Were Bill Peters to have known about the multiple curveballs he's been thrown in the first four weeks of his tenure as an NHL head coach, one would think he would have run from the Carolina Hurricanes as fast as possible the other way.
Injuries to, quite literally, two-thirds of his projected top six? Check. Shaky goaltending? Check. Defense that would make a pee-wee coach cringe? Check. Requisite comments about Alexander Semin's salary? Check.
Maybe the best thing for him to do is just to ignore the first seven games of his NHL coaching career. Tonight, Eric Staal returns to the lineup, and from this point forward it's the first night of the rest of Peters' career.
Sure, an 0-5-2 record heading into tonight's road trip finale at the Vancouver Canucks is nothing to be proud of, and Peters and GM Ron Francis both knew that this was going to be a tough season. All but the most optimistic of Canes fans knew that it was going to be a tall order to even make a legitimate push for the playoffs this year, and with their Sports Club Stats number already under 10%, that is likely to be the case. (Even a .500 record the rest of the way won't do the trick.)
Peters will never admit it, because that's not his style. But his team has done him no favors so far, and the repeated and numerous injuries don't help things. So, I'll admit it for him: he's been dealt a bad hand, and he doesn't deserve to be judged on that basis. Beginning tonight, he has the opportunity to rewrite the script that so far has more resembled one from a horror movie than a heartwarming story of overcoming adversity.
Peters has done what he can to put the players he has in positions where they can succeed, and in fits and starts they have. The problem is that NHL hockey is notoriously unforgiving even in good circumstances, and in adversity it's even tougher to maintain that high level of production. Having proven quantities like Staal and Jeff Skinner back in the fold, even if they're not on fire, can only help. No longer will the likes of Victor Rask and Zach Boychuk be counted on for top-six minutes and primary scoring, which is a good thing.
The Charlotte Checkers are going through the same problems on the AHL level, off to their worst start since affiliating with the Hurricanes five years ago, while suffering historically low levels of production. That's not to say that Jeff Daniels is responsible; they're dealing with the same issues that the Hurricanes are. Injuries are going to happen, but when they happen this quickly, not to mention early in the season when a team is still starting to grab a foothold, it causes problems that cascade through multiple levels of the organization.
Tonight, the Hurricanes can put a bad road trip behind them with a solid showing against a shaky Canucks team and return home on Saturday in a good frame of mind. For the team, it's an opportunity.
For Bill Peters, it serves as a rare chance to rewrite the nascent narrative.