Hurricanes Peters Preaches Pace

Peters preaches pace. Carolina Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters, that is. Since his arrival in Raleigh, NC in 2014, Peters has preached pace to his team repeatedly. It has taken awhile, over a year in fact. But, the sermons have taken root and are producing a product of pace on the ice that is making the ‘Canes competitive.

Pace is defined by Webster’s dictionary as “the speed at which someone or something moves; the speed at which something happens.” A perfect definition when applied to play in the National Hockey League. Part of the Peters philosophy since taking the reins of the team has been a consistent emphasis on pace, the speed at which his players move on the ice, with and without the puck.

Previously Lacking Proper Pace

The ‘Canes have had a big challenge to overcome during the past few seasons. As I have written more times than I can count, the team often started games flat, apathetic and without obvious energy. “We didn’t start on time” was a recurring mantra uttered after most losses, particularly at home. It was frustrating for the fans and for Peters, too. Hearing him say it was mind-blowing, leading to the obvious question, “How can professional athletes not start on time, so often?”

Peters let it be known fairly early last season that he was not going to settle for players not giving the kind of effort that is expected in the NHL. Alexander Semin found out quickly. Coach Peters invited him to watch a few games from the sidelines when it became obvious that Semin was not giving the effort Peters expected. Peters said of Semin, “We want him to play the game hard and play the game properly and play the game with pace and live up to his ability and his potential.” Unfortunately for Semin and the Hurricanes, he never found whatever was missing, and it appears that the “good ship Semin has sunk.”

Peters’ Young Guns Setting the Pace

I don’t like to be redundant when writing. But, some things of necessity have to be repeated. Such was the theme of “not starting on time” for much of last season and the beginning of this season. But, I have written several times about when the “page on pace” turned for the ‘Canes, and it is worth repeating here. There was a clear turning point to the Hurricanes’ season.

On January 13 of this year, in an article entitled, “Canes Refuse to Fade” I wrote, “There was a clear turning point to the Hurricanes’ season.  On December 4, 2015 ‘Canes General Manager Ron Francis recalled Jaccob Slavin, Brock McGinn and Phil Di Giuseppe up from their AHL affiliate Charlotte Checkers. The previous night, the Hurricanes brought to the ice what was arguably one of their worst displays of apathetic hockey ever. They were blown out by the Devils 5-1. It was horrid.”

The “young guns” have turned this team into the beginnings of what Peters envisions, a group of energetic, hungry players who rarely if ever utter the words, “we didn’t start on time.” No one can dispute the fact that this is not the same team as last year’s, or even last November’s.

The pace has changed, but Peters is still preaching. After Saturday night’s win against the New York Islanders I asked him if he’s happy with the pace or is there more. Peters said,

“Way more. We want to be way quicker and we’re going to continue to work on it. We want to be fast, we want to be hard to play against and we want to be very tenacious.”

(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
Jordan Staal says the Peters push for pace is catching on (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Jordan Staal agrees that Peters’ preaching pace is catching on. After the Islanders game Staal told me that it’s not only the skating, but the way the team is moving the puck.

Staal said, “When you do both it can look like you have some pace. I think with both of those we’ve done a good job. I think our D have done a great job of moving the puck and getting our forwards to move our feet and get going and forcing teams to defend against speed.”

Whatever the playoffs outcome is for this season’s version of the Carolina Hurricanes, one thing is certain. Coach Peters will be preaching pace and just when we think the team has what he is looking for, he’ll preach it some more. It’s fun to be a ‘Canes fan again, and will continue to be fun if the team plays with the pace Peters preaches.