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Francis seeking 'teacher' for coach after Canes fire Muller

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

Ron Francis didn’t wait long to make a major decision as the new leader of the Carolina Hurricanes, announcing Monday that he has fired coach Kirk Muller and two of Muller’s assistants.

Francis, who recently took over as executive vice president and general manager, said at a news conference, "I just felt at this point going forward we needed a fresh start."

"It will be an open search at this point," Francis said. "I don't have anybody in mind. We have a few names we'll put on the list and see who is the best fit for our team going forward."

Francis said he had already been contacted by some candidates since the announcement was made Monday morning.

He said finding someone who can teach and manage the locker room is critical.

"The biggest thing I'm looking for is a guy who is a teacher," he said. "In today's game, you have to be able to communicate well. You have to manage people and the different personalities you have in that locker room."

This past season was a major disappointment for the Canes, as they finished 36-35-11 and out of the playoffs again. Several key players, including Eric Staal and Cam Ward, had disappointing seasons as the team never seemed to click.

Staal had 21 goals and 40 assists for a team-high 61 points but had a plus-minus of minus-13.

Ward struggled with injuries and had a goals-against average of 3.06, well below the 2.30 posted by fellow goalie Anton Khudobin.

On Monday, the Hurricanes also reassigned Goaltending Coach Greg Stefan to the pro scouting department. Assistant Coach Rod Brind’Amour will remain part of the coaching staff.

Asked if Brind'Amour would be a candidate for the head job, Francis said, "I haven't talked to him to see if he wanted to or not, but if he wanted his name on the list, we'd take a look at him."

Muller, 48, compiled a record of 80-80-27 during three seasons with Carolina after being named head coach on Nov. 28, 2011. It was his first head coaching position in the NHL.

Francis also echoed the frustration felt by many Hurricanes fans this past season, as the Canes were up and down throughout the year.

"The biggest thing is our inconsistency," he said. "Some nights we looked like a great team. And some nights we really struggled. We frustrated ourselves, our fans and other people on certain nights."

Francis said he realized that NHL players will have some down nights over an 82-game season. He said he expects players to be at the top of their game for 70-75 games, and even when they weren't full speed, they should still do the little things to help the team win.

Carolina has not reached the playoffs since 2009.

"Talent-wise, I think we are capable of competing," Francis said.

He said he had more meetings starting Tuesday about other moves in the organization. He said one of those meetings was with Jeff Daniels.

Francis also noted that he had played with many players who are now head coaches  or assistant and that many of them exemplify the traits he is looking for in a head coach.

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