Be hyped if you must, Jets Nation, but there are no magic tricks coming to the MTS Centre tonight with new coach Paul Maurice.
"I’m going to completely honest with you — tonight, your guess is as good as mine," Maurice said this morning, his first address since taking over the 19-23-5 team that has lost five straight. "I’ve been here for four hours so let’s not think this world is going to change by my grace alone."
Maurice arrived late Sunday night to take over for the fired Claude Noel. He was still introducing himself to some of the players during this morning’s game-day skate.
The struggling Jets meet the Phoenix Coyotes tonight at 7 p.m.
"I can tell you this, just from being around, they want to make this better," Maurice said. "They want a way out.
"You want me to tell you what we’re working on first? It’s going to be the defensive part of our game."
That would seem logical, given that the Jets are better in goals-against average (2.94) than only five other teams in the NHL.
"It’s not even a systematic change," Maurice said. "The D-zone coverage of most teams aren’t a lot different but the emphasis and the caring of competing with each other is what we’re looking at. But the wand is not coming out here tonight."
The new coach, 46 and with 1,084 games worked in the league, was asked if he’s a patient man.
Because he might need to be.
"When I need to be," he said. "Reasonably. I think there’s a time for patience and there’s a time for action. It’s a funny word in hockey because we used it already once today.
"We need to become a more patient hockey club but that has nothing to do with passivity.
"We need to be very aggressive but patient in the understanding and confidence that we will play this way and play one way regardless of the adversity and have the confidence, then, that we’ll have success doing that.
"We need some patience in our game."
Maurice said one thing you will find with the team is that he’s going to provide the direction, and there will be no ranting and raving about the players’ mistakes until he makes it clear what he wants.
"Before I get on them about what they’re doing and where they’re supposed to be, it’s my job to tell them what to do and where to go," he said.
One thing that might help Maurice as he dives in with both feet is his two-year stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs, 2006-08.
"I’m aware of the effect of this (media conference) in the locker room," he said. "It’s an understanding you can’t have until you’ve worked there. Now I was probably (several) hundred games into the NHL before I took that Leaf job and there were a lot of days in that first two or three months that I... could not believe that. It took me a while to realize that when I say Mats Sundin is not playing well, that’s a three-day scrum at his locker.
"I have an appreciation that there’s this many (reporters) in your room but there’s not that many stories. I understand the pressure the players are under."
On the topic of players, Dustin Byfuglien will remain a forward for tonight’s game against Phoenix — playing with Olli Jokinen and Devin Setoguchi in a new jumbled set of lines — but Maurice said a decision has still to be made on the permanence.
"I do truly believe that Dustin Byfuglien can be a very, very big-impact defenceman and positive impact defenceman for you people who are writing that down," the new coach said. "I also believe he can be a very strong forward. I’m not changing it tonight because I don’t want to be flip-flopping all over. I’ll look at it, make a decision and then run with it."