Kirk Muller didn’t go long without a job.
Eight days after being fired as head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes, Muller on Tuesday was named an assistant coach on Ken Hitchcock’s staff with the St. Louis Blues.
Muller, 48, was the Canes’ coach for parts of three seasons and had a year remaining on his contract. But Ron Francis, recently promoted to general manager for the Hurricanes, said he wanted a “fresh start” and on May 5 fired Muller and assistant coaches John MacLean and Dave Lewis.
Muller played for Hitchcock with the Dallas Stars near the end of his career, and the two have remained good friends. When the Blues faced the Canes this season at PNC Arena, Hitchcock said it still seemed strange seeing Muller – and MacLean, another former Stars forward – on the other side.
“It just looks like another friend who happens to be standing on the other team’s bench,” Hitchcock said. “It’s hard for me.”
Hitchcock said he was not surprised Muller gravitated toward coaching once his playing days were over. As an older player in Dallas, Muller was almost like a coach in training in how he dealt with varying roles, how he dealt with teammates, he said.
“Any player who could make the adjustments in his career that he needed to make to further his career and continue to play is a really smart guy,” Hitchcock said. “He made a 180 adjustment in the way he needed to play. He went from a top-three forward to a top nine. He went from a play-all-the-time guy to a specialist and didn’t miss a beat. He was such a smart player, and you knew that would transfer (to coaching).
“The other thing for me that I thought was really unique was he had no patience for people who didn’t pour everything into the team. And I could see that coming into his coaching. Both he and (MacLean), they had no patience if you didn’t buy in to what the coach or the team needed. They had no issue telling you that you didn’t fit in the way the team needed you to fit in. I thought that was unique because they had the courage to say the things that needed to be said in that locker room.”
Muller spent five years as an assistant for the Montreal Canadiens, helping them reach the playoffs four consecutive seasons.
Muller could not be reached Tuesday but said last week that coaching the Canes was a “good experience” and that he hoped to soon be back in coaching.
Alexander: 919-829-8945; Twitter: @ice_chip