Kirk Muller Ready To Set Sail With Ads
Oct 6, 2011
By Jason Karnosky
June 27, 2011 marked a new era for the Milwaukee Admirals.
It was on that Monday that Kirk Muller, formerly an assistant coach with the Montreal Canadiens of the National Hockey League, was named was the Admirals’ new head coach.
Needless to say, Muller comes to the Brew City with huge skates to fill replacing the promoted Lane Lambert. For the past nine seasons the Admirals have qualified for the playoffs, and two recent coaches have moved on to become National Hockey League bench bosses (Claude Noel and Todd Richards). Lambert, the team’s most recent coach, averaged 45 wins a season in his four years as head man in Milwaukee before moving up to take an assistant coaching position with the Nashville Predators.
In Muller, Predators general manager David Poile believes he has found just the man to replace Lambert as the guardian of the organization’s top prospects.
“Kirk Muller was everything we were looking for in our development coach,” Poile said. “With his playing pedigree as a Stanley Cup winner, his experience as a captain and his solid communication skills, we feel our young players and prospects are in great hands.”
Muller for his part is looking forward to the challenge ahead of guiding the Admirals.
“This is a great organization that has had a lot of success moving players and coaches up to the NHL,” said Muller, who became the Admirals fifth coach since Milwaukee joined the American Hockey League for the 2001-2002 season. “My goal is to get better, improve every day as a coach and help this team (win).”
Mulller’s hockey pedigree should help soothe the transition. As a player the Kingston, Ontario native brings a wealth of top level experience to Milwaukee. Muller is a veteran of 1,349 NHL games and has amassed 357 goals and 959 points over a 19-year career spanning 1984 to 2003. Those numbers represent one of highest point totals ever for a player turned coach.
Muller’s best NHL seasons came in 1987-1988 and 1992-1993 with the New Jersey Devils and Montreal Canadiens respectively, when he racked up 37 goals and 94 points during each campaign. The spring of 1993 also marked the first and only time Muller won a Stanley Cup as he helped lead the Canadiens to the storied franchise’s most recent championship, while contributing 10 goals and 17 points during the run.
“(Muller) has a ton of knowledge from a tremendous NHL career,” Admirals defenseman Scott Ford said. “Hopefully ‘Captain Kirk’ can pass along some of that knowledge along to us players and really help us this season.”
After hanging up his skates in 2003, Muller would return to the National Hockey League as an assistant coach with Montreal for the 2006-2007 season. In his five years with the Canadiens working under Guy Carbonneau, Bob Gainey and Jacques Martin, Muller helped Montreal earn playoff berths in four of them. More impressive was Muller’s work with the Canadiens’ penalty killing units, which finished in the league’s top half in each of his five seasons.
Though he has been a candidate for several NHL coaching vacancies, Muller decided to take a chance this past offseason by moving from Montreal to Nashville, one of the league’s most recent expansion franchises.
“I’ve spent the last five years earning my stripes as coach with Montreal,” Muller said. “Just like a player I was looking for an opportunity and when this job opened up I am glad I was able to take advantage of it.”
Prior to first game as Milwaukee’s coach, Muller has found the transition to the minor leagues an interesting one to be a part of.
“It’s definitely different and kind of nice here (in Milwaukee) because you can’t do anything without being noticed in Montreal,” Muller said. “So far we’re enjoying the city and having fun with the change.”
Muller’s main concern now is making an adjustment to coaching in the AHL on a fulltime basis. Though the 45-year-old had never played or coached a single game in the minor leagues prior to moving to Milwaukee, Muller knows that the commitment level needed to win hockey games is the same at every level.
“I have played in different markets in the United States, places like New Jersey where I started and Florida to the other extreme of Montreal,” Muller said. “To be successful as a professional you have to be consistent and perform every night no matter what type of crowd you are playing in front of.”
Coming off of a West Division championship last season, the road to the AHL playoffs for Milwaukee will only get tougher in 2011-2012 for Muller and the Admirals. League realignment saw Milwaukee move into the new Midwest Division along with rivals Peoria, Chicago, Rockford and new addition Charlotte.
Peoria made the post-season last year, and while Chicago did not, the Manitoba Moose did and with the Wolves new affiliation with Vancouver they will feature the same core group of players as Manitoba had. Meanwhile, all Charlotte did last season was win 44 games and advance to the Eastern Conference finals before bowing out to eventual Calder Cup champion Binghamton.
Luckily for Muller, there will be plenty of veteran support leading the Admirals in 2011-2012. Stalwart defenseman Scott Ford returns to a Milwaukee blue line still loaded with elite talent, including highly touted prospect Ryan Ellis.
“There will be some growing pains with all of the new faces,” Ford said. “But we will have a young group here that is extremely talented and should be a lot of fun to watch.”
Up front the Admirals were hit hard by NHL promotions to Nashville. However, the Admirals’ leading playoff scorer from a season ago, Chris Mueller, is back in Milwaukee along with the Admirals’ Game 7 playoff hero last season—Mark Van Guilder.
“I want to be better than I was last year,” said Van Guilder, who scored Milwaukee’s first round series clinching goal against Texas. “I’m still pushing myself to fulfill my dream of playing at the next level.”
In goal last season’s playoff backstop Jeremy Smith is back for a full season with Milwaukee. Barring an extended injury call up to the Predators, Smith should develop into one of the AHL’s top netminders.
With a talented core of players in place for Muller’s first AHL campaign in Milwaukee, Van Guilder believes Admirals’ fans should expect great things in 2011-2012.
“With the young group we have down here and a first year head coach, I think it’s going to be fun season,” Van Guilder said. “Lane (Lambert) did an unbelievable job with this team and he deserves to move up, but I think we are in pretty good hands with Kirk Muller taking his place.”