The Carolina Hurricanes announced Monday morning that the club has relieved Kirk Muller of his duties as head coach. Assistants John MacLean and Dave Lewis were also let go, while former Hurricanes captain Rod Brind'Amour will remain on the coaching staff.
This is the first major decision made by newly-promoted executive vice president and general manager Ron Francis.
“We thank Kirk, John and Dave for their time and effort during the past three seasons,” said Francis in a brief statement released by the team. “Kirk and his staff worked very hard, but we feel that the team is in need of a fresh start at this time.”
Muller went 80-80-27 while behind the Hurricanes bench, which he has occupied since November of 2011. The club failed to make the playoffs in each of Muller's three seasons behind the bench.
Last season was actually Muller's first 82-game campaign after joining 25 games into the season in the 2011-12 season and having 2012-13 shortened by the lockout. The Canes went 36-35-11 in 2013-14, finishing seventh in the Metropolitan Division and 10 points out of a playoff spot.
With Francis taking over for longtime GM Jim Rutherford, getting a clean break from the direction the franchise has been heading in the last few years will probably do some good.
Additionally, there are a lot of experienced head coaches on the market right now, including former Hurricanes head coach Peter Laviolette, who guided the team to its only Stanley Cup win in 2006. This club has recycled coaches before, giving Paul Maurice two kicks at the can, but that was under Rutherford.
The market is getting competitive, however, with the Florida Panthers , Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators all looking for new bench bosses. There could also be a few more openings depending on how this week goes.
Francis' first hire couldn't be any more important. This club has been heading backwards since it won the Stanley Cup, making the playoffs just one time since.
There are other major decisions looming as well, like what to do with declining veteran goalie Cam Ward and whether a more aggressive rebuild may be in order, with the possibility of shipping out other established veteran players. It could be an interesting summer for the Hurricanes and their new general manager.