Candidates to be Flyers’ coach: Kirk Muller

A coaching candidate Flyers fans may recall from mini beef in bubble originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Throughout May and possibly into June, we’ll look at potential candidates for the Flyers’ head coaching vacancy.

“We’re going to sit down and try to build that ideal candidate profile and really keep all options open, maybe look at it from a little broader perspective,” Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said May 3. “Clearly we have to sit down and really drill down in terms of what we’re looking for. I’m sure there will be a lot of quality candidates we’ll speak to.”

We’ve looked at Barry Trotz, Rick Tocchet, Paul Maurice, Jim Montgomery, John Tortorella, Peter DeBoer, Scott Sandelin and David Quinn. Next up in our series is Kirk Muller.

Why Muller would be a fit

Some may remember Muller from the Flyers’ 2020 first-round playoff series against the Canadiens in the Toronto bubble. Alain Vigneault, the Flyers’ head coach at the time, was irked by Muller in Game 2 when Montreal’s fill-in bench boss sent out his first-unit power play during the final minutes of a 5-0 blowout.

The 56-year-old Muller is now an associate coach for the Flames, who were knocked out of the postseason Thursday night by the Oilers in the second round.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported Wednesday that the Flyers are interested in Muller. He noted how those in the game have connected the big-time 200-foot improvement of center Elias Lindholm and Calgary’s forwards to Muller. Lindholm is a Selke Trophy finalist and the Flames finished with the NHL’s second-best goal differential at plus-85 a year after they had a minus-5 mark.

Ever since taking the Flyers’ GM job in December 2018, Fletcher has pleaded for better 200-foot principles from his forwards.

“I can’t tell you how many times it seemed like our [third forward] got caught in the offensive zone,” Fletcher said of the Flyers’ 2020 second-round postseason exit.

“When you turn pucks over and you don’t have the puck, it’s hard to generate speed and it’s hard to play fast and it’s hard to score goals because you’re defending all the time.”

Following those playoffs, over the next two regular seasons combined, the Flyers have had a minus-125 goal differential and surrendered 3.56 goals per game, tied for the most in the NHL. Those numbers do not fall solely on the Flyers’ forwards, but finding a coach who knows how to hammer down the right habits up front could be attractive for Fletcher.

Muller, a former forward, played for the Panthers in the late-90s when Fletcher was the assistant GM of Florida and Brent Flahr a scout (now currently the Flyers’ assistant GM).

The 1984 second overall draft pick had an outstanding playing career, winning the 1993 Stanley Cup with the Canadiens and racking up six All-Star appearances.

Why Muller would not be a fit

Muller does not have any proven track record as a head coach. His one and only gig was leading the Hurricanes for parts of three seasons from 2011 to 2014. Carolina went 80-80-27 in 187 games under Muller and did not make the playoffs.

For some context, Trotz, a top-tier candidate on the market, has just 25 fewer games of postseason experience (162) than Muller has of head coaching experience period.

So Muller is not seasoned and would be tasked with turning around a Flyers team that is coming off of a 25-46-11 campaign, one of the worst in franchise history. That would be a tall order and tons of pressure.

Fletcher did say the Flyers would look at their head coaching search from a “broader perspective.” Perhaps they’ll be intrigued by more of a hands-on, up-and-coming type of coach. Coaches that were previously assistants tend to be detail oriented.

But considering the delicate spot in which Fletcher and the Flyers find themselves, one would think they’re aiming for greater experience.

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Jobber Wiki author Frank Long added to this report.