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Maurice good fit for Jets

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SAN JOSE, Calif. — Paul Maurice doesn’t need a vote of confidence from the media or anyone else. If he wants the Winnipeg Jets head coaching job, it’s his.

Maurice is the right fit for this organization as his experience gives him the right mix of hard edge and understanding ear needed to get the most out of this group of players.

Claude Noel, in the end, couldn’t find the right formula to convert a group of young players brought up in a dreadful organization into mature ones achiewving in a positive and productive environment.

Maurice, with more than 1,000 games of coaching in the NHL, experience in Russia and a couple of deep Stanley Cup playoff runs, has the rich resumé required to make the Jets more than a playoff afterthought each spring.

It’s my belief Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff wants Maurice back. He was asked the other day about the job the coach has done to date.

"Obviously very impressed," said Cheveldayoff. "He’s a quality, quality person as we all know. Certainly he came into a difficult situation and has helped our group perform admirably."

Jets co-owner Mark Chipman is heavily involved in the hockey program at St. Mary’s Academy. He had Maurice speak at a banquet there recently where the coach joked he didn’t want to mess up in case his daughter attended the school next year.

All things being equal, the Jets will have Maurice back if he decides he wants to return. Maurice has been very clear on his position about next year and that’s to say he has to decide if he wants to uproot his family again.

Coaching can be a nomadic existence and Maurice has worked in North Carolina, Russia and Winnipeg over the last four seasons. That’s stressful on a family and Maurice doesn’t take such matters lightly.

It’s his decision and he’ll make it at the end of the season, as he has already stated. No one can hurry or influence that choice, and why anyone would want to is beyond me. The only way Maurice will be successful as a coach, in Winnipeg or any other market, is if he’s comfortable.

Time will take care of this decision and the Jets will respond accordingly. If the coach wants to stay, from this perspective, it’s his job and a deal will be reached. Done.

In the event, however, Maurice decides this isn’t the situation that best suits his criteria, Cheveldayoff will have to find another coach.

A few years back when the Anaheim Ducks fired Randy Carlyle, the Jets blinked and let their old defenceman and one-time Manitoba Moose coach join the dark side that is Leafs Nation. Would they let it happen again?

Carlyle is employed by the Toronto Maple Leafs right now and after six straight losses his club has fallen out of a playoff spot. There’s lots of talk he’ll be fired at season’s end.

I’m not so sure it’s a move Leafs GM Dave Nonis will make, but the most entitled market in the hockey world believes it deserves better and they’ve decided Carlyle is the goat. Nonis will face huge pressure to act and defying the baying wolves may be tantamount to turning the gun on himself. Fun stuff.

The entire subject will be rendered moot if Maurice, under contract until the season’s end, decides he wants to stay. But what if he doesn’t?

Carlyle will be a fascinating candidate if he’s available. History with the organization and a Stanley Cup ring make him immediately attractive.

But there are other factors and this group of players and how they receive a coach’s message has to be considered. Cheveldayoff has already fired one coach because his message was either the wrong one or the players wouldn’t follow it.

As much as the theatre of watching Carlyle and some of the current Jets trying to find a way to co-exist would be like an open bar for the media, it wouldn’t necessarily convert into success on the ice.

Carlyle is among the best bench managers in the NHL. His work matching lines and almost upsetting the Boston Bruins in the playoffs last spring was brilliant. But it hasn’t translated into further success.

Carlyle can take a veteran group that is ready to win and get it to the finish line. But can he get a young team out of the stable and onto the track and put them in position to win?

That’s what the Jets need in a coach and that’s what Maurice can do.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @garylawless

 

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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