Penguins Notebook: Ex-Penguin Mullen finds coaching to be good fit
Sidney Crosby retrieves his helmet after having it knocked off on a check into the boards. (at Flyers 11/10/07)
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PHILADELPHIA -- Joe Mullen, the former Penguins right winger and assistant coach, is in his first season as an assistant with the Flyers.
And it's pretty easy to see that he enjoys his work.
"It's the closest thing to playing, I guess," Mullen said. "You're always around the guys, communicating with the guys, trying to teach them. I really like that part, helping players to get to the next level, to pick up their game."
Mullen broke into coaching as an assistant with the Penguins, then spent part of the 2005-06 season running their minor-league team in Wilkes-Barre, his first experience as a head coach.
"I didn't know whether I'd like it or not," Mullen said. "When Craig [Patrick, then the Penguins' general manager] offered me the job, he said why don't you go down for three games and find out.
"We had three games that weekend. I asked if I could bring Rick Kehoe with me for some help, just in case. I knew after the first game I wanted to continue."
Mullen was with the Flyers' AHL team, the Phantoms, last season before being promoted to the NHL staff over the summer.
Francis learns from some of best
Former Penguins center Ron Francis, who will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame tomorrow, has moved into the next phase of his career, as Carolina's assistant GM and director of player personnel.
Not surprisingly for someone renowned as a student of the game, Francis said his approach to his new role was influenced by some of the management people he observed first-hand when he was playing.
"There were a lot of different guys," he said. "but Emile Francis was sort of in his heyday back then [when Ron Francis broke into the league with Hartford], and then, when I got to Pittsburgh, I was really impressed with the fact you had Bob Johnson as the coach, Craig Patrick as the GM and Scotty Bowman as the right-hand man.
"I was there for a long time and watched Craig work through the Cup years, which was interesting. Then, I came down [to Carolina] and worked for Jim [Rutherford, the ex-Penguins goalie who is GM of the Hurricanes]. It's a great opportunity. I get to work under a guy like Jim, who's had a lot of success and a lot of experiences, and learn from him."
Too early for assumptions
Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren rebuilt his team after it finished at the bottom of the overall standings last season, moving aggressively to make trades and sign free agents.
The early returns have to be encouraging for him -- the Flyers were 9-6 before facing the Penguins last night, despite playing 11 of their first 15 games on the road -- but coach John Stevens said it is a bit early to reach any conclusions.
"We've said somewhere between 20 and 30 games all along," he told The Philadelphia Daily News. "You can make all kinds of assumptions early on, because you've only played a few teams and you don't really know.
"It's not relative to the rest of the league. You may have had success against a couple of clubs ... but, after 20 or 30 games, you've seen a lot of teams in the East, you've seen a lot of teams in your own division.
"We have a stretch of games at home [beginning last night]. I think at the end of that point, there are going to be some tendencies that are going to start to show where we need to get better, areas that we're good at, where we stand in the division."
Flyers winger Scott Hartnell, who scored 22 goals in 64 games with Nashville last season, did not have any in 15 games before facing the Penguins last night. ... Fans who attended the game Wednesday donated 3,793 pounds of food to a drive benefiting the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. ... Penguins forward Erik Christensen, on the Flyers' offseason personnel overhaul: "They did a whole rebuilding. Even their minor-league team is doing really well."
First Published November 11, 2007 12:00 am