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Coach Maurice mulls future with Jets

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WINNIPEG — Paul Maurice isn’t waffling today about what he wants for his future.

"I want to be coaching the Winnipeg Jets next year," he said conclude an end-of-season news conference at the MTS Centre.

The matter, though, is not decided yet because the veteran coach says a family discussion and decision will override all other priorities.

"I promised I wouldn’t do it (move) to them again and I need to be sitting with them when we talk about it," he said today.

Maurice, who posted a record of 18-13-5 after taking over the Jets on Jan. 12, won three of his last four. The Jets, however, missed the Stanley Cup playoff for the third straight season since the NHL’s return to the city in 2011.

He said the process in the coming days will be straightforward.

"We’ll do the players meetings, be done by the end of (today) then we’ve got organizational meetings in the early part of this week and then sometime in the mid-part of this week we’ll sit down and talk about that," he said.

"First we have to agree that the work was appreciated on both sides," he said about the job.

"From my (standpoint) we have to figure out what that work was worth and then we’ll have to make sure it’s good for both families.

"This has nothing to do with Winnipeg. It’s can I move them again? It’s got nothing to do with Winnipeg. I’m Canadian, my wife’s Canadian. I grew up in northern Ontario. I remember snow banks like this.

"People are great. I really like the locker room, so it’s not a Winnipeg issue. It never has been for me."

There was plenty of lobbying today from members of the team to stick with what’s here.

"I believe in this group," Jets captain Andrew Ladd said.

"Playoffs is one thing but I’m not here to just to make the playoffs. We want to build something here where we’re contending year after year. I feel like we have the guys in our group to do that, the work ethic and the fire to be there. It’s something we’ll continue to strive to do."

Added left-winger Evander Kane: "I think Paul has brought a sense of leadership as a coach and a confidence to the room, in himself and in a lot of the guys on our team. That was a big message from him and hopefully it can pay off going forward."

Jets leading scorer this season Blake Wheeler said there was more than one reason the 37-35-10 team missed the playoffs this season but didn’t sound like he was advocating for big changes in the off-season.

"I think it’s more than just one thing," Wheeler said about the team’s record. "There are areas we need to improve. I’ve said it all year that I think as a hockey team we have enough players to be in the playoffs.

"I just don’t think that our other areas where we fall short a little bit ... I think we can grow as a group and hopefully learn from these experiences that have been going on the last couple of years."

One area at season’s end where it’s become just short of a witch hunt is goaltending.

Maurice said directly today that condemnation of No. 1 goalie Ondrej Pavelec — his 22-26-7 record, his 3.01 GAA and his .901 save percentage — was putting the cart before the horse.

The answer is long but thorough, so you should see it all:

"He (Pavelec) falls into that group with a big bulk of the guys that we need to see that professionalism and the commitment to becoming a better athlete," Maurice said. "As a group we need to put our goaltenders in a position where we can assess their game.

"So I’ve heard the comments about consistency from him and those are, in my mind, only reasonable comments if you can say, ‘Before I got here and after I got here, did our team play a consistent game?’ And there’s absolutely no way in my mind.

"I’ll just talk about my part of it and there’s no way you can say that about this hockey team. There were days I stood up here and said I loved our compete but the quality of our game (had) a long way to improve. It’s very difficult to assess a goatender’s ability in that kind of game.

"I will tell you in the hockey circles that I talk to, they have a fairly high opinion of this guy as a goaltender but they can’t really get a handle on what he’s capable of doing because we haven’t given a chance to.

"That’s all three (goalies). The Anaheim game, the first game we went in, that was Ondrej Pavelec won that game. But we can’t take that game and say he should be able to play like that every night. Nobody plays like that every night.

"Before we assess any of our goaltenders, we’ve got to get it right in front of them."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

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