1) With the elimination of the Calgary Flames from the Stanley Cup playoffs, longtime NHL player and coach Kirk Muller -- another rumored long-list candidate for the Flyers vacant head coaching position -- will become available if Philadelphia wants to seek permission to interview him.
Muller, head coach Darryl Sutter's associate, is a dark horse for the job. He has been a head coach before, spending three seasons behind the bench of the Carolina Hurricanes before being replaced by Bill Peters. The team did not qualify for the postseason during his tenure. Muller has extensive assistant coach/ associate coach experience in the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens (two stints), St. Louis Blues and Flames, coaching continuously from 2006-07 to the present time.
The personable Muller is considered an excellent communicator with players. He was also a fan favorite and well-liked among teammates for most of his 1,349-game NHL playing career (357 goals, 959 points). When Muller was hired by Carolina as their head coach, he was asked about his reputation for being player friendly and whether he was "too nice" to be a head coach.
Muller told the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Providence that he disagreed with the notion that he couldn't be tough on players when he needed to be.
Said Muller to Tony Gallagher of the Vancouver Providence, "I do spend a lot of time communicating with the players and I’m not sure how much of a change it is, but we’ve come in and pushed them, no question about that. Obviously, accountability is what everyone is looking for now, you did the same thing as a player. You want to establish a relationship with each guy and make sure everyone knows their role, what’s being asked, and who’s willing and who’s not, and go from there.
“I would say I’m a little different with you than I might be with the players, although I do talk to them a lot. But I was the same as a player, intense when I played, but pretty easy going off the ice, and the same is true of me as a coach with both the players and the media.”
By personality, Muller is similar to outgoing Flyers interim head coach Mike Yeo: Honest, insightful and usually affable with the media, straightforward in his player assessments and also willing to self-critique. In Calgary, he was hired to by a counterweight to the gruff and laconic Darryl Sutter.
The Flames had an outstanding 2021-22 regular season before outlasting the Dallas Stars in a seven-game first round (decided in a 3-2 overtime finale) and then underachieving against Edmonton in the second round.
Muller works well with a variety of different players and fellow coaches. Various players have credited him with helping to elevate their games both in the short-term and the long haul. He's one of the better coaches as teaching through video and encouraging players to work on improving their weaknesses without compromising their strengths. Players who've overcome spells of lowered confidence have said that Muller encouraged them to work hard and avoid shortcuts but not to be reluctant about trusting their own ability to make plays.
Young players in particular have benefited from Muller's tutelage. However, he's also a good communicator with veterans. For example, when Eric Staal was dealing with a mid-career downturn in productivity, Muller told the player he was putting too much pressure on himself.
"If he's a better player, and 19 other guys out there are better tonight than they were yesterday, then we're a better team. He doesn't have to take the burden of having to do everything. ... All he has to do is go out and lead by example. Play hard, do the little things, great body language and have fun and just be the player that he is."
The Flyers are said to be looking for an experienced coach -- Muller is certainly that, albeit only a head coach for a relatively short period of time -- with a proven track record of success. The Hurricanes were not particularly successful during his tenure. However, if the Flyers goes in a direction where the immediate focus is on process improvement and continued development of some of the younger players on the roster, Muller could be an alternative option.
2) Team Canada advanced to the medal round semifinals at the 2022 IIHF World Championships with a 4-3 overtime win against Sweden on Thursday. Travis Sanheim skated 15:24 over 23 shifts for Canada. He had two shots on goal and was minus-one in the game.
On Saturday, Canada will play the Czech Republic in one of the two semifinals. The winner of that game will play the winner of Finland vs. USA for the gold medal on Sunday.
3) WHL Playoffs: Training three games to one, Connor McClennon and the Winnipeg Jets need a home-ice win over the Edmonton Oil Kings in Game 5 on Friday evening to send the series back to Edmonton for Game 6. Flyers draftee McClennon has posted 20 points (7g, 13a) in 14 playoff games to date. If the Flyers do not sign McClennon to an entry-level contract by June 1, he can become an unrestricted free agent. Potential top 10 2022 Entry Draft candidate Matthew Savoie remains doubtful to play again in this series after getting injured in the second period of Game 2.
4) Today in Flyers History: Flyers Repeat as Stanley Cup Champions
On this day in 1975, the Flyers defeated the Buffalo Sabres, 2-0, in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final to repeat as the champions of the National Hockey League for the second straight year. For a full retrospective on the game, click here.