The Hurricanes 2-1 overtime loss to the New York Islanders last Saturday marked game number 25 for Kirk Muller as the Hurricanes new coach. Why is that important? Because Paul Maurice was fired after game 25 (4-3 loss to Ottawa in late Nov.) and we can now reasonably compare what the two have done as the Canes bench boss. The consensus among fans is that the team is playing better under Muller and that he should be the coach of the future. The question is, just how much better are the Canes playing under Muller than Maurice. Studies show that teams who fire coaches mid-season will improve by only one win for the rest of the year. Is Muller an exception? Find out after the jump.
Carolina had a record of 8-13-4 and had earned 20 points in the standings when Maurice was fired. Under Muller, the Canes are 9-11-5 which is only one win better than what they were with Maurice as coach. They have also been involved in fourteen one-goal games under Muller and have lost all but four of them, two of which were via the shootout so you could make the argument that Muller's gotten some bad luck in his first 25 games. While that might be true, you also have to make the same case for Maurice since his record in one goal games was 3-8 with two losses coming in the shootout and four in overtime. Also, the Canes haven't exactly been outplaying their opponents under Muller anymore than they were when Maurice was here.
|Fenclose||Corsi close||Chance%||ES Sv%||ES Shooting%|
|Muller first 25 games
Fenclose = Fenwick% when the game is close, Corsi close = Corsi% when the team is close, Chance% = even strength scoring chance%, ES Sv% = Canes even strength save percentage, ES Shooting% = even strength shooting percentage
There are two things that have improved under Muller; the team's scoring chance rate and their save percentage. Their scoring chances improving by .10 is great news but their underlying numbers haven't changed that much. Cam Ward standing on his head for all of January probably helped us win a couple more games than we should have, too. I like Muller and agree with most of his decisions but a mid-season coaching change isn't going to completely right the ship. It's going to take some time for players to adjust to his system perfectly and probably a few roster changes along with that. Muller has also been without the services of Joni Pitkanen and Jeff Skinner during his first 25 games as coach and those are two big names but adding those two into the lineup isn't going to automatically make us a winning team again.
Muller's doing the right things by giving younger players like Faulk, Samson, Dalpe and Bowman more ice-time and playing matchups wisely, because that's what a team in rebuilding mode needs to do but Muller can't control how much talent he has on the team. The fact of the matter is that the team's overall talent level is pretty low compared to teams who are going to the playoffs and Muller can only make do with what he has. We've seen plenty of good things, though.
Staal is looking like his usual-self (although he was abysmally unlucky during November), Justin Faulk is playing leaps and bounds above what we expected from him, Brandon Sutter has been emerging as one of the top defensive forwards in the league and we've seen some great play out of the call-ups from Charlotte like Drayson Bowman and Jerome Samson. I think it is safe to say that Muller is getting plenty of results out of this roster but there's only so much that we can expect from them at the moment. Next year, when we have some new players and the younger guys have a year of experience under their belts, I hope we can see some bigger improvements in the team's underlying numbers and I think we will.