Tag: coaching changes


Under Pressure: Jeff Blashill


Here’s an understatement for you: Mike Babcock is a tough act to follow.

In the hearts and minds of Red Wings fans, Jeff Blashill may very well face an impossible task in trying to supplant the scowl of Babs. It cannot be easy to jump from the AHL to replacing one of the most respected bench bosses in recent history.

That said, for all the well-earned hero worship Babcock often inspires, there’s an argument that Detroit needed a breath of fresh air.

The Red Wings were as dominant as ever from 2006-07 to 2008-09, making three conference finals, two Stanley Cup Final rounds and winning one ring. They’ve been solid-yet-mostly-unspectacular since then, however:

  • Just one division title (in 2010-11).
  • Three first-round exits in their last six postseason berths, including two straight years of one-and-done. The Red Wings haven’t made it beyond the second round in that span, either.
  • They struggled to make the playoffs more than ever in recent years.

This is likely a case of oversimplifying, yet some may look at this situation in one of two ways:

A) Babcock squeezed every standings point possible out of a fading team.

B) Conversely, the franchise was begging for a jolt of energy.

It’s worth noting that the Red Wings remain a quality possession squad, although their exact rankings vary based on which specific metrics you use. The bottom line is that there’s a solid chance that Blashill has a decent group to work with, even if this obviously isn’t the stupidly dominant group many long associated with the Red Wings brand.

When your team is currently on a record 24-season playoff streak, expectations are inevitable, and Blashill faces a tall task. For all we know, setting the bar so high might not be such a bad thing.

If only Hurricanes had more time …

Kirk Muller

To most, 82 regular season games is an awful lot for a sport as rugged as hockey. If you ask Kirk Muller, it’s a shame that at leastthis campaign wasn’t, say, 90-or-so games long.

When the News & Observer’s Luke DeCock asked Muller if the team would be a playoff team if only Muller had time, the coach responded “I do; I really do.” DeCock goes on to make some “What if?” insights and even compares the Muller turnaround to the renaissance the team experienced when it switched to Peter Laviolette during their Stanley Cup run.

The baffling loyalty of Peter Karmanos and Jim Rutherford to Paul Maurice has once again cost them millions of dollars — and cost this market the fun of another trip to the playoffs.

If only Maurice hadn’t been brought back after last season’s colossal failure; if only Muller had been brought in a week or two earlier, when there was still time to turn things around; if only. Alas, the damage was done, and now the Hurricanes are running out of time.

It’s easy to put too much stock into late runs, which all too often fail to carry over to the fall. The Hurricanes are hoping, as was the case in the spring of 2004 and the fall of 2005, after the season lost to the lockout, the tone set in the spring will be the tone taken in training camp.

As noted in this space many times, the similarities between the circumstances that led to winning the Stanley Cup and these circumstances — new coach, new attitude, new labor agreement — have not been lost on the players.

Carolina’s players took about a month or so to adjust to Muller’s message, but they’ve certainly been a more dangerous team once the calendar changed to 2012. The most obvious – and considering the top-heavy nature of the team, probably most important – changes come in the work of Eric Staal and Cam Ward. They went from wildly disappointing (and thus overpaid) to the kind of franchise cornerstones who seem capable of keeping the Hurricanes reasonably competitive from year-to-year.

If you ask the team, their coach and at least one of the local columnists, the Hurricanes now have a coach to be competitive – they’ll just have to wait until next season to prove it.

Hurricanes fire Paul Maurice; Kirk Muller named new head coach

Paul Maurice

It’s a bad Monday to be a head coach in the NHL as the Carolina Hurricanes have fired coach Paul Maurice as their bench boss. Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford announced the move today just hours after Washington fired Bruce Boudreau and brought Dale Hunter in there.

In this case, Rutherford says the team will announce a new coach later today and TSN’s Bob McKenzie says that it will be Kirk Muller that gets the call to take over. Muller has never been a head coach in the NHL but spent time in Montreal as an assistant to Jacques Martin and was the head coach of the Predators’ AHL team in Milwaukee this year.

(Update 12:09 p.m. ET: Hurricanes officially announce Kirk Muller to take over as head coach)

Maurice’s second term in Carolina ends as roughly as his first go-round did winding up getting fired in both cases. The last time Maurice was fired, Peter Laviolette took over and led the Canes to a Stanley Cup in 2006. The Hurricanes this time around would love to have the same thing happen here but Muller’s hands will be full in trying to get Eric Staal’s season turned around and helping the rest of the team figure themselves out.

Muller’s main goal will be to get the team’s defense straightened out as they’re last in goals allowed this season and in last place in the Southeast Division, just 14th out of 15 in the Eastern Conference. The Hurricanes just missed out on a playoff spot last season but have been beyond miserable this year. Muller’s task ahead is a tough one for a team that seemed to lose their skills over the summer.