Noel Out, Maurice In: Will the Jets be Better?

It’s official. The Winnipeg Jets have relieved Claude Noel of his head coaching duties and hired Paul Maurice to replace him.

Noel served as Winnipeg’s head coach since the team moved from Atlanta in 2011. In the two and a half seasons under Noel the Jets were 80-79-18, missed the playoffs twice and appear to be on pace for a similar result this year. The Jets are in the midst of a five-game losing streak. Their most recent loss was a lackluster effort Saturday night at home, where they fell  6-3 to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Maurice takes over a team that sits dead last in the Pacific Division and 10 points out of a playoff spot with a 19-23-5 record. His first head coaching job was back in 1995-96 with the Hartford Whalers, when he was just 28 years old. He stayed with the team when they moved to Carolina and coached the Hurricanes to the 2001-02 Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the Detroit Red Wings. He was fired during the 2003-04 season.

Maurice then coached the Toronto Maple Leafs for two seasons (2007 and 2008) before beginning his second stint with the Hurricanes, which lasted until midway through 2011-12 when he was fired once again. Maurice also served as head coach for the KHL’s Metallurg Magnitogorsk and in recent months has appeared as an analyst on TSN.

Will the Jets be Better?

The question is: Will a coaching change really have a serious impact on how the team performs?

As Bruce Arthur of the National Post points out, goaltending has been a major problem for the Jets. In fact, that’s just one of a number of issues with the team. The Jets are 16th in the league in scoring, their power play ranks 25th and they’ve won just 46.2 percent of their draws. Only the Calgary Flames have a worse faceoff percentage than the Jets.

Yes, a shakeup was necessary and yes, there are improvements that can be made under Maurice. However, regardless of who the coach is, there simply isn’t enough talent or depth in the Winnipeg dressing room for the team to make the playoffs. Especially in the tough Western Conference.

General manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has to make some roster changes. A number of core players are locked up long-term, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be moved. Players like Evander Kane, Bryan Little and Andrew Ladd have reasonable cap hits considering their performance this season and their potential. Others — such as Zach Bogosian and Blake Wheeler — may be more difficult to trade.

No one — except for perhaps Jacob Trouba and Mark Scheifele — should be considered untouchable. Whether it’s via trade or free agency, it’s time to make a major change or two to the roster.