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.