Carolina Hurricanes Slowly but Surely Improving Under Kirk Muller

Andrew Hirsh@twitter.comContributor IIDecember 18, 2011

RALEIGH, NC - DECEMBER 01:  New coach Kirk Muller of the Carolina Hurricanes watches his team play the New York Rangers at the RBC Center on December 1, 2011 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Rangers won, 5-3.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

In terms of wins and losses, the Kirk Muller era is off to a rough start for the Carolina Hurricanes

But looking beyond their record, the Hurricanes have shown significant signs of improvement under their new coach; he brings hope to a franchise that currently sits in the basement of the Eastern Conference. 

Less than a month into his tenure, Muller has already changed the culture in Raleigh, injecting energy and enthusiasm into the organization that was absent during the previous regime. And his emotion has clearly carried over to his team's play on the ice, as evident by their increased effort over the last several weeks. 

During the end of Paul Maurice's time behind the bench, the Hurricanes were playing some of the most uninspired hockey since they moved to North Carolina. But from the very first game after changing coaches, their work ethic has been noticeably higher, and it's beginning to pay off.  

The Canes have earned four points in the standings of the past three games, falling in overtime to the Leafs and Florida Panthers and defeating the reigning Western Conference champion Canucks. 

"We're not happy with the results we've been getting, but we deserve better," said defenseman Bryan Allen. "It wasn't happening for us, but that's changing."

In addition to the team's effort level, another area that has seen visible progression under Muller has been the power-play. 

Being able to score on the man-advantage has been vital for the Hurricanes this season: They are 8-4-3 when they notch at least one PPG and 2-14-3 when they don't. The improvement in this department is encouraging to say the least, and should bode well for Carolina as they move forward. 

The Hurricanes power play, which has been very mediocre in recent history, has converted 23.8 percent (5 of 21) of their chances over the past six games. 

"The patterns are getting a little more consistent. We're starting to get the personnel in the right spots," Muller said about his team's power-play. "Now we know our options. The execution has been pretty good and (the players) understand that if we can win the special teams battles, we're going to win our fair share of hockey games." 

It's difficult for a coach to jump in during the middle of a season, but Muller has been able to instill his system and values into his players. They seem to truly believe in him, which is more than can be said for Maurice. 

However, despite all this new, positive energy that surrounds the Hurricanes, the rest of the 2011-12 season is going to be difficult. And with Jeff Skinner out with a concussion, the losses may continue to mount.

But that doesn't mean progress isn't being made.

The Hurricanes are in the right hands, and with the future in mind, Muller gives the team a great opportunity to claw their way back to relevance. 

Slowly but surely, Carolina is going to get better. 

It's just going to take time.

Andrew Hirsh is a Contributor for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.