Maurice has influence, pedigree to make Winnipeg a contender


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Who is Paul Maurice? Miracle worker or destined to become the man torched by the play of what so far have been chronic non-contenders?

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/09/2014 (3109 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.


Who is Paul Maurice? Miracle worker or destined to become the man torched by the play of what so far have been chronic non-contenders?

The newest coach of the Winnipeg Jets said it again and again Monday in his first session of the new season with the local media: “We must get better,” he said. “We all must get better.”

Maurice described his team as one still in the stage of discovery. Young but no longer inexperienced. Still evolving but no longer in the infancy stage. Can he make them a playoff team?

“I don’t know the answer to that and we won’t until sometime in early April,” he said.

The Maurice era now begins in earnest and there’s a twist. This coach has the hammer. If the core of this team can’t become contenders under Maurice, they won’t get the opportunity to watch him pack his bags like the three men that have come before him. If this bunch doesn’t produce under Maurice, they’ll be disbanded.

GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has had his time to assess and he’s dispatched one coach. These Jets will come into form and become contenders under Maurice, or they will play somewhere else.

This coach’s authority is unquestioned, not only in the locker-room but right to the top of the management chain.

Can Maurice be the difference? Can he take these Jets and transform them into contenders? It’s a major storyline heading into this season.

The Jets have underachieved as a group for some time. They’re inconsistent. Up and down. The core of this team, however, remains the same. Same leaders, same goalie, same skill players.

No, the biggest difference with the Jets will be a full year under the leadership of Maurice. Can he get more from them than the men who have tried before — Claude Noel, Craig Ramsay and John Anderson — through this seven-year playoff drought?

Maurice has led teams to the post-season. He’s led a team to the Stanley Cup final. He knows the path. The question is, will the Jets allow themselves to be led?

In a conversation with Noel last spring, the former Jets coach said matter of factly that for whatever reason, his players never fully bought what he was selling.

“But Paul seems to have their ear. You can tell watching them play they are listening to him. That’s good,” Noel said a few weeks after the Jets had played their last game of the 2013-14 season.

Players always determine the fate of a team. They decide whether they want to buy in to a system, whether they want to push one another and live under a rule of accountability. If a group doesn’t want to listen, Scotty Bowman can be delivering the message and it won’t work.

Once again with these Jets, it will come down to what they want to do. If they want to continue doing things their way, the way they have chosen the last few years, they’ll be duds.

Maurice, of course, will be fighting to have a team willing to consistently work and commit to be better. Better than just a room full of players satisfied with their status as NHLers.

So far, the coach has protected his team in the media. Expect that to continue. Maurice’s coaching will be done behind closed doors. The coach may be a young man still but he’s got more than 1,000 games in the NHL under his belt and he’s decidedly old school in a lot of ways.

Those of us on the outside won’t have much of a window as to what’s going on behind the curtain. When a player is benched, we’ll see it. When a player is scratched, we’ll see it. But the pushing and pulling and moulding? We won’t see the efforts.

But we’ll be able to gauge the process through results.

Maurice is now on the clock. It’s his time and turn to try and get more from this group. Let’s see how he does. Twitter: @garylawless


Updated on Friday, September 19, 2014 6:34 AM CDT: Replaces photo, changes headline

Updated on Friday, September 19, 2014 10:51 AM CDT: Adds video

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