captain of our team at his tender age. He’s my favourite Flame, but even I know that’s the wrong message to send to Giordano – never mind a new coach who’s trying to unite the players.

    Let’s see what unfolds the next few months before we get ahead of ourselves?!

      • everton fc

        Agreed.

        Several games, the past two seasons, Brodie has looked soft in front of the net, and goals have resulted. I think Bennett may benefit from Peters. Ditto Ferland. Tkachuk seems a perfect fit. As does Hamonic. Hathaway also fits this mold.

        I am very excited about Peters being here.

        • Mickey O

          Brodie is a very quiet guy. He’s never going to whack another player on the ankles and say, “Fack You” or get in your face. Agree with you on the players you mentioned. Hathaway isn’t a 3rd line player, he’d be fine on the 4th line or 13th forward. If he could win a fight every once in a while that would be a bonus.

          I like Peters as well. He’s got what it takes to get the most out of the pieces he’ll be given.

          • everton fc

            I meant Brodie is soft, when it comes to clearing people from the crease area. He gets pushed around, or simply avoids the contact.

            As for Hathaway, he won a few! 😉

  • redwhiteblack

    Early on this year I had no confidence in GG and Cameron. Even both pre seasons with GG were red flags for me. I was hoping to make the playoffs but feared if we made we would endure GG another year and it was clear he had to go. BT should have fired him months ago. The fact BT hired him then took so long to can him is troubling to me.

    I am however optimistic about Peters. He will hold players and team performance much more accountable. This team was clearly not following an inspirational leader. I am hoping Peters can establish individual relationships with each key player and bring the potential of each of them up to the level possible and create an identity that bonds them and builds that something special like the 03-04 team. Can he do what Sutter did here and in L.A? Hmmm I guess I made a case for Sutter over Peters, but let’s see what happens.

    • T&A4Flames

      The thing that bugged me the most with GG was his preseason preparation. Year one, ok he’s trying to break old habits and instill new ones. Year 2, though? You’ve gotta get these guys competing and ready for the season opening.

      • redwhiteblack

        The preseason prep was awful both years. Have to see a culture change with preseason prep. It is not wins… but a real sense that the team is prepared to have the best season they can.

  • T&A4Flames

    I trust BT with resigning of our own players contracts and with making trades. Yes the Hamonic trade was likely the extreme end for giving up assets, but generally he’s made some good trades.

  • Off the wall

    Being in business for years has taught me some valuable lessons. You give a client an extra inch- you know they’ll push for the extra mile.
    It’s the nature of all of us, no one is exempt from trying to get the most out of each other.

    What I have found is to set reasonable parameters that can be met by both parties. If those boundaries are crossed, you deal with it immediately- you know what it said about festering- it only breeds contempt. My clients know what is expected, I don’t want to rehash their old concerns or even talk about the previous contractors faults – it’s always going to return and bite you somehow.
    I want to know what I can do to make a difference, without being involved in previous business relationships.

    People want to be understood. That’s all about listening and communication. Perhaps this is the area of strength that Peters employs, one of mutual respect and communication. If ALL the players feel understood and are given proper parameters for the team, then it only says good things about Peters.
    I like his philosophy and I agree it’s time for accountability.

    We need leadership, from the coaching staff- but we must respect the input from the players, as they are the ones who make it happen on the ice.
    I appreciate Peters more now, because I believe he wants the players to know he’s setting them up for future success- you can take an inch, (suggestions) but don’t try and take a mile- (fail to do the work) because that won’t be acceptable ..

    • everton fc

      I’ll add to your comment, which I like… Peters wants the boys to have fun. Fun, thru discipline and positive communication. If the players respect him and his staff, he can also kick them a little harder, because the players know he and the staff genuinely care.

      Works in business, as well.

    • Jobu

      Kinda like when Mike Sullivan came to Pittsburg, dumped the system, and let his superstars do what they are good at. Build your system around the team, not conform the team to your system. And make sure you educate your players as to the type of player they really are (no 3rd line pipe dreams of being a 50 goal scorer), and the role they need to be in to have team success.

  • freethe flames

    Here’s a way to stop the coaching carousal; win consistently. But to that you need to have enough talent; that’s on BT and his staff. Currently we are 2-3 forwards short; 1 legit top 6, another guy who can play up and down the line up and a solid depth center. Plus we need a quality back up and yes I’m hopeful one of the current guys who could step up.