Carolina Hurricanes head coach Kirk Muller was fired on Monday, along with two other assistants in John MacLean and Dave Lewis, signaling the start of a new era for the struggling NHL franchise.
Terrell Williams of Hurricanes.com reported the news, and Carolina general manager Ron Francis expressed his gratitude for Muller's service to the organization, along with the other departing members of his staff.
"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."
Francis later spoke more about the move at a press conference on Monday, where he explained the decision to make a change, via Michael Smith of Hurricanes.NHL.com and Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer:
Francis: "I just felt that at this point going forward, we needed a fresh start."— Michael Smith (@MSmithCanes) May 5, 2014
Francis: decision was not something to take lightly. Said Muller may go on to be a good coach in NHL. But felt "this is the right move."— Chip Alexander (@ice_chip) May 5, 2014
Francis also discussed the Hurricanes players and his vision for the franchise going forward, via Alexander and Canes Country:
Francis: "I don't think changing the coach lets the players off the hook."— Chip Alexander (@ice_chip) May 5, 2014
Francis said he wants a long-range plan in place to make organization better.— Chip Alexander (@ice_chip) May 5, 2014
Francis looking for a teacher, good communicator, strong leader, and someone able to manage different personalities— Canes Country (@CanesCountry) May 5, 2014
Bob McKenzie of TSN had a list of potential candidates for the open job in Carolina:
Ulf Samuelsson, Kevin Dineen and Ed Olczyk will be amongst ex-teammates of CAR GM Ron Francis mentioned as potential coaching candidates.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) May 5, 2014
Muller had one year remaining on his contract before he was relieved of his duties; he failed to make the Stanley Cup playoffs in any of his three seasons at the helm. Although he inherited a last-place team with an 8-13-4 record when he was hired in November 2011, there wasn't enough improvement to warrant keeping Muller around moving forward.
A change in leadership certainly seems necessary, and the writing appeared to be on the wall when Francis took over for ex-GM Jim Rutherford, who stepped down just a week ago after approximately 20 years with the Hurricanes.
Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports didn't think Muller had a chance of hanging around after registering 83 points and finishing well off the postseason pace in 2013-14:
I don't think Kirk Muller is long for Carolina, and that stinks. Might have to do the assistant thing again before another shot.— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) March 25, 2014
The Hurricanes won the 2006 Stanley Cup and made it to the conference finals in the 2009 playoffs before being swept by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Since then, they've finished near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, including 13th in the past two campaigns.
Francis cares about getting Carolina on the right track since he used to be the team's captain and played six seasons with Carolina. He began his career with the Hartford Whalers, who eventually became the Hurricanes. That should encourage fans moving forward, as Francis is likely going to do everything he can to trigger a swift turnaround that can also foster sustainable success.
Hiring the right coach is key for Carolina to get the most out of its talented but underachieving roster. With the right person manning the bench, the Hurricanes can get back into a winning mentality and capitalize on the star power at their disposal to rise again as a perennial playoff contender.