As the Flyers coaching search continues, a new name has popped up. Calgary Flames’ assistant coach Kirk Muller is a name that has been buzzing around the halls of the Wells Fargo Center offices recently. He has NHL playing experience, has been a head coach, and is on a team that has a young offense in the playoffs. Could he be someone that the Flyers could consider as a head coach?
Muller was never a great player in the NHL, but was one of those players most team wants to have….most of the time anyway. He was the second overall pick in 1984 by the New Jersey Devils behind Mario Lemieux. He had seven solid years in Jersey, including taking the Devils on a surprising run in 1988 to the Wales Conference Finals. Three of his six all-star appearances came in NJ. His best statistical year as a Devil came in 1987-88 where he had 94 points with 37 goals.
However, he had a contract dispute with the team and was shipped to Montreal. He was one of the players that guided the Canadiens to the 93 Stanley Cup and would be a three time all-star for the Habs.
This is where his career started to take a turn. In the 94-95 season, he was traded to the New York Islanders. Not surprisingly, he didn’t want to leave a contender for a team whose glory days were long behind them. He refused to play initially, but when he did play, he played like someone who didn’t want to be there. He would be banned from the team and then sent to Toronto for pennies on the dollar.
Muller would spend two years in Toronto before being sent to Florida. He would then spend two years as a Panther before playing four unproductive years in Dallas. He retired in 2003.
Shortly thereafter, he would return to his native Kingston, Ontario to coach a local college hockey team. In 2006, he rejoined the Habs as an assistant coach. Five years later, he became the head coach of the Nofolk Admirals of the AHL.
Just a few months after being named coach of the Admirals, the Carolina Hurricanes tagged him to replace coach Paul Maurice. He would spend three years in Raleigh. One of the seasons was halfway through the season and another was in the lockout shortened season. Being the head coach of a team that was notoriously cheap, he tried his best to work with what he had. In his three years in Carolina, he had a record of 80-80-27; which isn’t bad considering what he had to work with. However, he failed to make the playoffs in each season.
Since being dismissed, he rejoined the Canadiens in 2016 as an assistant coach. After being fired from the Habs, along with head coach Claude Julien, he signed on with Calgary where he is today.
Why He Should Be The Flyers Next Coach
He was a gritty player who could score, hit, fight, etc. He fits the mold of a Flyer; very similar in play to a Rick Tocchet. To have achieved a .500 record on a cash strapped team in Carolina is commendable. To watch the Calgary Flames now with a group of young stars, like Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau, he could be the type of guy who could rally young stars and turn the Flyers into something good.
Why He Shouldn’t Be The Flyers Next Coach
True, he got a lot out of his Hurricanes players when he was there, but it wasn’t enough. And true, the Flames are really hot right now, no pun intended. But how much of that is Muller and how much is head coach Darryl Sutter?
Also, some of his antics as a veteran player are disturbing. If he doesn’t get his way, will he pout as a coach? Will he go through the motions there?
Muller is 56 and has a lot of hockey knowledge left in him. Maybe some of his antics as a player have given him a different perspective that could help him reach players who may be pondering similar moves. Maybe he has matured and grown enough from those to be an effective leader.
As long as the Flames are in the playoffs, they really can’t talk with him yet. But Muller’s name is worth keeping an eye on. He might not be a flashy name like Trotz or Totorella, but it definitely would be worth seeing what he can bring to the table. And if he comes, he might be someone who could help lure potential free agent Gaudreau over to Philly.