Paul Maurice still has bags to unpack and names and faces to memorize.
But the new head coach of the Winnipeg Jets has wasted little time in putting his own stamp on how the hockey club will operate on a day-to-day basis.
The Jets practised at MTS IcePlex this morning – scheduled to be a day off before Maurice pulled the pin on that idea after Monday’s win over the Phoenix Coyotes – and it was an up-tempo, fast-paced workout occasionally broken up by on-ice teaching sessions with the troops.
That part wasn’t a whole lot different than what Maurice’s predecessor, Claude Noel, did with the Jets. But the number of laps at the end was noticeable, as was the pace.
"That wasn’t a skate, that was just for fun. Just a couple of laps," said Maurice with a grin. "We just did that for the goaltenders and watch the goalies go. Everybody enjoys that."
"It was a pretty quick pace and intense, which is good," said Jets’ captain Andrew Ladd of the team’s first practice under the new boss. "It’s something we’re going to need every day. I think that’s going to become pretty common here. He wants the pace of practice to be quick and then that will translate into games. We’re a fast team and we need to play with pace and use our speed. It translates from practice to games so having that pace in practice makes it an afterthought in a game where you’re just going instead of thinking."
In his first few hours on the job Maurice has repeatedly stated he likes the collective size and speed on his new squad and wants to establish more structure, particularly in the defensive zone, for a team still hoping to make a surge for a playoff spot. The Jets are in Calgary Thursday to face the Flames (8 p.m., TSN-Jets/TSN 1290 and, heading into tonight’s action in the NHL, are 12th in the Western Conference, 10 points out of the playoffs.
The Jets play 14 games in January and Maurice said with the four mandatory days off built in as part of the new collective bargaining agreement, plus the travel, the team has very little opportunity to do some extra skating.
"It’s especially important for where we are as a group right now," said Maurice. "You make a decision this morning and balance how much are you going to teach and how much are you going to work on your pace. I went a little heavier on what I want from pace in our practices because that’s most important. We did do some teaching off the ice. But once we hit the ice I don’t want to be standing at the board in the bulk of practice. We’ve got to go. We’re big and we can move. We’ve got to find a way to be sharper and quicker with everything we do. I also feel we have room for some improvement in our game pace and it starts in practice."
Maurice did provide an update in injured winger Evander Kane, saying his hand injury is not 100 per cent healed.
"He’s got the injury on the paw and, for me, I don’t want him back until that thing’s healed because the infection in those can cause problems all year and sometimes permanently," he said. "So, we’re going to be really, really careful with him. still day to day
"It’s not like anything’s broken, it’s just a matter of healing it and once he does he’ll be 100 per cent ready to roll."