Let me first say this; I am absolutely thrilled that Kirk Muller is back on the Montreal Canadiens coaching staff. It feels as if Habs fans have been hoping for some form of organizational change forever, and now there is something. It may not be the sweeping change that some have been hoping for, but it should prove to be rather significant.
The first goal is obviously to improve on last season's result. But given that the team is not far removed from being considered a contender, and still has a lot of those pieces that made them so, they also want to get back to that place. Hiring Muller could very well be a step in that direction.
Bold statement, I know, so let's get down to brass tacks. I believe that there are three major areas where Muller will make a difference.
It is no secret that Michel Therrien is not the best communicator. Several players have suggested as much after leaving the Canadiens, so it's an issue that needed to be addressed. Muller can now serve to bridge the gap between the players and Therrien, which should make things much better.
Muller is a player's coach. He has been on both sides of the bench, and is well known for being an excellent communicator with his players. He has the ability to change the way that the coaching staff interacts with the team.
There always seems to be rumours that Therrien doesn't get along with a certain player, and it can get tiring. I don't believe that he has problems with any players, I just think that relating with them is not his specialty. Now that he'll have Muller on his side, I bet that a lot of those narratives will disappear, and they can all just focus on hockey.
It seems logical that this was the main reason for bringing him back, and this is where he should make the biggest difference. There is no sugar coating it, the Canadiens power play has been abysmal for some time. I mean, who can even remember the last time that they actually had a good man advantage unit? Wait a second...
#Habs hire Kirk Muller as associate coach— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) June 2, 2016
Habs PP from 2006-11 (w/Muller): 21.6% (2nd)
Habs PP since 2011 (w/o Muller): 16.7% (26th)
Well look at that. The last time Muller was in charge of the Canadiens power play, it wasn't just good, it was one of the very best in the league. For a team that sorely needs to improve in that regard, bringing back a coach who once contributed to them being that good is a no brainer
The power play - and really the team's general performance - during his tenure with the Hurricanes was mediocre, but let's not forget that in that situation he took over a team that was working on a rebuild. He was also at the helm, so he had a ton of responsibility and couldn't necessarily put as much focus on special teams personally as he might like.
He also didn't have shooters like P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty. He didn't have Andrei Markov, Jeff Petry, Nathan Beaulieu, Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, and so on. The pieces are there for Montreal to have the kind of power play that torches opposing teams on a nightly basis, and now they have a guy who knows how to put it all together.
Michel Therrien will coach the Canadiens next year, and not even his biggest detractors can do anything to stop that. However, you have to think that if things start to go south again, Marc Bergevin is going to have to make a call on that situation, or his own employment will be in jeopardy.
Kirk Muller provides them with an option that can step up and take the wheel if that happens. Naturally the hope is that this scenario doesn't need to happen, but if it does, they have an guy with knowledge and experience that they can fall back on.
No, he doesn't speak French, but he's one of the few guys who should get a pass on that. He played here, he even served as captain, and he was a member of the last Stanley Cup winning iteration of the team. Therein lies your trump card; Stanley Cup
The media, the fans, and the organization will just have to forego the language custom, because he is as much of a true Hab as you could ask for behind the bench. If the worst case becomes a reality, they have an undeniably legitimate option who will already be with the team.
And in any case, I firmly believe that he will help enough as an associate to avoid that situation altogether. Welcome back Captain Kirk, we've missed you.