Mark Flood acknowledged that he and his Peterborough Petes teammates weren't sure what to expect when Dick Todd became coach of the club again last spring.
"None of us really knew Dick that well and how he would approach coaching again," Flood, the Petes captain, said. "But one of the first things he said to us was that if played hard for him, we were going to have fun."
And, as it turns out, renewed success. Even with a 2-0 loss yesterday to the Brampton Battalion before 2,572 Ontario Hockey League fans at the Brampton Centre, the Petes are in first place in the East Division with a record of 23-14-5-4 and 55 points. Only the Battalion, at 25-15-6-2 and 58 points, has a better mark in the Eastern Conference.
It's familiar territory for Todd, who took over a team that failed to make the playoffs last season for the first time after a league-record 27 consecutive post-season appearances. Not once in Todd's previous incarnation as Petes coach, from 1981-82 to 1992-93, did the team have a losing record.
When Todd won his 500th game on Thursday night, he did it in his 813th game behind the Petes bench, reaching the milestone faster than any coach in OHL history.
"The only part of the number (that holds importance) is being the quickest one to get there," Todd said. "That's what I am most proud of."
Todd, 59, had been retired for a few years after a scouting stint with the New York Rangers and was spending much of his winter months in Florida. But it took him little time to get reacquainted with the coaching.
"Dick has no pressure," Petes general manager Jeff Twohey said. "He has the passion but he does not have to live and die with each game. There are some games we lose and I want to put my arm through a wall. Dick wouldn't. Our team, for the most part, is composed and relaxed, and it's because of Dick."
That belief is held by Flood too. Having a calm vibe has been an integral factor in the Petes' rebound.
"He doesn't yell a whole lot," Flood said. "He's patient. Guys are not afraid to take a chance and maybe make a mistake. That's huge for us. We're having fun. There had been some uncertainty here because we didn't make the playoffs last season but that is gone."
Ryan Oulahen scored both goals and Luch Aquino had two assists for Brampton. Kevin Couture made 39 saves for his first shutout of the season.