The signs all pointed to Bill Peters being the next head coach of the Calgary Flames, and now it is a reality. The team has introduced Peters as the their new bench boss. Recently leaving Carolina despite a $1.6MM salary, Peters has long been rumored to be interested in heading back to his home province of Alberta if the opportunity presented itself.
Peters also recently interviewed with the Dallas Stars, and is still a sought after commodity in the coaching ranks. That reputation comes in spite of the fact that the Hurricanes failed to reach the postseason in each of his four yeas behind the bench. Still, he fits the mold for the Flames, who have been clear that they are after a more authoritative voice in the dressing room. Though former head coach Glen Gulutzan was known for periodical explosions at practice, he was considered much more laid back than Peters is, something that the front office believes needs to change.
The Flames struggled this season and missed the playoffs despite outstanding performances from their best two players, Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. Both players set career-highs in scoring—despite Monahan requiring four surgeries at the end of the year—but couldn’t get the Flames into the postseason and now face a challenging task in the future. The Flames are without their first three picks in this year’s draft, as they expected to be Stanley Cup contenders, not draft lottery participants.
The new coach will have to get more out of the Flames’ defensive group, which is something Peters is known for. Serving under Mike Babcock in Detroit, Peters established himself as a progressive defensive mind whose systems generally drive possession and avoid giving up high danger scoring opportunities. Though Carolina wasn’t making the playoffs, they routinely registered good possession statistics but couldn’t seem to get enough goaltending to really compete. In his four years, his goalies registered .907, .906, .904 and .897 save percentages, well below league average. The question of whether that has to do with talent or system will likely be answered in Calgary, where Mike Smith is still capable of putting up fine numbers.
Calgary’s defense corps was expected to be one of the best in the league, especially after the addition of Travis Hamonic in the offseason. Unfortunately Hamonic never seemed to gel perfectly with the group, who were inconsistent from day one. They still have plenty of talent in the group, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see some personnel tweaks in the offseason as the team looks to rebound in 2018-19.