Kirk Muller

The next audition: Kirk Muller expected to become new head coach of Predators’ AHL affiliate

It would be surprising if this experiment lasted for more than one season, but TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that Kirk Muller will be named the new head coach of the Milwaukee Admirals (the Nashville Predators’ AHL affiliate team) on Monday. After excelling as an assistant coach for the Montreal Canadiens, Muller seemed like one of the hottest coaching prospects available but seemed to come up in second place several times.

Coaching the Admirals might seem like a consolation price for Muller, but it will also provide a great opportunity for him to prove that he can handle a head coaching job. Let’s face it, too: hiring successful AHL coaches is the hot trend among NHL teams right now so he’s probably on the fast track for a job next year (unless he totally flounders in Wisconsin, perhaps).

The biggest winner in this deal is the Predators organization, even if they probably won’t be able to keep Muller around for much longer than Lane Kiffin coached the Tennessee Volunteers.

If there was one point that Predators head coach Barry Trotz hammered home during interviews at the 2011 NHL Awards, it’s that the Predators’ draft picks must go through Milwaukee before they get to Nashville. The Predators organization values the concept of a well-prepared prospect, so sending them through the ringer at the AHL level with the Milwaukee Admirals is part of their patience-centric plan that also provides Trotz with almost unparalleled job security.*

Now they have an NHL-level coach to prepare their prospects for the jump to the NHL level. It will be interesting to see if anything changes during the 2011-12 season, but on first impact, this seems like a great deal for the Predators franchise and a solid (if disappointing) opportunity for Muller.

* – Only Buffalo’s Lindy Ruff has a longer tenure as an NHL head coach.

After lopsided loss, Julien says it’s ‘not about the young D’

Claude Julien

The Boston Bruins’ young, makeshift defense failed to come through Thursday night as the B’s were thumped, 6-2, on home ice by the Winnipeg Jets.

Without injured veterans Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, the defensive pairings were as follows:

Torey KrugAdam McQuaid
Joe MorrowKevan Miller
Matt IrwinZach Trotman

And let’s just say, turnovers were a factor:

That was Irwin getting checked off the puck there.

“I had the puck behind the net, and I went to one side of the net, and then I just didn’t use the net to my advantage,” he explained afterwards, per CSN New England. “He got his stick in there, obviously stripped me of the puck, and we all know what happened after that. I take full blame for that one.”

But head coach Claude Julien wasn’t willing to blame inexperience for the poor outing.

“It’s not about youth. It’s not about the young D,” said Julien. “It’s about our game without the puck. I think we might have gotten a little excited here about our offense and forgot about the other part of our game.”

And to be fair, even Boston’s more accomplished d-men had their challenging moments.

Here’s Krug failing to get position on Nicolas Petan in front of the Bruins’ net:

All in all, it was a tough night.

“We’ll correct those [mistakes] tomorrow in practice,” said Irwin. “We’re a confident group in here. We liked our offense. We liked the chances we were getting. All those mistakes, D-zone, are something that we’re going to work on and get better every day.”

The Bruins host their rivals from Montreal on Saturday.

Greene named 11th captain in Devils history

Dion Phaneuf; Andy Greene
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Andy Greene has been named Bryce Salvador’s successor as New Jersey’s team captain.

Greene, an undrafted free agent that’s spent his entire nine-year career with the Devils organization, becomes the 11th captain in the franchise’s history and third American to wear the “C” (Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner were the others).

A former standout at Miami of Ohio, Greene — who served as an alternate captain in each of the last two seasons — has developed into a steady, durable blueliner that hasn’t missed a game in three years. He’s also locked into the Devils long term, having signed a five-year, $25 million extension with the club last summer.

That deal kicks in this season, and runs through 2020.

As for the rest of the leadership group, four players will serve as alternate captains this season: Patrik Elias, Travis Zajac, Mike Cammalleri, and Adam Henrique.

Elias and Zajac both wore an “A” in New Jersey last year, while Cammalleri and Henrique are first-timers.