Might the winds of change be blowing on the subject of the Winnipeg Jets and head coach Paul Maurice?
At first blush, it looks like a foolish query to ask and much more ludicrous to contemplate, particularly with the workforce off to a surprisingly robust begin to a season many anticipated to be stuffed with peril. You can simply make the argument that is among the many best work of Maurice’s prolonged teaching profession, guiding a workforce that underwent a significant low season makeover to a 19-11-2 file.
Certain, a lot might change with 50 video games remaining on the docket, together with some powerful opponents on the horizon. And sure, a number of the underlying numbers recommend their lofty standing is probably not sustainable, particularly if Connor Hellebuyck comes all the way down to Earth only a bit. Present me a very good coach and I’ll present you a very good goalie, because the outdated saying goes.
However in a “what have you ever finished for me these days” enterprise, the returns have definitely been spectacular. And the notoriously cussed Maurice has proven he’s open to alter, implementing tweaks to the offensive and defensive techniques which higher go well with the present roster.
All good indicators, for certain. Stick with it, and a Jack Adams nomination on the finish of the season will not be out of the query. And but, right here we’re, with hypothesis beginning to swirl about Maurice’s long-term future with the membership.
For starters, it’s been reported by NHL insider Elliotte Friedman that Maurice is within the remaining yr of his contract. The Jets, for the file, received’t verify or deny that, telling me on Friday it’s the group’s coverage to not touch upon these forms of issues. Friedman is as linked as they arrive, so I’ve no cause to doubt the validity of his declare.
We all know Maurice was given a “multi-year” extension previous to the 2017-18 season, coming off the unique contract he signed when he joined the workforce in the course of the 2013-14 season. In asking round, the widespread perception was that it was for 3 years, which might take us to the conclusion of this season.
In any case, it’s moderately curious that an extension hasn’t been introduced, particularly with the latest physique of labor. In spite of everything, Maurice guided the Jets to a number of franchise information in 2017-18, together with a visit to the Western Convention remaining. He adopted that up final yr with one other playoff look, albeit one through which they began robust, light down the stretch and ended with a first-round exit to the eventual Stanley Cup championship St. Louis Blues.
Nonetheless, add on this yr’s begin and Maurice has coached the Jets to a glowing 118-61-17 regular-season file since he final put his title to paper. Getting Maurice out of lame-duck standing and locked up for the foreseeable future would appear to be a no brainer transfer by the group.
Which takes us to a different intriguing a part of this story.
Friedman, on his 31 Ideas podcast this week, dropped a bombshell in reporting a possible hyperlink between Maurice and the still-to-be-named Seattle growth workforce, set to start play within the 2021-22 season. Friedman was requested by co-host Jeff Marek when to count on some information in regards to the organizational construction, together with naming a head coach.
“I’ll let you know this, I’ve obtained some guys who suppose it’s going to be Paul Maurice,” mentioned Friedman, who later admitted the juicy scuttlebutt he’s been listening to was doubtless going to “throw some gasoline on the hearth.”
No kidding. Might the delay in getting Maurice prolonged be much less about Winnipeg’s want to take a wait-and-see strategy — which, at this level, wouldn’t make a lot sense — and extra in regards to the 52-year-old wanting to carry off and maybe ultimately take a look at the waters?
Ron Francis was named common supervisor of the franchise final summer time, and there are every kind of connections between him and Maurice. The ultimate six years of Francis’s taking part in profession have been with the Carolina Hurricanes, with Maurice as his coach. Francis later served as affiliate coach to Maurice in Carolina for 2 seasons. Maurice speaks as extremely of Francis as anybody within the hockey world, and the emotions are undoubtedly mutual.
Throw within the truth Seattle will wish to make a giant splash out there, and bringing within the seventh all-time winningest coach in NHL historical past may simply qualify. Particularly one as charismatic as Maurice, who helps promote the sport each time he speaks.
Stability. Continuity. Loyalty. These have been the hallmarks of True North for the reason that NHL returned to Winnipeg in 2011. Whereas different organizations have made a behavior of pushing the panic button each time issues go mistaken, the Jets subscribe to the idea that sluggish and regular will in the end win the race.
That’s definitely the case on the subject of the coach. They gave their AHL chief in Claude Noel an opportunity to shine on a much bigger stage, solely pulling the plug and bringing in Maurice after 31/2 years, regardless of loads of proof it wasn’t working.
Now in his sixth full season, Maurice trails solely Tampa’s Jon Cooper for longevity together with his present membership. Take into account that 5 NHL groups have already pulled the plug on their head coaches this season — and that there have been a dozen new coaches for the reason that finish of final season — and also you get a way of simply how uncommon it’s to have endurance on this league.
Maurice appears to be the exception to the rule. Like all chief, he has his share of faults. He could be exhausting on younger gamers, and overreliant on sure veterans previously who have been gone their prime. However gamers equivalent to Jets captain Blake “I’d undergo a wall for him” Wheeler swear by Maurice, and there’s no proof to recommend his message has gotten stale. Fairly the opposite, the truth is.
All of which ought to have each Maurice and the Jets desperate to proceed what’s been a really helpful relationship. And but, right here we’re.
Till, or until, a brand new deal will get introduced, the questions on their future collectively are solely going to get louder.
Mike McIntyre grew up eager to be an expert wrestler. However when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into changing into an expert author.