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A year later, Jets coach has his team believing... in themselves, each other

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/1/2015 (833 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Paul Maurice parachuted into Winnipeg a year plus one day ago and the hockey landscape upon which his feet first touched down was scorched and dotted with craters.

The Jets were a mess -- 19-23-5 -- when Maurice replaced Claude Noel and the challenge of turning a crew from perennial playoff wannabes to participants was, and remains, daunting.

A year after he took over as coach of the Winnipeg Jets, Paul Maurice now has his team believing in themselves and in each other.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

A year after he took over as coach of the Winnipeg Jets, Paul Maurice now has his team believing in themselves and in each other.

There was a buzz around the initial 9-2 run when Maurice took charge and then the annual late-spring buzz kill that saw them miss the postseason for the seventh consecutive year.

Over the calendar year Maurice has been behind the bench the Jets are 39-26-13 -- a pace that would lead them to 95 points and right around the playoff bubble.

'He's a guy that when he walks into the room he just commands your attention'

-- Jets captain Andrew Ladd

But his impact goes beyond just the black and white of the standings. He's pushed this team to be more accountable to itself collectively and individually in its fitness level.

Ultimately his success will be judged in April when the Stanley Cup derby opens. But there is little doubt he has had an impact on the men in the dressing room.

"I don't know if I could point to one specific thing that you could say was his biggest impact with us," said Jets captain Andrew Ladd. "His biggest asset is being able to manage everything and everyone, depending on the circumstances. When he got here last year he knew what to do, which was push hard and take us to higher levels in terms of how we practise and approach the game.

"This year it's been more preparation and making sure everyone is on the same page. It's just his ability to take the pulse of this team and to know what it needs on a daily basis that is his biggest asset.

"He's a guy that when he walks into the room he just commands your attention."

So, yes, the Jets' overall trust in their system has led to dramatically improved defensive numbers. But it's what Ladd alludes to -- Maurice's ability to read his own squad -- that has been monumental in this squad's development.

That might be something as dramatic as moving Michael Frolik onto the wing with Ladd and Bryan Little, to reuniting Blake Wheeler with the No. 1 unit weeks later. It's seeing Mathieu Perreault as a left winger alongside Mark Scheifele or pairing defencemen Dustin Byfuglien and rookie Ben Chiarot.

It's seeing enough in goalie Michael Hutchinson to increase his workload. It's bag skating his team when he dislikes their habits, it's scratching Evander Kane for a Hockey Night in Canada game last spring in Toronto and also seeing that he could be an effective penalty killer.

Now, we do need to pump the brakes a bit here. The Jets under Maurice remain a work in progress and that was never more evident than on the recent three-game road trip through Arizona and California.

This is a club that still takes far too many undisciplined penalties, which is, in turn, sending its special teams on a downward trend lately. They also blew a couple of leads against Los Angeles and Anaheim -- and still managed to take three of four points against two Western Conference heavyweights.

But this is also a team that has improved its record against Central Division opponents and is one of the NHL's better road acts (and still an enigma at home). Most importantly, it has hung on to a playoff spot despite losing its top four defencemen -- an accomplishment that has some media outlets mentioning Maurice as a contender for the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's top coach.

Most of all, this is a team that seems to be building on its identity as big, quick and -- most nights -- a tough opponent.

It still needs to be pushed, poked and prodded. And with this team's history, any kind of glowing report has to be tempered with caution.

So, what can we conclude after one year under Maurice? The Jets, if nothing else, are trending upward. And that's a whole lot more pleasurable ride than a turbulent nosedive.

"Paul's coached over 1,000 games in the NHL," said Ladd. "He has that experience and everyone in this room, whether it's a coach or a player, knows of that journey. That's a lot of bumps in the road. You learn from your experiences and you get better for it. That's what Paul had been through when he got to us.

"There's still work to do, but we're happy with where we're headed."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

A happy anniversary, mostly

On the first anniversary of the hire of Jets coach Paul Maurice, we document relevant numbers to chart the Jets' performance in these areas:

  Claude Noel 2013-14 Paul Maurice 2013-14 Paul Maurice 2014-15
Games: 47 35 43
Record: 19-23-5 18-12-5 21-14-8
Pts. per game .91 1.17 1.16
Home record 10-10-4 8-7-2 9-9-3
Road record 9-13-1 10-5-3
12-5-5
Vs. Central 5-11-3 4-4-2
7-4-2
One-goal games 10-10-5 11-5-5 10-4-8
Scoring first 12-7-2 9-2-3 15-6-5
Lead after second 9-3-1 10-1-1 15-6-5
Trail after second 3-14-2 3-8-1 0-11-3
Outshooting 10-1-5 10-7-5 12-8-4
Outshot 9-13-0 7-5-0 9-6-4
Power play 15.0 (25th) 16.0 16.9 (21st)
Penalty kill 83.3 (T11th) 82.9 82.5 (10th)
Goals 123 (2.62) 96 (2.74) 113 (2.63)
Goals against 141 (3.00)
90 (2.57) 109 (2.53)
5-on-5 goals 87-100 96-90 71-66
Shots for 1,470 (31.3) 1,046 (29.9) 1,288 (30.0)
Shots against 1,443 (30) 1,029 (29.4) 1,232 (28.7)
Times short per gm. 3.57 3.51 4.12

 

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Looking back: Maurice's first press conference

History

Updated on Tuesday, January 13, 2015 at 6:27 AM CST: Removes garbled stats table, changes photo, changes headline, adds video

9:58 AM: Adds stats table

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