News came Wednesday that Kirk Muller turned down a one-year deal to remain an assistant coach with the St. Louis Blues, and it didn’t take long for Muller to land a new gig. The Montreal Canadiens announced Thursday evening that they have brought Muller on board as an associate coach.
“We are very pleased to announce the appointment of Kirk Muller, and are extremely happy about his desire to return to the Canadiens’ organization,” Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin said in a release. “Kirk brings a great deal of experience, determination and leadership, and I have no doubt that these qualities will be essential for our coaching staff. Kirk has a thorough knowledge of the Montreal market, he enjoyed success as a player, and as captain of the Canadiens, and these assets will certainly contribute to the success of our team.”
Muller, 50, had previously spent five years as an assistant coach with the Canadiens from 2006-07 to 2010-11, coming to organization following one season as coach of the CIS’ Queen’s University Golden Gaels. Muller also spent four seasons, a total of 267 games, with the Canadiens during his 19-year NHL career. Muller was an alternate captain for the Canadiens for two seasons and one season as captain.
Muller joins the Canadiens after two seasons with the Blues, during which time he oversaw the forwards on a Blues club that posted the second-most wins of any team, boasted one of the league’s most lethal power plays and went to the Western Conference final in 2016. Muller was widely considered a potential replacement for Blues coach Ken Hitchcock’s job in 2017-18 were Muller to stay in St. Louis as Hitchcock plans to retire following the upcoming campaign.
Before heading to St. Louis, Muller spent the better part of three seasons as coach of the Carolina Hurricanes, with whom he posted an 80-80-27 record, but he was let go after three seasons as the club’s coach.
The Canadiens’ hire of Muller is no doubt an interesting one, especially coming off of what was an incredibly disappointing season in Montreal.
After starting the season 9-0-0, the Canadiens fell apart under the weight of an injury to superstar goaltender and reigning league MVP, Carey Price, and went an abysmal 29-38-6 over the remaining 73 games. That was tied for the league’s worst record over that span with the Edmonton Oilers. Even after the atrocious collapse, Bergevin stuck by coach Michel Therrien following the season and said he would not be replacing him during the off-season. That said, Muller does seem like he could be a good replacement if the Canadiens had a rocky start.
Whether or not that’s the intention behind the hire, who knows, but the addition of Muller to Therrien’s staff could mean he’s the next in line to be the bench boss regardless of how the coming season plays out. Only time will tell if Muller takes over during the 2016-17 campaign, though.