48Bill Peters
Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports

FlamesNation coaching evaluation: Bill Peters

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.

2018-19 summary 

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
SEAN MONAHAN 18:41 14:47 19:03 15:43
JOHNNY GAUDREAU 19:25 15:52 20:04 16:42
ELIAS LINDHOLM 17:54 13:55 20:02 14:33

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.

2017-18 53.50 48.20 52.71 0.987
2018-19 53.83 55.65 53.14 1.009

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

  • freethe flames

    A very good regular season followed by a poor playoff; his first time in the playoffs. Next year he should do a better job of this. They key to the Flames success will be if BT can add the needed pieces to play BP style next year. I would like to see a little more physicallity in their fore check not just skate by’s. If BT does add the needed pieces then BT has to be prepared to experiment more with his preseason lineups.

  • Jimmyhaggis

    Good structured game plan during the season, got the most out each player, fast moving, offensive minded. Unfortunately during the playoffs Peters didn’t adjust quickly enough to Colorado’s game plan.

    • Porcupine at a balloon party

      Not all on him. But when you have nearly all 20 players underperforming in the playoffs, a system that seemed to change but not for the better and no answer over 5 games to Colorado, a large amount of blame rests on his shoulders.

      I found after all Star break even, the things that made him very successful in first half weren’t happening as much. Less line blender, no more of those perfectly timed time outs, sticking too certain lines, not benching veterans for having a bad string of games.

      Not all on him by any means, but want to see more of the first half season of Peters next season

    • CowboyBob

      You can put some of it on him. He was unable to make adjustments while the Avs did. Forecheck was ineffective as the gap between F1 and F2 was too much. F2 and F3 where to close together, forcing D back too far. In d zone wingers were too high and centre to close to goalie. Allowed easy cycle for Avs and also allowed Avs forwards to cut off boards and drive net easily. Sharks dropped their wingers lower and had their centres play more aggressively with a wider range as a result they kept the Avs on the boards.

  • Luter 1

    Much like the players the coach also has to be held accountable for the playoff debacle. After the first game in which we were very fortunate to win, I was hoping he would light a fire under them and get some physicality going against the Av’s but for a westerner he sure seems to like soft hockey. Had the same in Carolina, low penalty minute team with smallish players. Treliving too, brings in soft as butter Hanifin and Ryan on Peters request without filling the need for some grit, then completely misses on Neal who I assume he thought was gritty.
    Still need someone on Johnny’s line that will not allow for the crap that he took this year otherwise trade him for assets to a team that will protect him because the Flames left him out to dry way too often. Unfortunately big/soft Monahan seems to need some protecting too.

  • Off the wall

    One thing that still concerns me, is that Treliving only targeted Peters’ as our Head Coach. It was apparent to most of us, that he wasn’t interested in other candidates.

    Mickey O’Reeves was correct that the decision was made in advance of Gulutzan’s firing.
    Perhaps even as far back as Treliving’s involvement with Peters’ in the 2016 IIHF World Championship.

    Although I like Peters’, some of the lack of top line production after the All Star break, makes me wonder if he prepared the Flames’ adequately for the playoffs. Is it inexperience?
    Could be, however when the window for opportunity closes so quickly for postseason success, it’s not exactly promising if we squander it away, after a successful regular season.

    Say what you will, but Bednar exploited our weakness as a team in the playoffs. I certainly don’t wish to see a repeat of this next season, do you?

    Our special teams were anything but special in the postseason. I know that’s not entirely on Peters’, but do we need a change in our assistant coaching?

    I will always be a die hard Flames fan, however my expectations for this team is playoff success. I hope Peters is the coach who takes us there. He’s been a major upgrade from the Gulutzan era.

    Maybe I’m still upset over losing in the first round, but as fans is it enough to ‘get in’ the playoffs?

    Not for this fan, but then 30 years has a way of making you feel desperate for something to cheer for..

    • Porcupine at a balloon party

      Couldn’t agree more. You’re probably even being too easy on them. Doesn’t make you less of fan. We are die hard fans because we care

    • Kevin R

      Honestly, what was the expectation for this team last October. If anyone said yeah I expected them to win the Western Conference & have the 2nd best record in the NHL, 95% of Flames Nation would have told you to take the rose coloured glasses off. This team was a revelation. It overachieved expectation by a country mile & when the reset playoffs started expectation ran thick through everyones blood except for parity of which signifies the NHL. Tre didnt make any significant moves at the TDL that a contender would be expected to do. I dont think Tre does that next year if we are in the same position as we were this year. This was a career successful year for Peters too as a head coach, not hard to get caught sticking with what got you there. The silver lining in this tough playoff lesson for BP & BT was that every top seed was eliminated in the first round. There’s a fine line to constructing a team that is built for playoffs but also capable of getting to the playoffs. I feel we are closer today than we were one year ago. My expectations have suddenly risen to expect playoffs, not so high thinking we are a contender. But at least we are now moving in the right direction. Remember one last thing, whichever team wins the Cup this year, will have a monumental task of trying to repeat it & the odds makers will reflect that when you go to make that bet next fall.

