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This article was published 16/12/2017 (968 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Paul Maurice set an NHL record Thursday night and is now ahead of legendary coaches such as the late Al Arbour, Scotty Bowman, Mike Keenan, Lindy Ruff, Joel Quenneville and the late Pat Quinn.
It’s not exactly the kind of benchmark a bench boss craves.
The Winnipeg Jets’ 5-1 defeat to the Chicago Blackhawks gave Maurice 578 losses in his head coaching career, vaulting him past Arbour — who coached the New York Islanders to four consecutive Stanley Cup championships in the early 1980s — for the most in NHL history.
Asked to comment Friday, Maurice gave a playful first response.
"Who’d I pass?" the 20-year NHL coach wondered, followed by "Not so bad..." when told he’d broken the tie with Arbour.
"Longevity, eventually you’re going to crack that number," he said. "If I’d had a team like (the 2017-18 Jets) for 20 of those seasons I wouldn’t have reached it quite as fast."
In 19 previous seasons, five of the teams he guided qualified for the post-season.
Maurice joined the Hartford Whalers as an assistant for the 1995-96 season but assumed the head coaching job after just 12 games when the team struggled out of the gate, becoming one of the youngest head coaches in league history at 28. He stayed with the club when it moved to Carolina the following year, leading them to four consecutive winning seasons (1998-2002) and a spot in the Stanley Cup final in ‘02 before losing to the Detroit Red Wings in five games.
A year later, the Hurricanes finished out of the playoffs, and he was fired early into the 2003-04 campaign.
"I haven’t had too many seasons when I’ve walked away and thought a team didn’t at least get real close to its potential. We’ve had a couple of tough years in there, going back the year (2002-03) after we lost in the (Stanley Cup) final. We had a real tough season," he recalled.
Maurice also coached two years in Toronto and parts of four more in Carolina, joining the Jets in 2014 after Claude Noel was fired. He signed a new multi-year deal with Winnipeg in September.
He remains 16th overall in victories with 614, and 10th in games coached with 1,397.
"Survival is not something you want to be the most important thing people say about you, but there’s a quality there — the teams that I’ve coached worked hard. I look back at them and we started every year thinking we had a chance to win," he said.
"I feel the same about this one, but this one’s got a little bit more firepower."
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Tucker Poolman’s rookie pro season has involved a lot of waiting and watching, but with injuries to veteran blue-liners Dustin Byfuglien and Toby Enstrom he’s played two consecutive games while averaging more than 13 minutes of ice time paired with Ben Chiarot.
Poolman, 24, played three games with the Jets in October and is now without a pointin five career games. How has he done overall?
"I guess parts of it I’ve been happy with and other parts, not so much I guess — just little things, (like) making passes on the tape. I mean, it’s tough jumping in quick after a few weeks off," he said Friday.
Maurice sees Poolman’s development heading in an upward trajectory.
"Really liked his first game," Maurice said. "Last night (5-1 loss to Chicago), I thought he looked like the rest of the group — so he had lots of friends. I’ve got a lot of time for this guy.
"He’s gonna get better, he skates, he’s a big, strong kid. I like him. I’m not going to weigh these games negatively too heavily if he has an off night."
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Shawn Matthias won’t gripe about his lot in life with the Jets.
The veteran winger has played in just one of Winnipeg’s past 15 games — slotting in Dec. 3 when Kyle Connor was injured. Before that, he was a healthy scratch for nine contests, then a spectactor from the press box for five straight since.
The 29-year-old Mississauga, Ont., native, who has 542 games under his belt split between Florida, Vancouver, Toronto, Colorado and Winnipeg, said it’s the most frustrating stretch of his NHL career.
But he’s trying to stay positive and aid the Central Division club in less-obvious ways.
"It it what it is. You have to be a good teammate. You have to be a good person, a professional," Matthias said. "You have to think about the team, and the team’s doing well. You have to do your part and that’s keeping the goalies sharp in practice, skating when guys are banged up so practice goes smoothly.
"It’s definitely different. It’s the first time."
Matthias played 17 straight to start the year but managed just two assists, both coming in Winnipeg’s 7-1 rout of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Oct. 29.
In the final year of a two-year, US$4.25-million contract, Matthias hasn’t been showcasing himself to earn another multi-year deal with the Jets or someone else.
But that’s not his primary focus.
"I’m not thinking about it, to be honest. (The contract issue) is far away right now. There’s more to think about now, like staying in shape, doing the little things to stay ready.
"There’s two ways to go about it. You can think about yourself and those guys aren’t good teammates, those aren’t guys that you want around," he said. "I think I’ve done a good job of staying positive, staying ready and working hard and helping out.
"I’m in a fortunate position. I play in the best league in the world, and I get paid a lot to do this. So, I’ve been lucky in my life."
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).
Updated on Saturday, December 16, 2017 at 8:54 AM CST: Photo added.
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