I had a great opportunity to talk with Montreal Canadiens’ assistant coach this week after he finished his second round at the Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic in Thornbury, Ontario.
Though he doesn’t play in as many tournaments as he used to and tries to keep his travelling close to home, the Kingston native tries to play once at week at home but still enjoys the opportunity to play with the pros on occasion.
Unfortunately for Kirk, his team missed the cut to continue into the third round.
I asked him about the Montreal Canadiens on a variety of subjects from the development camp, the hiring of Jacques Martin , Saku Koivu’s departure and the look of the team this upcoming season.
Muller had a chance to check out the development camp on Monday.
The camp was something that Muller thinks is great for the up and coming players, but was glad he didn’t have it when he was a draft pick.
“I was watching some of the drills they’ve been doing and was like thank God I didn’t have to do it. I probably wouldn’t have been drafted as high as I did,” he said.
On new coach Jacques Martin, Muller feels he is a good choice and that he’ll be able to stay level headed and stick to his guns in the tough Montreal hockey market.
He feels this will be a strong puck possession team under Martin this year and hopes the team can bounce back from a disappointing 100th season hampered by injuries and a group of pending free agents.
“We’re looking forward to bouncing back”, he said after.
Muller also feels Guy Carbonneau will be back as a head coach in the NHL.
On Saku Koivu’s departure, Muller feels the move will be a good change for him.
“Sometimes in a career like that it’s nice to do a change and rejuvenate you a little bit,” he said. “I think he’ll do well out there.”
Muller felt that Koivu did a great job handling the pressure of being captain of the Canadiens. He should know being a former captain in New Jersey and Montreal.
He feels early captaincy candidates could be defenceman Andrei Markov and possibly newcomer Scott Gomez.
Despite what is generally thought, the decision on who becomes the new captain isn’t always voted on. Muller said that Jacques Martin could decide for himself or allow the players to vote.
Recently signed prospect P.K. Subban can really benefit with time in Hamilton, according to Muller, and that Ben Maxwell could be one of the next big players in the system within a year or two.
He also thinks this could be a pivotal year for Kyle Chipchura, who just signed a one year deal as I typed this.
On any holes in the team, Muller said that GM Bob Gainey has done a good job so far, but felt that additional help on defence might be looked at.
As we spoke on Friday, the Canadiens had just signed defenceman Paul Mara as well as forward Travis Moen.
With the departure of Mike Komisarek and Alex Kovalev to division rival Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators respectively, Muller thinks that it definitely creates a stir with the rivalry.
I asked him about the retirement of Joe Sakic, who he described as one of the best players in the league in the last few years.
“He’s a really good quiet leader that went out, did his job went out and played his job consistently,” he said.
On any rule changes that he could make, he feels the no touch icing should be looked at, but that there should be more freedom in front of the net for defencemen.
His choice for the Hall of Fame: Doug Gilmour