From the category of ‘where there is smoke, there is fire’, on Friday the Carolina Hurricanes announced that Bill Peters had exercised his contract out and resigned from his coaching role with the Hurricanes. So as I said on Twitter, just like that the Kinetico Water era of Hurricanes history has come to a close.
Between a busy end of the week and the need to digest the information and figure out which of seemingly dozens of angles to discuss, I will post an article hopefully sometime on Saturday or Sunday at the latest.
Finally catching up after a busy weekend that was largely scheduled out.
Huge thanks to everyone who has already shared their thoughts on Bill Peters’ resignation.
Below are my thoughts in quick-hitter format…
In simple terms, it was not good enough. Say what you want about the players he had/did not have. In terms of raw talent, one could make a case for the team being about where they landed in the standings, but here is the thing…Teams can and do surprise every year. Seven out of the 16 teams that made the 2018 playoffs were 2017 draft lottery entrants just like the Hurricanes. Not only is it possible for teams to rebound quickly, it is the norm. Was this team definitely a playoff team with another coach? No. But was it possible? Yes.
But the goaltending
The one wild card that I struggle with the most is the effect of the team’s goaltending struggles. I very much thing Peters’ made his own bed and then had to lie in it for the 2016-17 season when he rode Cam Ward right into the ground. He had a red hot goalie at the AHL level with NHL experience to boot in Michael Leighton but refused to even use him for spot starts as a backup, and he never really seemed to trust Lack enough to give him a chance. Instead, he rode Ward until he collapsed at which point the season quickly went to hell in a hand basket. But there was also an element of goalies just not being good enough, and I think that was more true for 2017-18 where Peters gave Darling every chance imaginable to right the ship and kept Ward fresh in the process. In the end, the goaltending just was not good enough again. Was Bill Peters’ success within reach with just league average goaltending? Is Bill Peters just a victim in terms of the sub-par goaltending or as head coach does he take a chunk of the blame for his management and motivation of the goalies?
Inability to get the most out of players
At the end of the day, what strikes me most as a miss for Peters was his inability to gain improvement and get the most out of a young team seemingly with upside. The team in total was no better in 2017-18 than in 2016-17.
Xs and Os versus people management
After four years, my assessment of Peters as a coach is that he was generally strong in terms of tactics, Xs and Os, etc. This shows in the Hurricanes’ dramatic improvement in terms of possession, shot and other metrics. This lines up pretty well with his anticipated strengths on the way in the door. But I think Peters fell significantly short in terms of the people management and motivation aspect of coaching. The team was meek during the times when it most needed to be fierce, and fragile when it most needed to be solid. Though there are other options too, I think one can make a strong case that this weakness was ultimately the fatal flaw of the team. The situation is an interesting one. The team seemed to add a strong candidate for a new captain to jolt the system in Justin Williams, but then went status quo. And instead of naming a captain and challenging that player to take the flag and lead, the team instead opted for a non-decision with two co-captains. And the team had Rod Brind’Amour on its coaching staff with the potential to maybe fill a void for Peters, but he always seemed relegated to a narrow, niche role. Maybe most telling was the odd exchange with Eddie Lack at the tail end of the 2016-17 season. Peters’ impromptu outlash was easily te most notable instance of him lighting a fire under a player and getting results. But rather than calculated and with purpose, the event was happenstance, awkward and maybe just inappropriate to the point where apologized.
When I combine the team’s issue with fragility and the odd sequence of events and shortcomings leadership-wise, my intuition is that Peters just is not strong in the very important people management part of the business.
An interesting look backwards
The game of chicken that seemed to transpire with owner Tom Dundon seemingly wanting Peters gone but forcing the decision on Peters to relieve himself and in the process exit the contract was an interesting conclusion to what I think is becoming a clearer timeline.
Peters seemed to lose this team during a tough stretch mid-winter. My capitulation point was the bad loss to the Wild in March that I had as closing the door on any playoff chances. I voted vociferously for Peters to be removed immediately at that point to make a statement and for Brind’Amour to be made the interim coach to try to salvage the rest of the season. Only later did Peters’ contract situation come out.
In retrospect, I think the actual behind closed doors timeline goes like this…
Tom Dundon realized that Peters lost the team just as much as anyone else. It was obvious enough and with Dundon’s propensity to talk to anyone in the organization, he no doubt had conversations to check this.
But with the season being over anyway, he saw a path to saving $1.6 million of Peters’ salary and decided to go for that and a fresh start in 2018-19.
In addition, he used the exit interviews to validate what he mostly already sensed – that the players had had enough of Peters. So he conducted the exit interviews in solo, and verified the direction he was already leaning which was to cut ties with Peters. Those player interviews yielded exactly what he expected.
The last step was to just be non-committal and force the move in the game of chicken to Peters. After being left out of the exit interviews and press conference, no way was Peters going to risk a return if just the potential to land elsewhere was there.
So in the end, Dundon got exactly what he wanted.
Upheaval? Or necessary restart?
No doubt the situation feels like it is in disarray right now with no general manager and seemingly minimal progress on that front and now a coaching vacancy as well.
But I continue to think that it is too early to say what the Tom Dundon era really looks like.
Of the many possible interpretations of what has happened, and what it means for the future, how about this very simple one…
1-Based on the 2018-19 season implosion and the eight playoff misses that preceded it, the organization was broken and needed significant change.
2-In such a situation, very reasonable is to start by changing out the senior leadership for fresh blood.
3-Right now, we are only four months into Tom Dundon’s tenure as owner, only two weeks past the end of the Carolina Hurricanes season and not really even into the NHL offseason. As such, it is premature to judge the state of Tom Dundon’s Carolina Hurricanes.
To be clear, I have some concerns with the process thus far more so than individual decisions, and I do think the potential is there that certain things turn out to be red flags. But I think it is too early to declare that the case. Rather, it is time watch and let things unfold a bit before making final judgments.
What say you Caniacs?
Feel free to add to the discussion which started over the weekend.
Free form is fine, but potential discussion points could include:
1) Thoughts on Bill Peters departure and whether a new coach is likely to be a key difference for 2018-19.
2) Thoughts on head coach options including the rumblings that Rod Brind’Amour could be considered and also Mike Vellucci in Charlotte.
3) Thoughts on the general state of the organization right now currently with vacancies at the general manager and head coach positions and some loosely-formed committee running the show at least for now.