Entering the season, many believed Paul Maurice might be one of the first NHL head coaches out the door, especially after a rough end to last season and question marks surrounding this year’s roster. This was despite the fact he’s the second longest-tenured head coach in the league, now in his sixth year in Winnipeg.
So far this season the Jets have been hanging on in the wild card race despite being decidedly weak on defense, and that was enough for the front office to reward him with a multi-year contract extension. Here are five reasons why they made the right call:
He’s got experience
In terms of coaching experience, you can’t do much better than Maurice. The 22-year NHL veteran is sixth all-time in games coached (1587) and seventh all-time in wins (724), behind only Barry Trotz and Joel Quenneville for active head coaches. He may be first in all-time losses, but there’s still no substitute for the amount of experience he brings to the table.
He knows the franchise
Since arriving in Winnipeg back in 2013, Maurice took the Jets from the bottom of the NHL barrel to the Western Conference finals and three playoff appearances in five years. He’s had time to mold the team to his liking and that has shown in the results he’s achieved. Given the chance to replenish his depleted roster after a disastrous offseason, Maurice should be able to get the franchise back on track.
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He’s shown he can build a team
Maurice began his NHL coaching career in 1995 with the Hartford Whalers and missed the playoffs in his first three seasons (the third of which saw the franchise relocate to Carolina). The next four seasons saw steady improvement before he ultimately led the Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2002. Given the time and resources, Maurice has shown he’s capable of turning mediocre teams into contenders, and we’ve already seen some of that in action in Winnipeg.
He loves the city
Shortly after the Jets announced the extension on Twitter, they released a video interview with Maurice on their website. In it, Maurice makes clear the connection he’s made with the city of Winnipeg.
“Winnipeg has given us so much more than we’ve given the city,” he said. “This is truly our home now… I think we were staying one way or another, but being able to stay and work for the Winnipeg Jets is perfect.”
He’s getting the most out of the current team
The issues plaguing the Jets’ defense have been well-reported all year. It started with losing Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot this off-season and only got worse after star blueliner Dustin Byfuglien had ankle surgery that has kept him from playing a single minute this season. Just to pile it on, injuries have also decimated the team with as many as eight players sidelined throughout the year. Given the defense-by-committee approach Maurice has had to employ, the fact that the Jets are within striking distance of the playoff spots at all at this point of the season is impressive.
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