The NHL’s regular season is over today, and 16 teams look forward to the playoffs. The Winnipeg Jets won’t be one of those said teams, but with current head coach Paul Maurice wanting to return behind the bench in 2014-15, the future looks significantly brighter.
In a well-documented changing of the guard in Winnipeg, Maurice joined the club on January 12th, after Claude Noel had coached his team through a five-game losing streak, and subsequently, out of a job. Many around the league thought that Noel wasn’t the problem, but the Jets needed a wake-up-call.
Whatever the reasoning was behind the move, it worked.
The Jets went on a four-game winning streak in their first four games with Maurice, and heading into the Olympic break, were the hottest team in the NHL, with a 9-4-1 record in that time.
After the Olympics, things looked good for the club, until injuries piled up, and a six-game winless streak effectively erased all the come-back work they had done since mid-January. The Jets were eliminated from the playoffs 8 days before the end of the regular season, and finished up their year with 3 wins in their last 4 games.
As the Jets cleaned out their stalls at the MTS Centre today, Maurice’s comment on returning for 2014-15 was a simple one:
“I want to be coaching the Winnipeg Jets next year.”
As much as that sentence delighted fans and management alike, it’s not a done deal just yet. Maurice’s family resides in Columbus, Ohio, and shipping the family up north to Winnipeg is certainly something out of the hands of Jets’ executives.
After a bout of off-ice drama within the dressing room just weeks ago, Maurice deflected rumors that the city of Winnipeg itself would factor into his decision:
“You know what, this has nothing to do with Winnipeg, I’m Canadian, my wife is Canadian, I grew up in northern Ontario and remember snowbanks like this. The people are great, I really like the locker room. It’s not a Winnipeg issue and it’s never been for me. I promised them I wouldn’t do it to them again and I need to be sitting with them when I talk about it. It’s the age of my kids, absolutely not a question of Winnipeg.”
The contract Maurice signed upon his arrival, which lasted until season’s end, is effectively over on Sunday, as the Jets break apart for the summer.
Although the main goal of making the post-season will be untouched for another season, it is exciting to see what Maurice can do with a full 82-game schedule under his belt. With the Jets’ roster looking to be face-lifted during the off-season, it will definitely keep fans on their toes throughout the summer and through next years’ regular season, and with good fortune, playoffs as well.
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