Paul Maurice will be the man behind the bench of the Winnipeg Jets next fall, and for the following three seasons, after the Jets inked their interm coach to a four-year contract on Tuesday.
Maurice is 47 years old, and has coached over 1100 NHL games in a 19-year career that has seen the Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, native spend time with the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes in two seperate stints, as well as the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Maurice originally signed a contract with the Jets on January 12th, that lasted until season’s end. After a four-game winning streak to kick off his tenure, the Jets were soon the hottest team in the league by the Olympic break, with a 9-4-1 record.
The Jets were plagued by injury in the final stretch of the season, and a six-game losing streak saw the Jets erase nearly all hope for a shot at the final Wild Card playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Jets were officially eliminated from the playoffs a week before they played their final game of the season, and closed out their year with a 37-35-10 record, last in the Central Division.
Maurice was an instant fan favourite upon his arrival, and his 18-12-5 record brought nothing but positive reviews from those around Jets’ camp. Just 14 games into his tenure, during the Olympics, Maurice was deflecting rumors that he has had contract talks with the Jets, stating that those would be done in the off-season. Just three days previous, as the Jets cleaned out their stalls at the MTS Centre, Maurice’s intentions were plain:
“I want to be coaching the Winnipeg Jets next year.”
Maurice added that he would have to talk to his family about the decision, which currently call Columbus, Ohio their home.
Only 72 hours removed from those comments, the quick turnaround proves that the deal is a win-win for both parties. Maurice seemed that he was already building for the future in the final days of the Jets’ season, subjecting the team to a bag-skate on their final practice day of the year.
Maurice’s four-year term is slightly longer than the average first-time contract with a new club, but Jets’ General Manager Kevin Chevaldayoff states it’s all in the plan:
“He’s an impressive hockey coach but he’s an impressive person as well. We believe we’re just scratching the surface on the impact he can make.”
The ball is now in “Chevy’s” court, as the Jets plan on re-tooling their roster over the summer, starting with the ninth overall pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft in June. With much of the Jets’ core already in place, the club could only be a few moves away from becoming a playoff contender, and signing Maurice is the first check-mark on the short to-do list for the Jets this off-season.
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