For the previous seven years, Dan Muse was just one of the faces in the audience, a sea of eager sponges absorbing the wisdom of the well-established and respected coaches who would give presentations at the NHL Coaches Association Global Coaches Clinic.
This time, though, it was Muse giving the talk at the latest coaches conference in Dallas on June 21, the day before the NHL Entry Draft. Muse, who just completed his first season as an assistant coach for the Nashville Predators, spoke to a room full of about 400 coaches, ranging in level from the NHL to NCAA to junior hockey, about transitioning to offense with players from different levels and ages.
The experience capped off a meteoric rise up the ranks for Muse, who last year at this time was coming off a Clark Cup championship as head coach of the United States Hockey League’s Chicago Steel and just three years ago was an associate head coach at Yale University.
“It’s an honor to be at a conference like this, having an opportunity to speak with coaches from all over the world, of all different levels,” said Muse, 35, who hails from the Boston suburb of Canton, Massachusetts. “I’ve attended this conference for the past seven years, when I was an assistant coach in college hockey and as a head coach in the United States Hockey League, and I always felt like it was the best of its kind, in terms of bringing all different types of coaches from all different levels together and being able to share ideas and meet new people. So now, to speak at it, is a huge honor.”
Going from USHL head coach to NHL assistant is a big jump, but Muse believes that working with legendary USA Hockey executive Jim Johannson over the years (serving as video coach for Team USA at both the 2013 and 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship, winning gold in 2013) was crucial to his hiring. Both Nashville general manager David Poile and head coach Peter Laviolette have each had long histories working with USA Hockey at international competitions and relationships with Johannson, who passed away in January.
Muse also feels his association with Yale head coach Keith Allain, with whom he won an NCAA Division I national championship in 2013, factored in as well.
“Having an opportunity to work for JJ at different USA events, including being the video coach for two World Juniors, he’s a guy that put my name out there, recommended me for a job and I’m sure there’s hundreds of other people out there, too, that he really helped in their careers,” Muse said. “And then also Keith Allain, who I worked under at Yale University for six years and who has been a really strong mentor for me and a strong friend throughout my coaching career, and he had a relationship with both David and Peter.”
Muse, who was Allain’s assistant at Yale from 2009-13 and his associate head coach from 2013-15 before taking over the Steel for two seasons, credits USA Hockey with helping boost his coaching career quite a bit over the years, even before his associations with Allain and Johannson.
“Going back to my first year of coaching, I was an assistant coach in prep school hockey and I had an opportunity that summer to work at a USA Hockey Select 14 Camp,” said Muse, who began coaching in 2005 after playing four years at NCAA Division II Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts. “Basically every summer after that, I got to do at least something for USA Hockey and I always felt that was a true honor, working for your country, working with young players. That was always something that I enjoyed. And that led to, later on, through connections with people like Keith Allain, getting an opportunity to work two U.S. World Juniors as a video coach, and meeting new people and being able to form a relationship with someone like Jim Johannson.”
Part of what made Muse an intriguing person to speak at the conference, according to NHL Coaches Association Executive Director Michael Hirshfeld, was his experience in U.S. junior hockey, giving him a different viewpoint than some of the other presenters.
“We tried to get someone from different perspectives,” Hirshfeld said. “I met Dan for the first time this year, and I was really impressed with him. I know he coached in the USHL and won the championship there, and it’s a different league, ‘Maybe he’ll bring some different ideas.’ In talking to Peter Laviolette about it, Peter thinks he is phenomenal, a real up-and-coming coach and is really impressed with Dan and his ability. So that was how we chose him. And then you saw, the guy knows the game inside out.”
Overall, Muse learned even more over the course of his first year in the NHL and will only continue to improve as a coach moving forward due to the experience.
“Any time you move to a different league or a different organization, it is so much that’s new and there’s so many things that you can learn, so I wouldn’t say that there was necessarily one major thing that stuck out,” said Muse, who helped the Predators win the Presidents’ Trophy for the NHL’s best regular-season record before falling in seven games to Winnipeg in the second round of the playoffs. “I learned a lot from the people that I worked with, I learned a lot from the players, because these guys, you’re working with some of the smartest players in the world.
“I guess for me, a big takeaway, at the end of the day, from level to level, you’re working with people. And it’s about doing things the right way, it’s about forming relationships with them as people first, and it has to be genuine. And if you do that and you go to work every day with passion for what you’re doing and you treat people the right way and you work hard to help them get better, then players will respond and you’ll be able to form strong relationships, which in turns leads usually to strong results in terms of the things that you’re working on.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.