    • deantheraven

      Too right, OTW. Getting in is no longer acceptable. BP found a way to turn this bunch into a team with confidence and purpose, but for some reason that wasn’t evident by the end of the first period of Game 2.
      Hopefully all involved have taken this a learning experience.No heads will roll, but faces will change. The question I have now is do we have a core that can compete for Lord Stanley’s Cup next spring? I’m most curious to see how they get out of the gate next fall.

      • The Red Knight

        No this core will never win any playoff series! Got to be the softest first line in NHL ,the softest secondline too , soft defence ! Just a wimpy core ! Are all these players gonna start hitting and mucking it up and sticking up for one another? No the won’t !

      • HOCKEY83

        The teams that make the playoffs are so good now that anything can happen in the playoffs especially with the garbage reffing going on. One bad call is an extreme momentum changer. We all saw that with San Jose and the refs nearly taking them to the final. Just making it out of the first round next season would be ok with me.

  • Trevy

    Totally on the players as it was evident some faded down the stretch and into the playoffs. They seemed timid and confused. Bennett was the only one that elevated his game. Treliving needs to find more Bennett’s for next season. These players are your warriors for the playoffs to allow your skill players to play their game. This is clearly evident by seeing how the last two teams standing got to the final

  • The Red Knight

    I called it going into the playoffs this team is too soft ! A coach can only do so much with pansies ! Regular season who cares ! If Johnny is ok with struggling and losing in the playoffs he can go too ,need winners and men .

  • Chucky

    Peters found a way to exploit the opposition early in the season but the downturn started before the playoffs and corresponded with the change to more playoff style hockey. It is a real credit to the coaching staff and management that they did not panic and make significant changes at the TDL. It must have been difficult to sit at first in the west and think “we probably are not going to get it done this year” and not panic.
    I am looking forward to seeing the adjustments that they make in the offseason to build a team that can compete in both the regular season and the playoffs. I will be particularly interested to see if Peters tweaks his system to compensate or if they simply change personnel and leave the system alone.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Correct me if I am wrong, but aren’t the end-of-year award nominations all based on regular season play? If so, it’s interesting that Peters didn’t make the final three. Hard to exclude the three who were nominated but the message I take from Peters not being nominated was that he was good but not good enough, which is absolutely fitting for the Flames in 2018-19.

    As for Peters’ lack of playoff coaching experience, it sure didn’t hurt Rod the Bod any. Canes got beaten by superior opposition. How many Flame fans truly believe the Avs are overall a better club than the Flames?

  • Puck Head

    Peters pulled a Gulutzen in the playoffs and failed to adapt or make changes. I was disappointed and did not expect him to coach this way. Hopefully he learns from this experience and comes back better.

  • Dunk

    How many years will we waste with weak coaching. We should be patient while Peters learns how to coach in the playoffs…bull crap. obviously Tre didn’t learn a thing with the previous coach. Time to replace Tre. How many more blunders are coming while we wait for Tre to learn his job.

  • Trevy

    I don’t get how some of you put the blame on Peters? How do you coach players like Monahan, Janko or Frolik just to name a few, to be more physical or play with more speed. They are who they are, some players can elevate their games come playoffs, some can’t. Gio was burnt out by the end along with Hamonic and Hanifin trying to slow down Colorado’s topline. If we had some guys that could of physically played the body and slowed them down, we might of had a chance. We just don’t have those players. It’s all about balance and hopefully we’ll correct that this off season

  • FlamesFanFromMI

    I am not sure what needs to be done but something needs to be done not going to say change this, trade this but we need to win in playoffs. When in the past, we went it as a wild card and got knocked out of playoffs all of us fans cried over who we almost didn’t made playoffs and then early exit. Now we were first and get out early again and most of the fans are asking for trade Johnny, Moni. Come on. Again not sure what needs to be done but if we were wild card entry in playoffs and had an early exit then we would never hear the end of it. Now people are saying anything can happen in playoffs once you get it. I am a fan since 04 and in playoffs hockey gods are not very helpful.

  • TheWheeze

    On a different note unrelated to this topic, anyone notice Ken Holland always looks like he just rolled out of bed after a four day bender? Maybe some martinis are needed behind the bench gametime……

  • Budgie

    Peters is a good coach, the players want to do their best for him. He stays calm when a bad call is made, he isn’t a hot-head. The only things I would mention is his choice of shootout players, he gambles with hunches and rewards players with a shootout slot. Gadreau, Linholm and Monahan often weren’t the shootout choices. The other thing is playing Monahan with a cracked thumb, he dissipated during the playoffs-Flames have depth-use it. Peters was excellent with the goaltenders except for the benching of Rittich after two goals that weren’t his fault-one gamble looking for a spark that seemed to deflate Rittich. If Peters was responsible for Ryan, Hannifin, and Lindholm then he deserves accolades, he knew Lindholm would be good with Gadreau and Monahan.

  • Jobu

    The coaching staff had no answer to the Avalanche forecheck. They were all over our zone exits to a point where we couldn’t get anything going in any zone.

    Peters seems like a smart hockey guy. Jobu believes he will recover.

    But Jobu is also worried that he is cut from Babcock’s coattails… and he hasn’t had much success in recent years either.