Now that Kirk Muller has been fired by the Carolina Hurricanes the Capitals have a new competitor in their quest for a new head coach.
Newly appointed Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis said he’s already received emails and phone calls about the job opening he created Monday with the dismissal of Muller, who went 80-80-27 in three seasons behind the bench. He said he will consider coaches with and without head coaching experience in the NHL.
"I'll start with a big list and narrow it down to those worth bringing in," Francis said. "Whether that number is two or seven, we will take the time to do it right."
The Capitals are conducting a duel search for a head coach and general manager, and possibly a team president as well, after the April 26 firings of George McPhee and Adam Oates. The Vancouver Canucks [John Tortorella], Nashville Predators [Barry Trotz], Florida Panthers [Peter Horachek] and now the Hurricanes, are also in the market for new head coaches.
In St. Louis, general manager Doug Armstrong is evaluating why Ken Hitchcock has not gotten the Blues out of the first round of the playoffs the past two seasons, while Hitchcock, 62, defends his desire to stay behind the bench for a fourth season.
“You mean am I too old?” Hitchcock told reporters when asked of his future in coaching. “I love living here, I love working here, I love working with Doug. “That's something he and I will talk about. We've made a home here. We've made significant progress here. I know it doesn't feel like progress to people right now, but it is.”
On Monday, the betting website Bovada put out its odds on who will be the next coach of the Predators. Peter Laviolette led the list as a 2/1 favorite, followed by former Caps defenseman Phil Housley, former Caps coach Terry Murray, former Lightning coach Guy Boucher, former Caps assistant Dean Evason, former Flyers head coach John Stevens and Willie Desjardins of the AHL Texas Stars.
Would the Hurricanes reach out to Laviolette, who led them to their only Stanley Cup in 2006? They did it before, firing then re-hiring Paul Maurice, who is now the bench boss in Winnipeg.
Laviolette, 49, is still a beloved sports figure in Raleigh and, along with Trotz, is one of the most experienced coaching candidates on the job market with a 389-282-88 record in parts of 12 NHL seasons with the Islanders, Hurricanes and Flyers.
Laviolette undoubtedly will be at the top of someone’s coaching list, if not in Washington, which has hired five straight coaches with no NHL head coaching experience, then certainly in Carolina, Florida, Vancouver or Nashville.
Laviolette, who on Thursday will begin coaching Team USA at the IIHF World Championships in Belarus, has not returned text messages from CSNWashington.com.
When he returns from the World Championships, which conclude on May 25, Laviolette is likely to begin his own interview process in determining which NHL team best fits his coaching style and which NHL city best fits his family. He has three school-age children.
Capitals president Dick Patrick and team owner Ted Leonsis have acknowledged that the Caps could hire a head coach before hiring a general manager, although they said it would be ideal to appoint a general manager who could select his own coach.
In Calgary, team president Brian Burke is in a similar situation of conducting a GM search while stating publicly he will retain the services of his head coach, Bob Hartley.