After the horrible end to the 2017-18 season, the Calgary Flames were convinced that they needed to move on from head coach Glen Gulutzan. Only days after the firing, Carolina Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters stepped down from his position to take the coaching job with Calgary. While the move was certainly questionable at the time and one that came with considerable risk, the first season in Peters’ tenure was wildly successful, even if it ended in a bitter fashion.
Coming into the this season, the biggest task at hand for Peters was to get more scoring throughout the entire lineup. The previous seasons saw the Flames rely heavily on the scoring from their top two lines and top pairing, without much of anything coming out of the bottom of the roster. The second biggest task at hand was find a right wing that would see sustained chemistry with the Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau.
It is not hard to see that Peters succeeded in both of those regards. While most of us expected James Neal to see some time with the top scoring duo at the start of the regular season, Elias Lindholm impressed Peters to the point where he left the newly acquired Swede on the top line for most of the regular season. It was hard not to see why, where the trio started to score at will, all well over a point per game pace from the start of the season to the All-Star break. With the success of the first line, it brought upon more flexibility throughout the roster, with players such as Neal, Michael Frolik, Austin Czarnik and others moving up and down throughout the roster whenever necessary.
While a coach can do a lot of good, no coach is truly perfect and Peters is certainly no exception. As much as we like to (rightfully) complain about sub-replacement level players getting too much ice time and other, more promising players getting scratched too often, its a problem that ever single coach has on the roster.
One aspect that infuriated Flames fans with the previous coaching regime was just how much they rolled the four lines. Even in critical situations, such as needing an extra goal or trying to defend a one goal lead, the third and fourth lines would be out on the ice. In contrast, Peters managed his bench much more considerably, much more reliant on the abilities of his top producers. In fact, the entire top line saw significant increases to their average time on ice in all situations and at even strength.
|PLAYER||2017-18 TOI/GP||2017-18 EV TOI/GP||2018-19 TOI/GP||2018-19 EV TOI/GP|
There were a lot of factors that played into this season being the most successful regular season since 1988-89, and it is not hard to see as Bill Peters being able to manage his bench as well as he did. He even received some support for the Jack Adams Award (though he didn’t end up as one of the top three vote-getters).
Unfortunately, the playoffs were a completely different animal for Flames’ coaching staff. While it is fair it was his first time ever being the head coach in a playoff series, Peters was certainly outcoached by Jared Bednar, the head coach of their first round opponents, the Colorado Avalanche. The staff was not able to find a solution to the unstoppable force that was Nathan MacKinnon. The Avs’ star forward and the rest of the team pressured the Flames in every single game of the series and the Flames did not have an answer, save for the heroics from Mike Smith in Game One.
For a rookie playoff coach, the loss can boil down to inexperience. Depending on how Peters and the staff respond the next time they are in the dance will showcase if they have learned anything from it.
Compared to last year
In 2017-18, it seemed as though the Flames just could not deal with any adversity throughout the year. This season, especially before the All-Star break, it seemed as though the team could face up against anybody in the league and come out with a favourable result.
With the addition of Peters, suddenly a seemingly snake-bitten team finally learned how to score. While it is certain that Peters wasn’t the sole reason that the team was able to improve the way it did, but it was obvious that the coaching methods of Peters were much more effective than the ways of Gulutzan the year before.
During his last season as the head coach of the Hurricanes, the team had been a very strong possession team that could not score goals and did not get any goaltending. Usually going from one team with those problems to another which had suffered with the similar faith does not bode well for a coach, but is amazing what can happen when you have better scoring threats, receive solid contributions and a goalies who can stop a puck.
What about next season?
Safe to say Bill Peters is going to be the head coach of the Calgary Flames next season, and he has certainly bought more than a few years of leeway just from this season alone. Under his short time as the head coach, the Flames were able to get to the 100 points mark for only the fifth time in franchise history.
While it is not likely that Peters will oversee a large roster turnover heading into next year, there could be some new faces for the coach at next season’s training camp. The biggest objective is to make sure that the team is ready once the season begins, as the Flames are no longer going to catch anybody off guard with just how good they can be. A strong start to the season is key to maintain a spot on top of the Western Conference.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Flames return to form in 2019-20, but with success comes greater expectations. With how the playoffs ended for the team, it is critical that the Flames start to make some noise not just in the regular season, but in the playoffs as well. Now is the time win.
2018-19 player evaluations
#4 Rasmus Andersson | #5 Mark Giordano | #7 TJ Brodie | #8 Juuso Valimaki | #10 Derek Ryan | #11 Mikael Backlund | #13 Johnny Gaudreau | #18 James Neal | #19 Matthew Tkachuk | #21 Garnet Hathaway | #23 Sean Monahan | #24 Travis Hamonic | #27 Austin Czarnik | #28 Elias Lindholm | #33 David Rittich | #41 Mike Smith | #55 Noah Hanifin | #58 Oliver Kylington | #67 Michael Frolik | #77 Mark Jankowski | #88 Andrew Mangiapane | #93 Sam Bennett | Complementary Players