RALEIGH – The Carolina Hurricanes hope they now have the leadership tandem in place to turn the franchise around.
Bill Peters was introduced Friday as the Hurricanes new coach, the first big hire made by new Carolina general manager Ron Francis. Now it’s up to Peters to prove it was a shrewd move.
Carolina has made three coaching changes since 2006 and has only one playoffs appearance to show for it.
“When I did my due diligence and went to look at rosters ... we’re not far off,” Peters said. “I think there’s lots of pieces here, and it’s up to us and our coaching staff ... to max our group out.”
A few hours after Peters’ formal introduction, the Hurricanes made another addition to their management team, hiring 44-year-old Ricky Olczyk – the younger brother of former NHL coach and current NBC Sports analyst Ed Olczyk – as an assistant general manager. The younger Olczyk spent six years as Edmonton’s assistant GM and was the Oilers’ NHL liaison for all collective bargaining agreement matters.
Peters replaces Kirk Muller, who was fired last month – a week into Francis’ tenure as GM – and went 80-80-27 in three seasons with no playoffs berths.
Instead of an established NHL head coach or a popular ex-player, Francis went with Peters – a 48-year-old Detroit Red Wings assistant who has never been an NHL head coach but was in demand this offseason.
Peters said he interviewed for two other jobs and Francis said he spoke to 10 candidates during “a pretty extensive search,” narrowing that to a three-man short list before deciding on Peters and giving him a three-year contract.
“You have to take the time to go through it and make sure you get the right guy,” Francis said, “and that’s what we did.”
What dazzled Francis was Peters’ attention to detail: He penned a booklet breaking down the team and brought it to his first interview with them, and his second one included a PowerPoint presentation, Francis said.
“He’s extremely, extremely detailed,” Francis said. “He’s going to communicate with our players. Our players are going to know where he stands, and there’s no little detail that (will) be overlooked.”
From the outside, his challenge looks daunting: Making the Hurricanes a consistent playoffs team.
Muller couldn’t do it in three years. Neither could Paul Maurice, at least during his second stint with the team. Even Peter Laviolette – the only Carolina coach to hoist the Stanley Cup – couldn’t push the Hurricanes to the postseason.
Now Peters has his chance to try to revive a club that has missed the playoffs in seven of the eight years since the Hurricanes won their only Stanley Cup in 2006.
The lone postseason berth since that Cup run came in 2009, when the Hurricanes reached the Eastern Conference final in the first year of Maurice’s second term as coach.
Peters’ plan is to address three glaring problems from last season: Starting games strong, producing more on the power play and winning more often at PNC Arena. Carolina was the league’s third-worst team with the man advantage and was just 18-17-6 at home.
“We’ve got to become a harder team to play against here in Raleigh,” Peters said.
His hiring caps about two months of turbulence in the Hurricanes’ organization.
Francis, a Hall of Fame player who has been both an assistant coach and an assistant GM with Carolina, was moved up a rung on the organization’s ladder and his mentor, Jim Rutherford, stepped aside after two decades – and eventually wound up bolting to Pittsburgh to take over as the Penguins’ GM.
Francis’ first big move came a week later when he fired Muller and put the players on notice that the responsibility for turning the team around is on them, too.
After a 46-day search in which some recognizable names were floated, Francis plucked Peters from Mike Babcock’s staff with the Red Wings.
He spent the past three years working primarily with the Red Wings’ defensemen and penalty killers.
Before joining the Red Wings’ staff, he coached Rockford of the AHL from 2008-11 and guiding that team to consecutive 40-win seasons. Eight of his Rockford players helped Chicago win the Cup in either 2010 or 2013, and he also coached Spokane (Washington) of the Western Hockey League for three seasons.
“This is a guy that knows coaching,” Francis said.