When Kirk Muller accepted a job with the Nashville Predators’ AHL team this summer, it seemed like a disappointing blow to a coach who was clearly on the rise.
Perhaps that time proved worthwhile, however, as John Manasso reports that Muller is implementing some of the better elements of the Nashville Predators’ system as the new bench boss for the Carolina Hurricanes – which is gaining the attention of Preds head coach Barry Trotz.
Trotz said that Muller has the ‘Canes “playing with a lot of pace and a lot of conviction.” Trotz, whose team entered Thursday’s games with the sixth-most points in the NHL, noticed how Muller applied Nashville’s pressure system to Carolina, minus a few tweaks here or there.
“Yeah, when they were doing it better than us, it was making me angry,” Trotz said. “It was making me really angry — angry and frustrated.”
Manasso reveals the rhythmic mantra floating around Carolina: “Kirk is Work.” It sounds like the kind of phrase that would appear on a button for a politician, but either way, the Hurricanes are rebounding to become a serious spoiler waiting to happen in the stretch run.
As Manasso points out, Carolina is 11-4-7 in its last 22 contests. The Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres realized how dangerous the Canes could be in the last two days as Cam Ward stood on his head in an OT win against the Caps and a tight OT loss to the Sabres on Wednesday.
Generally speaking, the Hurricanes bring an interesting mix to the table. They often employ a hard-charging offensive style and an (at best) hit-or-miss defense that places a lot of pressure on its goaltending – and lends itself to dramatic streaks in both directions. With that in mind, having a great coach could make the difference in a Southeast Division that holds teams with interesting but uncertain futures.
So far, there’s some reason to believe that Muller might be that coach.