Coaching Candidates: Kirk Muller
The Devils are still without a coach, so I will continue to spew my inane babble on who the new coach will possibly be. Last time around I wrote about
Ken Hitchcock as the new coach. Today we will look at the case for another name widely thrown around…Kirk Muller.
Devils fans since the 80’s (present company included) will remember Muller as a cornerstone of the team at the time. He was the first true superstar the team had in its time in NJ. He was even captain for 4 years, leading the team to their first playoff berth in 1988 with a 94 point season as “Captain Kirk”. After the 1991 season he was traded to Montreal for Stephane Richer and Tom Chorske. That trade was my first experience that star players can get traded too. That day stunk. But the two players the Devils got in return became key cogs in the rise of the franchise in the early 90s with Richer being a goal-scoring machine. Muller didn’t do so bad himself either winning a Cup with the Habs in 1993.
After bouncing around the league and having a successful 18 year career in the NHL, Kirk went on to eventually become assistant coach with the Montreal Canadiens, where he has been there for the past 5 seasons, reaching the playoffs 4 out of those 5 seasons, once being first in the Eastern Conference and once going to the East Finals. The Habs have been a very well-coached, defense oriented team while he has been a part of that staff. He has been known to be a very intense coach who demands a lot out of his players, but he has the results to back it up. He has also been responsible for the success of the Montreal power play which has been very good the last few seasons. And we Devils fans know that we need a good power play system yesterday.
Some people may be worried about having ANOTHER former connection to the organization being brought back in to coach. Although I think this one will be different for 2 big factors. One is that he started becoming an NHL assistant after the lockout. That’s key because he knows how the new NHL works. He knows how to use the firepower up front to his best advantage. The coaches we’ve had in the past few season hadn’t really adapted well to the new NHL right away. Brent Sutter was the only exception but he went on to herd some cattle or something and ditched the Devils. The Devils passed on guys like Guy Boucher, who I felt would’ve been a perfect addition, for more established coaches. This gives them the chance to finally take that shot on an up and coming coach many people feel will excel at the next level. And Kirk has had young teams in Montreal and done very well with the them. He knows how to connect with the youth, something that will be key in picking a new coach.
The other is that, while he was part of this organization in the past, none of the current players have a connection with him either playing with, or being coached by, Muller. I really felt that was a big problem with John MacLean’s short tenure as coach. Now obviously I wasn’t in the room or the practices when Johnny Mac threw around his authority, but I can’t help think that the attitude of “eh we played together, he’s cool” or “I still think of him as an assistant” started to fester with the team and be one of MANY factors that hurt his tenure. Also, not for nothing, but Kirk Muller was captain and MacLean always had an A during his time here. While he was part of the leadership, he was never THE guy. I can’t just ignore that fact.
So there’s some background on the possibility of Kirk Muller being our next coach. I personally think it’s a risky move given what happened last year, but I wouldn’t be upset if I heard his named called upon. Feel free to comment below on your own opinions. Be sure to come back next week when I look at 3 other guys whose names are being thrown around the pot.