Admirals head coach Kirk Muller will be heading down to Nashville later this week, as rookie camp is right around the corner. Coach was gracious to give me a few minutes of his time this afternoon, and the Roundtable is proud to present the first part of our summer sit-down with the Coach.
AR: It was a whirlwind earlier this summer being named the Coach, and then diving right in to development camp. What has your summer looked like since then?
KM: Pretty steady, actually. After development camp…bringing your wife and two kids out here to Milwaukee was a bit of a move, so pretty much trying to get them settled in with schools and housing and all that. And then back to Canada for the summer, and then just starting to get to know the personnel in Nashville and here as well, and get organized and get set for training camp.
AR: How have Lane and Herbie been helpful in the transition of power?
KM: They’ve been great. Lane, I met during the prospect camp, (he) got me really familiar with some of the personnel moves and some changes with players…new guys coming and going. And the lay of the land. Ian has been great because he’s had experience at this level, going through the whole protocol of training camp. There are a lot of differences in the way things are operated at this level than in the NHL. Sometimes it’s apples and oranges comparing it in terms of the way it runs down here.
AR: Coaching the top minor league affiliate, is it your job first and foremost to develop players, or is it more important to win?
KM: It’s important to develop, but I think your competitive instincts kick in anyway. Of course it’s important about Nashville, one call away from supplying them with some good young players that are ready to play and fit in when they need help, from injuries and trades or whatever. But we all love to win, and competitive nature is there, so I think it’s important that no matter what happens…guys going up and down… the kids at this level, you’ve got to say hey, there are no excuses. You’ve got to find ways to win and dig deeper. I think it’s a combination. You want to create a winning attitude, and it’s all about creating a culture. And if they start at this level and understand that, then it filters right up into Nashville when they get an opportunity to play there.
AR: What are some of the things that drew you to coaching after your playing career?
KM: There’s nothing like playing and being involved in the competitive level at the NHL level, or the American Hockey League. When it ended, playing 19 years, it felt like I gained some good experience and went through a lot of different situations that I thought I could really help out a lot of younger guys. So being behind the bench as a coach I think is the next best thing as far as being right in there and having that competitive level again, and just enjoying the game still. It’s fun being around young guys, it’s fun being out there every night trying to beat your opponent. I love being around the dressing room and I think it was a pretty easy transition to get into coaching right after.
AR: How would you describe your demeanor behind the bench during games? Smooth or fiery or somewhere in between?
KM: I was a fiery guy when I played and vocal and all that, but I think your actions behind the bench will reflect on how your players respond as well. The one thing about coaching is that you’ve got to kind of hold back your emotions more than you did as a player. I think you’ve got to stay focused — you’re operating 20 guys instead of yourself as a player. Of course you’re going to be energized and excited and in to the games, but you’ve just got to know that you’ve got to do it within a controlled factor that doesn’t disrupt the team in general.
AR: So it’s probably not likely that you’ll end up in a Jim Playfair-esque explosion on Youtube sometime this season…
KM: I hope not! (Laughs) You’ve got to be yourself. I had the passion when I played and I have the passion now and that’s what I want from my players. To enjoy the time — you work hard all week to get in the games, so enjoy it and don’t be afraid to use your enthusiasm and all that. But at the end of the day it’s about discipline and being a control factor, so I can’t imagine I would get to that (Playfair) level.
AR: Did you have a good relationship with officials over the course of your playing career?
KM: Oh yeah. I’d been a captain for a long time in the NHL, and I think I can only really remember getting one kind of gross misconduct over 24 years, so I’d say that’s a pretty good ratio.
AR: As long as that gross misconduct wasn’t with a Koharski, because we’ve got two Koharski officials in the AHL…
KM: (Laughs) Yeah, well, I was involved with Koho when I was in Jersey at the time when the big fiasco happened….I was right in the middle of that, but I didn’t initiate it! (Laughs) But no, he’s great, and we laugh about it. But I can say I was actually involved in that situation.
In Part II later this week, we’ll talk about power plays, working with the young forwards, how to deal with mopers, and who specifically impressed him in development camp.