Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Maurice brings wealth of experience to Jets bench

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FRESH ideas with new NHL coaches came to be in vogue a few years ago.

But the recyclers are making a comeback.

The Winnipeg Jets have been part of both trends. When they hired Claude Noel for the head job in the league's revival in the city in 2011, Claude Noel had little NHL head-coaching experience but a deep background in coaching.

Now, after the team determined Noel's time was at an end, the Jets turned to 46-year-old Paul Maurice, he of 1,084 head coaching games under his belt. Recent league hires have included experienced men like Lindy Ruff, John Tortorella, Alain Vigneault, Bob Hartley and Ted Nolan.

Maurice comes to the Jets from the on-air desks of TSN. He returned to North America and television work after one season in the KHL behind the bench of Magnitogorsk Metallurg, where he posted a 27-13 record.

What kind of coach are the Jets getting?

"One common theme -- extremely professional, extremely prepared, extremely knowledgable about the game," said Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff about his background checks. "And a guy that is very direct one-on-one with his people and his players.

"He is someone who carries himself very well and has the confidence of a thousand games in the NHL."

Maurice's last NHL work was to start 2011-12 with the Carolina Hurricanes, his second stint there. That ended after 25 games when he was axed and Kirk Muller took over.

At 460-457-167, Maurice's record isn't materially better than Noel's, except that the numbers are bigger.

But the Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., native does have some successes on his resume, most notably in 2002 in his first go-round with the Hurricanes. They went to the Stanley Cup final but lost to Detroit.

Maurice became an NHL coach all the way back in the Jets 1.0 era in 1995. At 28, he was promoted from assistant to head coach and was the last coach of the Hartford Whalers in 1996-97.

That organization morphed into the Hurricanes, where Maurice stayed until 2003-04.

After a year in control of the AHL's Toronto Marlies, then two as head coach of the Maple Leafs, he was out in the Toronto power struggle and returned to the Hurricanes in 2008-09.

Some of his former players have said Maurice thought he needed to be a "hard-ass" all the time when he was younger, but that he's matured.

That the Jets might need exactly that kind of tough coach today was a question put to Cheveldayoff Sunday.

"I don't know that you need a disciplinarian or a players' coach... you need someone that can get to the players, that can teach them, that can get their message across and get the players to unite," he said.

As a player, Maurice was a talented, steady defenceman for Windsor in the Ontario Hockey League before an eye injury ended his playing days in 1988. Some of his teammates there included long-time NHL star Adam Graves, New Jersey Devils coach Pete DeBoer and Jets 1.0 brothers Darrin and Darryl Shannon.

Maurice turned to coaching in the OHL the next season and eventually won a league title with Detroit in 1995.

Maurice starts tonight against the Phoenix Coyotes already having a record at the MTS Centre.

He's 1-2-2 in the arena, having lost his last appearance just before he was fired from the Hurricanes in 2011. In 2005-06 as coach of the Marlies, he had one win in four starts (1-1-2) against the AHL's Manitoba Moose.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

-- with files from The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 13, 2014 C2

History

Updated on Monday, January 13, 2014 at 10:57 AM CST: Adds picture from today.

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