With assistant coach Kirk Muller's contract ending this year, it has been expected that he is ready to take the next step in his coaching career and join one of the several teams that are looking forward to fill their vacant head-coach positions. Muller's name has already been linked to the Dallas Stars, although sources near the Stars and their GM Joe Nieuwendyk has not confirmed the news. Rumors are that Muller has already been signed for a three years contract with the Stars and that the management is waiting to release the news after the new ownership is in place. If the rumored link to the Dallas Stars does not pan out, other teams looking at Muller are the New Jersey Devils and the Minnesota Wild.
Now the question remains, if Muller does leave the Canadiens, who will replace him? Two names have been rumored to be circulating around: Peter DeBoer and Larry Robinson. Here's a profile on both the candidates.
DeBoer, 42, whose name has also been linked with the Ottawa Senators (interestingly, Guy Carbonneau's name has also been circulating when it comes to filling the head-coaching position for the Senators), is the current part-owner of the Oshawa Generals of the OHL. He has previously been the head coach of the Detroit Whalers, Plymouth Whalers and Kitchner Rangers of the OHL and has also coached the Florida Panthers for 3 seasons between 2008 and 2011. His career includes winning the OHL Coach of the Year trophy twice and leading the Kitchner Rangers to a Memorial cup victory in 2003. He was fired by the Panthers on April 10, 2011 after a disappointing season in which the Panthers managed to accumulate only 72 points. In his NHL coaching career, he accumulated 103 wins in 246 games along with 36 Overtime losses. Finally, DeBoer is also well known by Jacques Martin who was the general manager of the Panthers when DeBoer was hired as the head-coach.
Larry Robinson needs no introduction for the Habs fans. The Hall of Famer defenseman is currently the defensive coach for the New Jersey Devils. Nicknamed "Big Bird", not only is Robinson's NHL playing career full of achievements, his coaching career has also been great. After his retirement, Robinson was hired by the New Jersey Devils as assistant coach and moved on to the Los Angeles Kings in 1995 after winning the Stanley Cup with the Devils. Robinson stayed with the Kings for four seasons and made the playoffs only once, only to be swept in four games. He accumulated 122 wins in 328 games. He moved back to the Devils as the assistant coach once again after leaving the Kings and was named the interim head-coach of the Devils that same year when he led the team to the Stanley Cup. He stayed on as the head-coach of the Devils the following season and the Devils made it to the final once again. The year after (in 2001-2002), he was fired as the head coach but returned to the Devils as an assistant coach in 2002-2003. His short stint with the Devils as the head-coach saw him win 73 games out of the 141 he coached.
He returned to coach the Devils once again in 2005 as Pat Burns suffered a recurrence of cancer but left the position mid-season citing stress and other health problems. He finally returned to the Devils prior to the 2007-2008 season as an assistant coach under Brent Sutter and left the Devil's bench to become a special assignment coach between the organization's prospects in Lowell, MA and the Devils in 2008-2009. He currently serves as the defensive coach for the Devils. Throughout his coaching career with the Kings and the Devils, Robinson has accumulated 209 wins in 501 games and has won the cup once as the head-coach along with three Stanley cup appearances.
Robinson's name was also mentioned as a candidate for the head-coach position in Montreal before the Habs decided to hire the current head-coach Jacques Martin prior to the 2009-2010 regular season.
Interestingly, there has also been rumors about some sort of discontent between Muller and Coach Jacques Martin. A journalist from Montreal's French Sports Radio station CKAC, Alain Sanscartier, also reported that there didn't seem to be any unity between the coaching staff of the Canadiens and Kirk Muller seemed to be on his own. He mentioned in his article in French that while there seemed to be good personal relationship between Martin and assistant coaches Pierre Groulx and Perry Pearn, Muller only had a professional relationship with the head-coach. He affirms that Muller was well respected by the players and maintained a healthy relationship with the organization.
It should be noted that Kirk Muller was not hired by Jacques Martin and was already a member of the coaching staff under Guy Carbonneau and Bob Gainey. It's possible that Muller was kept on the staff by Jacques Martin because of the fact that he was admired and loved by the players, which in a way also confirms that Martin didn't share the same relationship with Muller as with the rest of his staff, hand-picked by him. It wouldn't be far-fetched to assume from this article that Muller's decision to leave the Habs also have to do with his relationship with the head-coach Jacques Martin, in addition to the fact that he feels ready to take the next step in his coaching career.