Bill Peters (Dave Reginek/NHL via Getty Images)
The Hurricanes hired Red Wings assistant coach Bill Peters to be their bench boss – and Adam Proteau says it's another example of Detroit's status as a breeding ground for on-and-off-ice success.
The question was put to Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill in late 2013: with the GM role having the potential to eat up every waking moment and most of the unawake moments of a man’s life, is delegation of duties a crucial part of his decision-making? His answer was the first thing that came to mind when news broke that the Carolina Hurricanes had hired as their new head coach Detroit Red Wings assistant coach Bill Peters.
“It’s the key to your success,” Nill told The Hockey News. “That’s one thing I learned from (longtime Red Wings executives) Jim Devellano and (current GM) Ken Holland: you have to hire the right people. I talked to my staff about this the other day: the real reward is going to be when my phone starts to ring in a few years and it’s other teams wanting to hire the people we’ve hired.
“I remember (Wings owners) Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch talking about that. That’s what makes them so proud of their organization: they’ve got a coach in San Jose (Todd McLellan), a coach in Ottawa (Paul MacLean), a GM in Tampa Bay (Steve Yzerman), and a GM in Dallas. It shows you’re doing the right things as an organization and that’s what I want to build here. I want good people to do a good job, and I want them to be rewarded not only on the ice, but in the future.”
Nill said those words before Brendan Shanahan, another former Red Wing, was hired as the Maple Leafs’ new president in April. And you’d better believe that, had Holland not locked up AHL head coach (and rumored successor to current Wings head coach Mike Babcock) Jeff Blashill to a three-year contract extension last week, there would’ve been a number of NHL teams knocking on his door.
Clearly, success begets success. And in the case of Peters, who joined the Wings organization three years ago, it didn’t hurt his candidacy for the Canes’ job that he’s succeeded at every level of hockey.
The 48-year-old led Team Canada to a gold medal at the 2008 IIHF Junior World Cup. As the bench boss of the Western League’s Spokane Chiefs, he won a Memorial Cup title that same year. And when he moved on to the American League’s Rockford Ice Hogs, he guided his team to a pair of playoff appearances while also grooming 28 players – including Corey Crawford, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Antti Niemi, Bryan Bickell and Nick Leddy – as future NHLers.
In his time with the Red Wings, Peters worked mostly with Detroit’s blueliners and penalty-killers. That’s good news for a Hurricanes squad that isn’t regarded as one of the league’s premier shutdown crews. Rookie GM Ron Francis has his work cut out for him trying to find better defenders to make Peters’ job easier, all the more so because Carolina has an owner (Peter Karmanos) who said “season ticket renewals aren’t good” in April and who isn’t likely to spend to the projected $70 million upper cap limit.
The Hurricanes have made the playoffs just once since they won the Stanley Cup in 2006, and not for the past five seasons. The Wings team Peters is leaving hasn’t missed the post-season since 1990. Francis is hoping some of that winning pedigree will rub off on his team.
He’s not alone in that regard. It was one of the reasons the Stars hired Nill to run their hockey department in the spring of 2013. It was part of the appeal of Shanahan overseeing operations in Toronto. To win the Cup, your on-ice personnel decisions are crucial and you need people who’ve won before to be on the playing surface, but you also need people who’ve been there before from a management perspective.
Holland underscored the point in April.
“It’s about knowing who to hire,” Holland told the Canadian Press. “It’s about hiring the right coach, it’s about hiring the right chief scout, it’s about hiring the right director of pro scouting, it’s about knowing who to talk to in the industry to get information to find those players.”
In the hiring of Peters and many other former Wings employees, we can see one of the preferred places to find them is in Detroit.