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Maurice holds key to Jets' turnaround, Kane says

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Head coach Paul Maurice has been very active behind the Winnipeg bench since taking over the Jets on Jan. 12.

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Head coach Paul Maurice has been very active behind the Winnipeg bench since taking over the Jets on Jan. 12. Photo Store

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- So what on earth did Paul Maurice do to transform a sad-sack bunch of underachievers he inherited Jan. 12 into the world-beaters the Winnipeg Jets are today, riding a four-game winning streak?

The answer to that question depends on who in the Jets dressing room you asked this week.

The responses varied wildly -- with, quite literally, "nothing" on one end of the continuum all the way to the other end and something that Evander Kane describes that sounds so fundamental and all encompassing it might as well be everything.

But let's start with Maurice, who was asked Tuesday night in the aftermath of his team's 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center what he had done in such a short period of time since taking over for Claude Noel behind the bench to turn around the Jets.

"Nothing really," said Maurice. "I believed before I got here that this is a good hockey team. I'll tell you something -- at the end of every year, I will take what I thought was our hockey team's best game and their worst game. And I will watch them, usually in the summer.

"And it's night and day with the same players. That emotion, that feeling good is critical. Eighty-two games of a physical full-contact sport -- a big chunk of that is confidence and positive emotion. And when it's not there, you just can't do things.

"And when you start to build it, you look like a different team, with the exact same energy level. You're trying just as hard as you were two weeks ago, but now you're feeling good. And that changes everything."

It certainly did for the Jets. But Maurice's elliptical answer just raises a new question -- if he didn't do something to instill this new winning attitude in evidence the last couple of weeks, who or what did?

Jets forward Evander Kane says there's no doubt in his mind who gets the credit for being the catalyst of all the recent positive change -- the same guy who just finished denying he had anything to do with it.

 

And Kane was pointed when he was asked how different things are under Maurice than they were under his Noel, a man whom Kane had some public battles with over the years.

"I think our preparation level is a lot higher. And just the way we do things has helped change our mentality," Kane said. "I think the confidence he has in himself as a coach is wearing off on some guys who maybe didn't have as much confidence as they need to have. And I think that's an attribute he has."

Kane was asked to expand on what he meant when he said the Jets preparation level is much better under Maurice. "Obviously every coach is different," he said. "And he's brought in maybe a little different system in terms of our preparation. And I think it's working well for us."

Jets forward Michael Frolik was asked what role Maurice has played in transforming a team that struggled mightily under Noel to string wins together but suddenly find itself in the midst of a four-game winning streak that ties the team's longest of the season.

"He's got so much experience. He's coached over a thousand games and he knows what he's doing," said Frolik. "I think in the room also we're more sharper. We know in this league it's not easy. And it's never easy when a coach gets fired. But we as a group came together and...tried to listen to him. And the changes are working."

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @PaulWiecek

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 23, 2014 D1

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