UPDATE: The Predators have scheduled an "organizational announcement" Monday at noon Central, so I'm guessing this looks pretty solid. - Dirk
Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet reported yesterday via Twitter (and Bob McKenzie followed up today as well) that the Nashville Predators are about to hire former Montreal Canadiens captain Kirk Muller as head coach of their AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals. This would certainly be a big-name hire for the Predators, filling one of the most critical roles in their organization. Considering how strongly Nashville relies upon the draft & development model, the coaching position in Milwaukee could be considered every bit as important to the Preds as just about any job in Nashville.
Follow after the jump for a look at what Muller brings to the table, including input from Montreal where he's been an assistant coach with the Habs...
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Muller was a standout player in the 80's and 90's, originally drafted by the New Jersey Devils before moving on to Montreal, where he played a key role in their 1993 Stanley Cup Championship (he also served as captain on both teams). In all, he played 1,349 regular season games over the course of 19 seasons, and was known for his hard work, determination, and leadership ability. For the definitive read on Muller's playing career, head over to Greatest Hockey Legends for the scoop.
More recently, he's been an assistant coach with Montreal since 2006, and while he wants to be an NHL head coach some day, the word lately is that he needs head coaching experience on his resume to get there.
Kevin Van Steendelaar of Habs Eyes On The Prize was good enough to send this along regarding Muller:
...he has publicly made it clear that his eventual goal is as a head coach in the NHL. Unfortunately his lack of head coaching experience is holding him back at this point, as his only time as bench boss was a season with the Queens University Golden Gaels.
He was the only assistant kept on by season's end, after Guy Carbonneau was relieved of his duties in 2009.
It was thought last year that the Habs might allow Muller to coach their affiliate Hamilton Bulldogs, allowing Guy Boucher to work in Montreal as an assistant. That of course didn't happen and Boucher was allowed to talk to other teams, ultimately taking the job in Tampa.
There is speculation again that the Canadiens could do the same thing, and bring Randy Cunneyworth up from Hamilton, allowing Muller stay in the organization.
Ideally the AHL would best suit Muller, as he has a great rapport of working with the younger players. Being a former forward, that is where he focuses his work. He used to run just the penalty kill units, but has since been covering both special teams.
Personality wise he is fantastic with the media and I had the pleasure of interviewing him on two occasions.
Behind closed doors though, he is all business. Reports are that he does most of the talking/screaming between periods, when the team is not performing. He is also very vocal behind the bench, unlike more reserved head coach Jacques Martin.
The Canadiens lost him once before, when they traded him as a player in 1995. His popularity is very strong to this day with Habs fans, as he's one of the few individuals left from the 1993 Cup winning team who is still within the organization.
It will be unfortunate to see him go, but if he has any hopes of being an NHL head coach in the foreseeable future, this is his best chance.
Following Ryan's lead at Admirals Roundtable, it's also good to survey what other sites were saying about Muller over the last few months, as his name became linked with other coaching opportunities:
From Defending Big D, SB Nation's Dallas Stars blog (Muller played his last 4 seasons in Dallas):
He's considered one of the top coaching prospects and is going to be coaching an NHL team sooner than later. He's developed a reputation as a fiery and motivational bench coach and has been the guiding force behind turning the Habs into one of the top power play teams in the NHL.
More importantly, he's not only coached and adapted to differing approaches to the game but he showed the ability to adapt his game while a player as well. He knows and understands you cannot force a team to mold itself to the style of play you're demanding, instead needing a common ground in which to find a comfort level with the players while guiding and leading the team to moving forward and improving.
I would also recommend checking out this Q&A over at Hockey Wilderness, and this piece from Devils Army as well.
All in all, this sounds like an interesting choice for the Nashville Predators. Muller has an eye on the NHL, and this will be his greatest opportunity to prove himself as a head coach. His attitude and playing style would certainly seem to blend nicely with Nashville's organizational philosophy, and perhaps having a former forward who topped the point-per-game mark a few times early in his career can help with the development of guys like Taylor Beck, Gabriel Bourque, Austin Watson, and other young prospects.