With three games and a handful of practices under his belt, Carolina Hurricanes head coach Kirk Muller has the right idea on how to turn the team around.
A 3-2 loss on Saturday night to the Pittsburgh Penguins extended the team’s current losing streak to six games – five of which have been played at home.
Thus, a four-game road trip may be the necessary tonic for the players and their new coaches, Muller and John MacLean, to get away and bond a little bit while continuing to work on turning lost scoring opportunities into goals and increased goal performances into wins.
The art of coaching
Understanding the personalities of his players and knowing what they have been through and are currently playing through is part of the challenge and art of coaching that Muller is drawing from in order to get them believing in one another.
“It’s a little bit of a fragile team,” Muller said after practice late last week.
To hear that statement truly reveals that it’s not just a change in X’s and O’s affecting the team at the moment.
It is evident that he is dealing with the human element that is currenlty affecting these young professional athletes – a factor that many who follow the game forget about too easily.
Believe it or not, many players are still dealing with the guilt of losing a coach (Paul Maurice) due to their poor performance.
The team’s issues are compounded even more so now when considering the fact that they still haven’t gotten a win under Coach Kirk and that they have suffered three straight losses at home in front of their fans who are expecting things to turn around quicker rather than later.
Muller is intelligent enough to understand that the statement he made regarding the team’s state of mind also goes along with acknowledging that the players’ success will also come about with the hard work and attitude that they are exhibiting at practice and in games with a different perspective regarding tactical issues.
The process continues on the road
“It’s there, they’re working hard, they just haven’t got any breaks, but I would say that without the puck, you know, we have to continue to work a bit on our defensive zone coverage in terms of containment,” Muller stated.
“As far as other stuff, in fairness to the players, we’ve introduced some new stuff in the neutral zone and all that so it’s usually stuff you learn in training camp, and over four or five days. It’s not gonna’ happen overnight, but there’s some signs that it’s happening, it’s connecting, it will kick in eventually here, and we’ll get a little more consistent on it.”
Looking forward to the team’s next four games – the Canadian tour – the Hurricanes will match up against the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets, and Toronto Maple Leafs over a period of eight days.
In terms of logging miles, it will not be an easy trip for the Hurricanes to make but one that should allow everyone to breathe a little easier – albeit in cooler, crisper Northern air.
Who knows? Since many players and coaches will being visiting closer to family and friends throughout the journey, the contact and much needed support and comfort from them may reenergize this youthful and soul-searching bunch.
After the hard fought loss to the Penguins, Muller’s upbeat assessment of the team’s progress continued on the same track he started with since he took over last week.
“We’re up-tempo, we’re aggressive, we’re pushing and that’s what we want – getting the trust with each other to play that way,” Muller said. “All in all, there were a lot of good things, a lot of good battles, the goaltending was great. Now we just gotta’ keep building – it’s a process right now.”
The honeymoon period for Coach Kirk and the Hurricanes continues on and allows them all to get away to futher develop their formula for success.
As a bonus, they get to meet the in-laws along the way.
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