Captain Kirk’s Core Beneficiaries

Photo: USA Today Sports via Bleacher Report

On Thursday evening, June 2, 2016 the Montreal Canadiens announced Kirk Muller would be joining the team as Associate Coach. The announcement was received with delight by Habs fans and pundits alike.

Tony Marinaro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since the announcement, much has been written about what Muller brings to the Habs. The signing was a breath of fresh air from a team that had been breathing stale for months. There are five personnel that stand to benefit the most from Muller’s installation behind the Habs bench.

Max Pacioretty

Is there any Habs player who has lost more sleep about the past season? Pacioretty’s first season as captain of the Montreal Canadiens was less than stellar. After letting Brian Gionta go to free agency, the Habs did not name a captain for the 2014-15 season. Pacioretty, along with Tomas Plekanec, Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban, shared alternate captain roles. In the 2015 training camp, the Habs announced Pacioretty had been named captain following a vote by the players. It’s difficult to argue with democracy.

We all know what happened next. After a nine-win start, the Habs season was lost when Carey Price went down to injury, Marc Bergevin failed to adequately replace him, and Michel Therrien demonstrated the limited tools in his coaching kit when he did not adjust. Like his peers, Pacioretty struggled at times. It wasn’t a fun year to be Habs captain.

As a player, Kirk Muller was known as a heart and soul guy, a leader and a goal-scorer. Muller had 37 goals and 57 assists in the 1992-93 season, and hoisted the cup as a member of that Canadiens team. He served as captain of the Montreal Canadiens for the 1994-1995 season before being traded. Muller rejoined the Habs for the 2006-2011 years as an assistant coach. Muller is familiar with the dual challenge of serving as the face of Habs leadership while also putting pucks in the net. It doesn’t take a psychic to predict Muller’s wisdom will go a long way to Patch’s development as captain.

P. K. Subban

Is there any player in the NHL who is more controversial than P. K. Subban? God knows there should be. Patrick Kane’s extracurricular activities come to mind. Yet, our beloved Norris winner is constantly the subject of criticism and challenge. P. K. was reportedly one of the first players to call and congratulate Muller on his appointment – small wonder why.

One wonders if Marc Bergevin advocated for Subban to be a member of Team Canada. Michel Therrien left little to the imagination when he blamed P.K. for a loss due to a high risk move, and never mentioned Pacioretty’s missed defensive assignment on the same play. Those of us who love #76 are delighted to know he will have Muller in his corner come training camp.

Lars Eller

Is there any Habs player who will benefit more from good communication and role clarity? Some feel Eller is a moot point due to the likelihood he will be traded in an effort to improve the top 6. That is a definite possibility – a strong two-way centre to play the 3C role for a 3.5 million cap hit has value. Of course, the Habs need the same kind of player, and some of us are holding on to a hope that Bergevin can resolve the top 6 through free agency, and move the players that are actually of lesser value than Eller.

While Eller is so obviously a top tier 3C, he has been miscast by Therrien, playing the left wing on both the second and third lines, or being relegated to the 4C position on a few occasions. With Muller assigned to coach the forwards, here’s hoping Eller is still in Montreal come training camp and that he is clearly established as the third line centre, with adequate forwards on his flanks.

Marc Bergevin

Is there any hockey executive who has experienced such a reputation reversal in 12 months? Okay, maybe Jim Rutherford wins that award, but in Montreal, the honeymoon is over. Read my article titled Bergevin’s Deviants and Foxholes for my impressions of how he’s handled his leadership team, or this tweet from @NikkF07 is a quick summary.

Patience is growing thin with Bergevin, and when he refused to fire anyone from the coaching staff – Craig Ramsay hardly counts – there was widespread agreement that the GM has some essential tasks for the off-season. In addition to moving some unappealing contracts, and finding two top-six forwards, Bergevin had to find a way to fix the power play. One wonders if anything would have happened if Kirk Muller was not suddenly available, or how much Geoff Molson may have influenced the hiring, but either way, today Marc Bergevin looks like a GM who has hired a solution to a core problem on his team.

 

Michel Therrien

Is there any coach on the planet who has experienced more demand for his firing? I am not a Michel Therrien fan, and I enjoy lots of company in that opinion. He was not a popular re-hire, and his coaching style is best described as stubborn, aloof and smug. Kirk Muller is the antonym to these characteristics, and he will bring communication and relationship back to the Habs bench.

With that said, this graphic from @AndrewBerkshire is brilliant and kind of says it all when it comes to how Michel Therrien is going to benefit from the Muller hire.

Salvation of the power play, along with a healthy Carey Price, could save Michel Therrien from the fate he probably deserves. But not one of us will care that Michel Therrien is there if the Habs can deliver a 25th Stanley Cup.

 

The hire of Captain Kirk has single-handedly changed the mood surrounding the Montreal Canadiens. It will be refreshing to see him at the table on June 24th when the Habs pick in the ninth spot.

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