Panthers Should Cut Their Losses with Head Coach Paul Maurice

The Florida Panthers have not had the best of seasons so far. They currently sit four points out of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference and five points outside the last spot in the Atlantic Division. This comes as a shock, as the team was in a great spot just one season ago. Now it seems they need to win every game to keep up in the race, as the team has taken a dramatic drop off from last season.

Paul Maurice Florida Panthers
Paul Maurice is the fifth head coaching change for the Florida Panthers since 2016 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

One of the decisions they made over last season was hiring an experienced coach in Paul Maurice. While Andrew Brunette did a fantastic job with the team, given the circumstances that arose, his inability to adjust in the postseason ultimately cost him a second chance in South Florida.

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But, it looks more and more with every passing day that it seemed to be the wrong choice. Although it may be too early to do so, the team needs to find a way to cut ties with the coach as his system just clearly isn’t working for the Panthers.

Maurice Quit on His Team in Winnipeg

The reason Maurice was on the market in the first place was that he resigned from the Winnipeg Jets after the team hit a slump on Dec. 17, 2021.

“If you’ll allow me some arrogance, I feel I’m better positioned than anyone to know that they need a new voice. They haven’t quit on me. But they need somebody that can get them to that next place.”

Paul Maurice in his Resignation Press Conference on Dec. 17, 2021.

Since his departure last season, the Jets now currently sit atop the Central Division and have beaten Florida in their only meetup so far this season by a score of 5-2. And it was clear that this was their Stanley Cup, as Mark Schiefele stated that the team has benefited from the coaching change.

“We’re a different team this year than we were last year,” Scheifele said. “You see the rejuvenated faces in this room. [Jets coach Rick Bowness] has been on us each and every day, whether it’s a good game or a bad game, he’s always looking to help us. … We’re being pushed and we’re being challenged to reach our full potential. That does a lot for our team.”

Mark Schiefele after beating the Florida Panthers 5-2 on Dec 6, 2022.

It just seems as if Maurice cannot motivate his team in the same way.

Players Do Not Appear to Be Buying into the Scheme

While Florida has been riddled with an injury bug, it does not excuse some players that are having some of the worst seasons of their careers. Defenseman Aaron Ekblad has the worst rating on the team at minus-11, and captain Aleksander Barkov has only scored five goals in 22 games. The only player that is averaging more than a point a game on the roster currently is forward Matthew Tkachuk. That is a massive drop-off from three players last season who accomplished the same feat.

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While the players need to put in the effort, it falls on the coach to get the team motivated and buy into the system. Maurice has been unable to do that so far in Sunrise, Florida.

Maurice’s Lineup Choices Are Extremely Questionable

Maurice’s lineup night in and night out has been a disaster for the Panthers, with questionable choices and head-scratching setups. This includes putting in both Eric and Marc Staal over some candidates who clearly deserve a shot at cracking the roster, such as Lucas Carlsson and Zac Dalpe.

Eric only recently got his first goal as a Panther and only has five points through 22 games dressed. Meanwhile, Dalpe has already notched two goals and an assist through only four. Marc continues to be a liability defensively, as he has a minus-1 rating through all 29 games and only tallied four assists. His partner this year hasn’t helped him, but he’s a shell of what he once was.

Is Maurice Gone by Season’s End?

Unless he turns it around quickly, Maurice is currently on the hot seat in the NHL’s coaching world. But he may have security in his job only because he signed a three-year deal when he took the coaching position. In the grand scheme of things, he has helped drag this team down the standings, and it could result in a missed playoffs this year for the first time in three years.

The mighty may have fallen, and while the entire blame is not solely on Maurice, he is far from the solution to keep the train going.

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