The Carolina Hurricanes moved on from Kirk Muller as their head coach last week. On Tuesday, Muller quickly migrated to St. Louis, reportedly signing a two-year deal to be a Blues assistant.
With next season representing the last on Blues coach Ken Hitchcock’s contract, Muller is potentially set up as Hitchcock’s successor — if the franchise cannot achieve greater postseason success.
After two decades at the helm of the Whalers/Hurricanes, Jim Rutherford has graduated from the general manager’s role to that of president, handing off his former duties to Ron Francis.
This will be Francis’ first hire. Here are six potential candidates for the Hurricanes’ head-coaching vacancy:
Samuelsson is one of three inside-track candidates to this job, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, partly because of a long-time association with Francis (teammates in Hartford and Pittsburgh). An assistant with the New York Rangers (who are still alive in the NHL playoffs), Samuelsson won the Stanley Cup twice as a player.
Samuelsson could bring a unique edge to the Hurricanes. The 50-year-old Swede played 1,080 NHL games as a defenseman and had the reputation as one of the league’s dirtiest players. He earned that rap, in part, for a hit on Boston Bruins legend Cam Neely that helped to end the Hall of Famer’s career.
A former head coach in his native Sweden, Samuelsson has logged six years as an NHL assistant (Rangers, Flyers). He also has been an assistant in the American Hockey League, boosting an excellent resume.
The former coach of the Florida Panthers got a bit of a raw deal when he was fired roughly a month into the season.
With Florida, Dineen was not exactly provided with a top-notch roster of talent. In 2011-12, he helped the Panthers earn their first playoff appearance in 11 seasons, the NHL’s longest drought at the time.
After getting fired, he took over the Canadian women’s national team and led them to a gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics (over the favored United States).
He played 1,188 NHL games and was Francis’ teammate in Hartford. Dineen is the son of former NHL player and coach Bill Dineen, under whom Kevin played with Philadelphia in 1992.
The Hurricanes have reportedly asked permission to talk to Trotz, the former Predators coach who may be a hot commodity this spring/summer. In Nashville, Trotz’s teams were consistently a difficult matchup for the league’s top clubs — regardless of the Preds’ talent.
Between 2003-12, Trotz got his Nashville teams into the playoffs every season but one, twice advancing to the second round. For a Hurricanes franchise that has not been to the playoffs since 2009 — along with only one postseason appearance since winning the Stanley Cup in 2006 — that record could be quite attractive.
Trotz brings a defensive-oriented approach and a record of competence, preparedness and professionalism. He is wonderful with the media and has experience in a nontraditional market.
For a decade, Wilson was considered one of the top coaches in the league. He brought Washington to its only Stanley Cup Final berth in franchise history (1998) and also enjoyed success with San Jose and internationally.
In 1996, he led the United States to a victory at the World Cup of Hockey, the last time Team USA won an elite tournament using NHL players. More recently, though, Wilson has not achieved that type of success.
He flamed out in Toronto after parts of four seasons without making the playoffs. He can be irascible and known to engage in verbal jousting with the media, but also charming at times.
One potential issue: Wilson has not experienced the NHL playoffs since 2008.
TSN’s McKenzie has floated Olczyk’s name for this job, given his previous teammate ties with Francis. Olczyk is very short on coaching experience, except for his brief tenure as coach of the Penguins in 2003-06. He won only 31 games (out of 113) during that span, while presiding over a rebuilding effort.
To Olczyk’s credit, his successor, Michel Therrien, didn’t do any better with the team in that same season: Olczyk was 8-17-6-0 (0.71 points per game) and Therrien was 14-29-8-0 (also 0.71 points per game).
He would seem a long shot because of his relative inexperience and lack of success for a franchise aching to get back in the postseason.
Renney is well-respected as both a tactician and for his ability to communicate with players. As a result, he is viewed as more of a players’ coach.
Like Ron Wilson, Renney has also not experienced the NHL playoffs since 2008, when he guided the Rangers to their third straight postseason berth … after that franchise had missed the playoffs party for seven consecutive seasons.
In his final two seasons, Renney helped the Rangers advance to the second round; and when he was fired in 2008-09, New York had a 31-23-0 record.
He has spent the past two seasons as associate coach with the Detroit Red Wings under Mike Babcock, perhaps the game’s premier coach.