Kirk Muller's three-season tenure behind Carolina's bench did little to put fannies in the seats. (Getty Images)
By Allan Muir
It didn't take long for Ron Francis to put his stamp on the Carolina Hurricanes.
Less than a week after being named the team's general manager, Francis has decided the team will move on without current head coach Kirk Muller and assistants John MacLean and Dave Lewis. The team announced the trio had been let go this morning.
"We thank Kirk, John and Dave for their time and effort during the past three seasons," said Francis. "Kirk and his staff worked very hard, but we feel that the team is in need of a fresh start at this time."
Not too fresh, though. Assistant coach Rod Brind’Amour will remain part of the coaching staff, which sets up an interesting situation. His name has been tossed around as a possible successor to Muller, but he lacks the head coaching experience to be sold as the best possible option to a fan base that's dwindling after five consecutive playoff no-shows. The bigger issue, though, might be the impression of "same ol' same ol'" that such a promotion would create. It's tough to sell tickets with that hanging around your neck.
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But that might not even be the most troubling angle of this decision. If he's not gearing up to promote Brind'Amour, then Francis is determined to saddle the next coach with an assistant who was not of his own choosing...someone that clearly has the ear of the general manager. Not the sort of situation that would make the new man feel like he's safe in his trust tree.
So will his decision be made to do right by a friend or by the organization?
No one can argue with the call to move on from Muller. He wasn't blessed with an elite lineup, but there was never a sense that he wrung everything out of it, either. He compiled a record of 80-80-27 during three seasons with Carolina after being named head coach on Nov. 28, 2011. Not terrible, but that 0-0 playoff record sealed his fate.
So now the Hurricanes join a growing field of teams that are competing for the best man available to step behind the bench. It's not the biggest decision that Francis has to make--he needs to pilot a wrecking ball through the core of his roster, starting with $6.3 million backup goalie Cam Ward and, possibly, captain Eric Staal. But by putting this job on the market now, he at least gives himself a chance to get in front for the coach he wants.
The Canes are a long way from respectability. But it's a start.