Today’s Daily Cup of Joe goes off the cuff a bit with a couple random Canes musings.
On Bill Peters
With the transition in the 2018-19 season and the resulting success, I think it is safe to say that the changeover from Bill Peters has been positive and that the team is on a better path right now. But I do not think that is to say that Bill Peters is a horrible coach. Like any other coach, Peters has his strengths and weaknesses. And at the end of the day, I actually think that Bill Peters is a good coach. The team Peters started with was nowhere near as good as the current roster personnel-wise. And more than anything, I think Peters strengths were not a match for what the team needed when it was time to push over the hump and into the playoffs. After too many years of losing and a culture that could not help but be tainted by it, what the team needed more than anything else was a significant change in terms of mentality and attitude. As more of a master tactician, I just do not think that leadership-leaning skill set was among Peters’ strengths and was ultimately what left him always a step or two short of pushing over the hump.
A benefit for Rod Brind’Amour
With Peters’ Achilles’ heel noted, I actually think that Peters could was actually a perfect head coach for Brind’Amour to learn under. As a coach who very strongly leans Peter Laviolette as a motivator rather than Bill Peters as a tactician, I believe that Brind’Amour benefited significantly from seeing Peters’ methods, details and process which were a bit of a different perspective for Brind’Amour. Though Brind’Amour’s style definitely leans Laviolette, I think working under Peters likely added some balance to how he goes about his job. Brind’Amour has made a few comments along these lines, and I think they are sincere and not just being respectful to a former boss.
Rod Brind’Amour and the transformation during the 2018-19 season
One of the celebrated successes of the 2018-19 season was the emergence of Rod Brind’Amour as a successful coach and leader in his rookie season as an NHL bench boss. His ability to lead was a surprise to exactly no one, but given his lack of head coaching experience, his coaching ability was a bit of a wild card.
At the end of the day, I think the 2018-19 season is a testament to the importance of people management and motivation over Xs and Os. That is not to say that tactical coaching is not important, and that is not to say that Brind’Amour did not also do well in this regard. But for me, the difference between the 2017-18 Carolina Hurricanes and the 2018-19 Carolina Hurricanes was unmistakably mindset, mentality and resiliency. In recent years, it felt inevitable that when the Hurricanes hit a rough patch one of them would eventually snow ball and end the season. The winter of 2019 was the exact opposite. Pretty much each and every time the Hurricanes needed to rebound, they did. That resiliency as much as anything is what pushed the team up over the cut line and into the playoffs for the first time in a decade.
Put more directly, the striking difference under Brind’Amour versus Peters was people management and motivation. Whereas Peters saw the arrival of Justin Williams and his initial press release and statements and then somehow arrived at co-captains, Brind’Amour knew very clearly who the right leader was for this team. Whereas arguably Peters’ biggest impact managing or motivating goalies was completely accidental when he chucked Eddie Lack under the bus (after the season was over), Brind’Amour mostly deferred to goalie coach Mike Bales and the results were magical. Brind’Amour did also make a fairly quick decision to jettison the Scott Darling experiment and get any distractions out of the picture. Whereas young players sometimes seemed to struggle to develop under Peters, most seemed to take a step up under Brind’Amour.
More succinctly, I think Brind’Amour has been a significantly better with the people management part of a coach’s role and that that has been the dividing line between him and Bill Peters.
An interesting juxtaposition
I think it is interesting to wonder what might have happened if somehow Bill Peters and Rod Brind’Amour were in opposite roles. As an assistant underneath Peters, Brind’Amour was more or less forced into a tactical role that did not play to his greatest strengths and was limited in his ability to use his leadership and motivational skills. Meanwhile, Peters was in a role responsible for the people management part of the job and having to delegate to some degree on the tactical facets of the job that seemed to be in his wheelhouse. Realizing that there really was no way to get to there from the starting point, might a Brind’Amour/Peters combination have been perfect if Brind’Amour was the head coach and Peters was a tactically-focused lieutenant?
Takeaways for the path forward
Interesting, some of the Canes biggest struggles during a successful 2018-19 season were in the tactically-focused area of special teams. Before the 2018-19 season started, I suggested that Brind’Amour and the team would benefit from adding a more experienced assistant coach to help him navigate the ups and downs of an NHL season. In retrospect, I think that assessment was incorrect. Brind’Amour with help from first lieutenant Justin Williams did a masterful job orchestrating a transformation in terms of mentality and mindset. And when the team most needed to find fortitude and push up from being down, it did.
But instead, the 2018-19 Carolina Hurricanes coaching staff could probably have benefited from a special teams specialist. On the one hand, I do not see why the team would let coaches go after a successful 2018-19 season. But on the other hand, I do think the team could benefit from additional help. With coaching staffs expanding in the NHL, there could be room to add a specialist to bring another perspective to special teams, especially the power play. (See yesterday’s Daily Cup of Joe on the power play.)
It will be interesting to see what, if anything, the team does in that regard this summer. One approach could be for the current coaching staff to spend a bunch of time watching video and strategizing for how to make improvements. That is part of it, but I also think the team could benefit from adding outside help.
What say you Canes fans?
1) To what degree do you think Brind’Amour led the team’s transition versus the team just being better roster-wise and finally ready to make the next step?
2) Do you think the team would benefit from adding a more tactically-focused special teams consultant or two? Do you think the team will go this route?