Like most in the hockey world, Dan Muse was among those who marveled at the city of Nashville and the Predators during their run to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final - both the on-ice product and the off-ice energy that pulsed through the streets.
Little did he know.
On Friday, the Predators hired Muse - on his 35th birthday - to be their next assistant coach. The Canton, Massachusetts, native will now step behind the bench alongside Head Coach Peter Laviolette and newly promoted Associate Head Coach Kevin McCarthy to fill the vacancy left by Phil Housley, after Housley took the head coaching job in Buffalo with the Sabres last month.
Muse will be in charge of Nashville's forward group and will also oversee the penalty kill, while McCarthy will work with the defensive corps and the power play.
It was just two months ago that Muse was raising the United States Hockey League's Clark Cup into the atmosphere as head coach of the Chicago Steel. Now, he'll be vying for the sport's ultimate prize.
"Getting an opportunity like this, it doesn't get much more exciting," Muse said. "It's the highest level of the game, the best league in the world, the best players alongside the best coaches and management, and so for me, I'm just absolutely thrilled and really excited to get started."
That process starts now as Muse prepares for a move with his family - wife Maureen, daughters Fiona and Niamh, plus son Kieran - to Music City to begin what he hopes will be the most rewarding step yet in a coaching career that has already delivered a slew of accolades.
Muse played his collegiate puck at Stonehill College, stepping right into the coaching ranks upon completion of his degree, beginning at Milton Academy, followed by stops at Williams College and Sacred Heart University. Then, Yale came calling.
Muse spent six seasons with the Bulldogs at Yale University, four of them as an assistant coach and two as associate head coach behind Yale Head Coach Keith Allain. Muse credits Allain with having the greatest impact on his professional career, and the numbers don't lie.
The NCAA National Championship with the Bulldogs in 2013 is the top highlight, but in 2014-15, Yale led the nation in team defense (1.64 goals-against average) and finished the season with the NCAA's top-rated penalty kill (90.1 percent). During his time with the Bulldogs, Muse helped guide the team to Ivy League regular-season titles in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2015, as well as a pair of ECAC tournament titles and NCAA Tournament appearances in those four seasons.
From there, it was on to the USHL and the Steel as head coach, and after missing the playoffs in his first season behind the bench in Chicago, Muse built a roster that finished with a 38-17-5 record during the 2016-17 regular season before winning three, best-of-five series to capture the 2017 Clark Cup. Muse's club finished with the USHL's top-ranked penalty kill in 2016-17 with a 90.3 percent success rate.
Needless to say, the penalty kill is one of Muse's specialties, and now he'll be tasked with taking an already solid PK unit in Nashville and making them even better.
"It's really enjoyable to see guys take pride in killing penalties, and I think it's crucial to a team's success," Muse said. "It's a part of the game that you can really generate a lot of momentum for your team, and I think it's a part of the team game that really takes a lot of buy in. It's not the thing that you're going to be seeing on the highlights after the game all the time, but it's crucial. I've always really enjoyed working with the penalty kill, and it's something that I'm really looking forward to here."
One of the more important roles of an assistant coach is to oftentimes act as a buffer of sorts between the head coach and the players in relaying messages or further explaining concepts or ideas. Muse's experience in that role at Yale will undoubtedly serve him once more in his own way of dealing with players.
"It's a relationship-based and teaching approach that I take," Muse said of his coaching style. "It's a belief in making sure that you're providing as many resources as you possibly can and make sure the players have those resources so that they can continue to take steps in their game and have success on the ice - both individually or collectively with the group that you're working with."
From there, Muse believes he gets the most out of coaching when all involved are able to realize that evolution through the course of the season, no matter the circumstances.
"Watching players grow, watching how they're able to change their game, how they're able to take steps in their personal game, and at the same time you're watching a collective group together, and I think that's the exciting part," Muse said. "Every season you go into it, you never know exactly where it's going to go. You know where you want it to go, and to just watch that roadmap develop over time, that's the exciting thing for me."
For now, Muse will approach the rest of the summer just like he has every one before this - preparing for what every coach hopes will be "the year." And while there's still plenty of other items to conquer, like buying a house and determining the most efficient route to the office in a city where traffic isn't always the most charming feature, the anticipation of what's to come trumps all.
Muse can still hear the roar of a Bridgestone Arena crowd emanating through his television - he'll just be much closer from now on.
"To get an opportunity to work in an organization like this, I couldn't be more excited," Muse said. "You see the success that the organization has had, you see the excitement level in Nashville right now - I think this is the hottest hockey city out there and I'm so grateful to be a part of it."