Maurice out again as Canes coach, Muller to take over
Posted November 28, 2011
Updated November 29, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — The Carolina Hurricanes fired head coach Paul Maurice Monday and replaced him with long-time player and first-time NHL head coach Kirk Muller.
At a press conference announcing the hire, general manager Jim Rutherford said that he "wanted to bring somebody in who had different ideas from another organization.”
The Canes position is Muller's first NHL head coaching job. Muller spent five seasons as an assistant with the Montreal Canadiens before taking over as the head coach for the Nashville Predators' AHL affiliate Milwaukee Admirals on June 27 of this year.
Muller repeadedly stressed the word "accountability" as he was introduced Monday afternoon and said that he is impressed with the team's pace of play as well as youth.
"To me as an ex-player and with my coaching experience so far its really simple," Muller said. "You've got to get guys to believe in a system and believe in being accountable to each other."
Muller played for 19 seasons with multiple teams including the Dallas Stars, Montreal Canadiens, and New Jersey Devils. He was a second overall pick by the Devils in 1984 and went on to make six all-star teams.
As a player, Muller scored 30 or more goals five times and topped 70 points seven times. He also played for Team Canada in the 1984 Olympics and tallied the Stanley Cup winner for the Canadiens in 1993.
“Kirk is a proven leader and motivator, and he has strong communication skills,” said Rutherford. “He was a captain and a Stanley Cup winner as a player, and did excellent work as a coach with the Canadiens and the Admirals. We feel confident that he is the right man to lead our team now and in the future.”
Muller was also an assistant coach for the 2006 Team Canada U-18 team that featured current Hurricanes player Brandon Sutter.
Muller, 45, becomes the 12th head coach for the franchise, and the third to be head coach since the team relocated to North Carolina in 1997.
Jeff Daniels, who has been with the Carolina Hurricanes organization since 1995 and has been the head coach and general manager of the AHL affiliate Charlotte Checkers since 2008, was also discussed as a replacement but Rutherford said keeping him in Charlotte was best for the organization and the development of the younger players..
Daniels was an assistant coach for the Hurricanes for four seasons leading up to 2008 and was behind the bench for the team’s 2006 Stanley Cup win.
This past weekend, Muller’s Admirals lost to the Checkers twice by scores of 5-1 and 3-2.
Carolina is last in the Southeast Division with an 8-13-4 record (20 points) and are next to last in goal differential in the Eastern Conference at -23. They have won just three of their last 13 games and dropped three in a row.
The Hurricanes are just 3-7-2 on the road this season. They have also given goaltender Cam Ward very little help. Ward has faced the second most shots in the NHL through Monday with 629 and the team has given up an NHL worst 83 goals.
Captain Eric Staal has also struggled recording just 11 points in 25 games while taking a team-high 89 shots and holding a team worst minus-17 plus-minus rating.
Muller said Monday that he wasn't going to come in and change the identity overnight, but players like Staal will be vital to turning things around.
"Your best players have to be your best players (but) everybody needs to feel part of the team, what they can bring to the table," he said.
Rutherford indicated he is open to making a trade to bolster the lineup and said Monday that he is actively looking for a deal.
"In an ideal world we would like to have one top-six forward and even an extra top-nine forward," Rutherford said. "If we can trade a defenseman for a top-nine forward, we’ll do it… It’s not easy making trades."
Maurice was fired just 25 games into the season and a day after a 4-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators in which they went just 1-for-8 on the power play. He has gone on record in recent weeks saying that he is responsible for the players’ slow starts.
“It comes from the coach; bottom line,” Maurice said when prompted on the struggles of Staal. “It’s not on the captain and the players. It’s on me.”
The Canes’ bright spots lie in the lesser expected. Second-year center Jeff Skinner leads the team with nine goals and 21 points. Winger Jussi Jokinen is second on the team with 15 points. Chad LaRose has skated in all 25 games and is tied with Jokinen with an overachieving 15 points.
Maurice was in his second stint with the Hurricanes organization recording a combined 384-391-145. He was with the Hartford Whalers beginning in the 1995-1996 season and made the move with the team to Raleigh after the 1996-97 year.
He guided the Canes to the playoffs three times between 1998 and 2002 losing in the Stanley Cup Finals in the 2001-02 season. Carolina then struggled the following year only winning 22 games and Maurice was let go 30 games into the 2003-04 season.
Maurice returned to the Hurricanes bench in the 2008-09 season, taking over for Peter Laviolette in early December and guiding the team to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Hurricanes have failed to reach the playoffs each of the last two seasons and are headed for a long offseason again as the standings reflect a quarter of the way through 2011-12.
Maurice coached the Toronto Maple Leafs for two seasons between Hurricanes stints finishing over .500 but failing to reach the playoffs each season.
Earlier this season, Maurice became one of just three active NHL head coaches with over 900 games coached with their respective teams. The two remaining are Lindy Ruff in Buffalo and Barry Trotz in Nashville.