According to scuttlebutt around the league, the Florida Panthers next head coach will be one of the these four men: Bill Peters, Marc Crawford, Tom Renney, or Gerard Gallant, who we looked at in the first article of this series. Today let's get into the background of current Red Wings assistant coach, Bill Peters.
UPDATE: Peters was hired by the Carolina Hurricanes on June 19.
Peters began his coaching career at the young age of 24 with the Junior-B team he previously suited up for in Killam, Alberta. After his wife's nursing career took the couple south to Texas, Peters began running hockey schools in both the U.S. and Canada. He even managed to get in a game for the shorthanded San Antonio Iguanas of the Central Hockey League and scored a goal and added two assists to boot. He joined the WHL's Spokane Chiefs and head coach Mike Babcock as a mid-season replacement for assistant coach Brett Cox during the 1996-97 season. Two years later, Babcock brought Peters back on a permanent basis. He stayed on as an assistant for an additional two seasons in Spokane when Babcock was replaced by Perry Ganchar after the former left to begin coaching the AHL's Cincinnati Mighty Ducks.
In 2002-03, the Three Hills native left the Chiefs to bolster his résumé, taking his first head coaching job with the University of Lethbridge. His first two years there saw the team make one postseason appearance, but the out-manned Pronghorns struggled badly in his final season, going 3-23-2 in CWUAA league play. With the Chiefs in need of a new head coach, as well as a culture change, Peters was on his way back to Spokane to take over. After a last place finish during his first year, the club made the playoffs in 2006-07, and the next season not only won the WHL crown, they also captured the 2008 Memorial Cup with a convincing 4-1 win over the host Kitchener Rangers. That summer he led Team Canada to a gold medal at the U18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.
After achieving junior hockey's highest honor, Peters, who compiled a 111-82-10-23 record in three seasons in Spokane, was hired by then Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon to be the head coach of Chicago's AHL affiliate in Rockford. Peters led the IceHogs to back-to-back playoff appearances, although the club failed to advance past the opening round each time. Despite finishing with 38-33-9 record, Rockford missed the playoffs in the 2010-11 season.
Mike Babcock, who was now the Red Wings head coach, came calling during ensuing the off-season and Peters found himself behind an NHL bench for the first time, assisting the old friend who had given him his first chance in Spokane. He has spent the last three seasons in Detroit, where in addition to Babcock, he has also learned from the club's respected associate coach, Tom Renney, who is also up for the Panthers gig. The Red Wings have advanced to the playoffs all three years that Peters has been with team, an invaluable learning experience.
Peters is a coach on the rise, who has a lot going for him. Working in his favor is his tireless work ethic and vast experience developing young players. He also has ties to Tallon from their days together in the Blackhawks organization, as well as the stamp of approval from one of the league's best head coaches, Mike Babcock, who has hired him multiple times. Working against him is lack of experience as an NHL head coach, something which was deemed vital by Tallon earlier in the Panthers current coaching search. Peters has to be considered somewhat of a dark horse candidate. His time will come, and soon, just probably not with Florida right now.