Carolina Hurricanes’ Head Coach Bill Peters healthy scratched Teuvo Teravianen and others against Columbus Saturday night
Bill Peters is a coach whose mistakes are easily countable on one hand. Ok, maybe two if you really want to get picky. Sure there are quibbles about his fourth line usage, and the fact he loves to send out Ron Hainsey in 3v3 overtime. Overall Bill Peters guidance turned the Carolina Hurricanes into one of the most exciting teams in the league. Saturday’s game against Columbus, though, was the first time Bill Peters’ decisions made Carolina a worse team. Scratching Teuvo Teravianen wasn’t the right choice and it sends a message that isn’t the one most people think it is.
Why did he do it?
There are no mincing words here; Teravainen against Pittsburgh played horrible. No need to waste time and try to defend it. Several of Teravainen’s passes led directly to goals for the Penguins. Players have bad games though and overall Teravainen’s play this season has been stellar. He’s third in xGF% and 2nd in CF% both score and venue adjusted. Even if you don’t believe in analytics, Teuvo has clearly passed whatever eye test one can throw at him. Just ask Blackhawk’s fans if you think I’m wrong. So why the immediate benching after one bad (albeit very bad) game?
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This isn’t like Noah Hanifin and Matt Tennyson whose overall play was awful in addition to their poor performance against the Penguins. Those two deserved to sit a game. In fact, one can make the argument that doing so didn’t really affect the team that much. Looking at the play of Ryan Murphy, Klas Dahlbeck, Noah Hanifin, and Matt Tennyson they all seem very similar and prone to making huge mistakes at the most inopportune times. The stats back up this analysis as well. All four are sub 50% CF and only Ryan Murphy is above 50% in xGF%.
Sending a Message
When I questioned the scratching of Teravainen several people answered it was to send a message; a message about accountability. Peters isn’t the first coach to use this tactic to shake his team out of a funk. Dave Hakstol, on several occasions, scratched some of his best defensemen yet left in Andrew MacDonald. (For those of you unfamiliar with the Flyers roster MacDonald is very very bad at defense.)
Even Ken Hitchcock got in on the game last playoffs by switching goalies to shake up his team’s offense of all things. We all saw how well that worked out. I think we can see the fates of those teams as proof of how effective the “sending a message” strategy is at creating wins. The results were no different in Columbus either as the Carolina Hurricanes lost 3-2 in regulation.
So what do these scratches really say?
By not putting his best team out on the ice is Peters really saying that losing is ok as long as you play the game the right way? No, because if that game was the last game of the season and determined the Hurricanes playoff fate, Teravianen would be in that lineup no matter if he shot five own goals the game before. This whole message sending nonsense is just another narrative that serves to hide the truth.
And that truth is the other message Teravainen’s benching sends about the Carolina Hurricanes. It’s the same message sent by Hakstol and Hitchcock when they implemented the same strategy. It’s the message that Peters has run out of ideas. Peters has exhausted every coaching trick in his bag and now is throwing Hail Marys to try and get the team to perform. Something, anything to get the team into that playoff spot. I don’t know about you but the fact that Peters is relying on sports clichés to improve the team’s performance is very frightening for our playoff chances.
One last word
Even if Peters has reached his limits for improving the team, that limit is still pretty impressive. Nobody seriously thought the Carolina Hurricanes would compete for a playoff spot come late January. It has taken a lot of help from other teams (thanks Boston and Philly!), but there’s no denying the team’s performance is leaps and bounds above the start of the season. Maybe Francis can bring in reinforcements over the trade deadline to help improve the team talent. I just hope that ultimately these points left on the table don’t come back to haunt the Hurricanes at the end of the season.