After a tumultuous week, the Calgary Flames and head coach Bill Peters have formally parted ways. Flames general manager Brad Treliving announced at a Friday morning press conference that he had received and accepted a letter of resignation from Peters, ending his tenure as the team’s head coach after 109 regular-season games.
The mid-season coaching change stemmed not from the Flames habitual on-ice inconsistency through the first third of the 2019-20 season, but rather from Peters’ past conduct behind the bench and in the locker room.
Allegations came forth on Monday night from former player Akim Aliu, coached by Peters in 2009-10 with the Rockford IceHogs — the Chicago Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate — claiming that Peters used racially derogatory language towards him. The claim was then corroborated when TSN’s Frank Seravalli spoke with Aliu’s former teammates.
Those allegations were compounded by allegations from former Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Michal Jordan, claiming that Peters struck both Jordan and another unnamed Carolina player in the past. Those claims were corroborated as well by current Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour later in the week.
Peters issued an apology on Wednesday but Aliu claimed they were “misleading, insincere and concerning.”
During the past week, Treliving said he spoke with Peters, Aliu, Aliu’s former teammates, Jordan, and current and former members of the Hurricanes and Blackhawks management teams. While he noted that he understood everyone’s desire for a swift resolution to the proceedings, he wanted to have all the information before he acted.
“I was not going to trade carelessness for thoroughness,” the Flames GM said at the press conference announcing Peters’ resignation.
Treliving declined to provide any specifics about the contractual or financial implications of Peters’ resignation. According to Postmedia’s Wes Gilbertson, Peters was under contract through the 2020-21 season with a salary in the vicinity of $2 million per season. Typically when coaches are relieved by their club, the team remains on the hook for their salary unless they are hired by another team before their contract ends. However, that may not be the case with Peters as he resigned and was not relieved by the team although, without the details of the situation, it is purely speculation at this point.
Taking over as interim head coach is associate coach Geoff Ward, a former assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins who joined the Flames prior to the 2018-19 season. He won a Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2011 and had been tasked with running the Flames’ forwards and power play. He was a contender for the head coach position in 2016 when Treliving hired Glen Gulutzan.
“The subject matter that we’ve been dealing with over the last few days is difficult, it’s hard and it does not in any way reflect the core values of the Calgary Flames,” Treliving said.
Peters’ resignation comes at the tail end of a terrible month for the Flames on and off the ice. The club endured a six-game losing skid (including three games where they were shut out), several key injuries along with T.J. Brodie’s scary fainting spell and medical uncertainty — in addition to the allegations about Peters’ past conduct. At times during the press conference Treliving was visibly fighting back tears, and he noted that this week was “the most difficult thing I’ve ever dealt with in my career.”
Brad Treliving fighting back tears near the end of his statement. There was no handbook on how to deal with the Bill Peters situation. Treliving and the #Flames should be proud of how they handled it. They were as transparent and as expeditious as they could have been.
— Derek Wills (@Fan960Wills) November 29, 2019
Based off last season’s standings, the playoff cut-off in the Western Conference will be somewhere between 90 and 95 points. Through the first 28 games of the season, the Flames have 28 points, so they would require between 62 and 67 points over the final 54 games — the equivalent of going at least 31-23-0 over the remainder of the schedule — to push into playoff contention.
It’s doable, but they have their work cut out for them.