Coach Muller. We should get used to saying that.
Kirk Muller wasn’t even on the radar when Paul Fenton & company began their search for the next coach of the Admirals. But then Muller reached out to the Predators, expressed interest, and that sparked some conversations.
And today, it all became official. Official press conference, phone conference call, other interviews, radio shows. I tuned in on the conference call this afternoon, but was unable to record it….so I’ll be doing a fair share of paraphrasing from the notes that I was able to take (thanks to Dave Boehler from the Journal Sentinel for a few of the quotes). But here are some highlights and thoughts.
– Muller isn’t here because he goes way back with David Poile or Paul Fenton. He isn’t here because he has a long history with the franchise. He’s never been to Milwaukee. He’s here because he wants to be a head coach and it’s a good professional move for him to be a head coach at this level and with this organization. This was repeated many times during the day today. The guy wanted to be a head coach somewhere. He wanted to have his own team. He wanted to grow as a coach and get the support from upper management to help him do so — and that’s something he couldn’t do as an assistant in Montreal. He talked with a lot of teams at the NHL and AHL over the last month, and the more he talked to Fenton, the more this seemed like a good fit. And I agree — a good fit for him and for the organization.
He used the phrase “stepping stone” when talking about this move. But he also gave assurances that he isn’t looking at any kind of timetable or anything — he’s just excited to get to work right now.
– “I really believe players today are taught so much different than when I was a player. I think those five years in Montreal prepared me for a new generation of players, and what they want and what they expect.”
There is some great young talent on that Montreal team, so he has already made his mark there with the new generation of players. But on some levels, players are the same today. Coach brought up the fact that as a player, he’s done everything and had everything happen to him. He’s been a first line center, 2nd line, checking line, a winger, played the power play, played the penalty kill, won a championship. And then he added “been a healthy scratch” to that list – which is a place I didn’t expect him to go, but I was impressed that he did. He knows how Mark Santorelli has felt these last few years because he’s been there. And from all of this experience, hopefully this will make him an even better communicator than he has been rumored to already be.
– “It’s great having your smartest players and your fastest guys killing penalties. I think a big strength is you want guys out there who understand it is a role. You have pride in it and it’s not easy. In a systematic way, you’ve got to have all four guys be in sync and be aggressive. You dictate where the power play is going to move the puck rather than vice versa.”
It’s easier said than done. But if he can somewhat replicate in Milwaukee what he did to the penalty kill unit in Montreal, we should see some better percentages, and maybe some more short-handed goals. Montreal’s PK% in the playoffs last year? 100%. 21 times shorthanded, 21 penalties killed off.
– One of the things he plans to focus on is how the team plays without the puck. “If you can do that, you can play in any situation.” Linus Klasen would have been such a huge headache for him in this area… But this will raise the hockey IQ’s of players in Milwaukee who are able to learn, and boost their development for sure.
– It sounds like he’ll be some kind of hybrid between a tough-love coach and a players coach. While he highlighted words like “accountability”, “discipline”, and “hard-working”, he also stressed how important it was to build a culture and identity, and that he’s in tune to what players want to know and need to hear.
One of the things he learned from Jacques Martin these last couple of years was how important it was to be organized and prepared. That sounds like a no-brainer, but again, easier said than done.
– Paul Fenton said that he interviewed over 50 people for this job in Milwaukee. And he said that Muller will have the freedom to coach the style that he wants….as long as it isn’t too kooky. Fenton said the upper management will not dictate, but that the talent level might do more of the dictating.
– Muller never played in the AHL. Remember, he was drafted second overall, behind Mario Lemieux. On the Center Ice radio show, Wojo got a good laugh out of Coach asking him if he was prepared to embrace the travel-by-bus lifestyle of the AHL. He’s ready.
– I haven’t heard anything official about Ian Herbers, but he’s still under contract for another year. And it might be a good idea for Muller to keep Herbie around since he knows the stomping grounds around here pretty well.
So Roundtable…..we’ve got our coach now. What do you think? Perfect guy for the job? Does the “stepping stone” line bother you? Do you think a hybrid-styled coach can succeed? Would you rather him lean one way or the other? Are you ready for free agency season on Friday, or are we moving too fast for you?