Paul Maurice Did the Jets a Favour By Stepping Down

Whether he was pressured by True North or decided to do it all on his own, Paul Maurice did something rare for an NHL coach: he left on his own terms.

His Friday-morning resignation was a surprising end to his nine-season, 600-game tenure as the Winnipeg Jets’ bench boss, and came among calls for his firing due to the Jets’ struggles despite being a Stanley Cup contender on paper after a strong offseason by GM Kevin Cheveldayoff.

With his departure, he did the team a favour.

Maurice Lost His Passion, Knew the Jets Needed a New Voice

Maurice’s comments during a thoughtful and heartfelt 20-minute press conference made it clear he no longer had the zest for his role.

He spoke openly and displayed a keen sense of self-awareness as he acknowledged his shortcomings and that he is not the right man to get the full potential out of a very talented group of players.

Related: Jets’ Full Potential Won’t Be Reached With Maurice Behind the Bench

“They need someone to help them get to that next place,” he said. “It doesn’t need to be a more experienced, more talented guy, it needs to be a different voice because it’s the right time for it, and I know that,” he said.

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He said he didn’t have fun during any part of the shortened, empty-stand 2020-21 season. It was the first time in his 1600-plus game coaching career he didn’t relish coming to the rink.

“If you lose some of that passion for the game, the love of the game, you can still be good, but you can’t be as good as you should be or could be, and that’s how I feel I am,” he said.

“It has a lot to do with the last two years of me not loving coming to the rink as much as I need to love come to the rink and always have, even when things were shitty with bad teams,” he said. “It was more of a grind for me. This fan base, this city, these players, all of you, should expect more than that. You deserve better than that.”

Maurice Is a Good Man, But Reached His Expiration Date

A resignation was by no means the inevitable ending of the Maurice era in Winnipeg, but it was an overdue and necessary one. Under Maurice, the Jets were less than the sum of their parts, and he even admitted the team was “consistently under where it could be.”

“I couldn’t find the right grab on this team and you could see it in the way we played,” he said. “So much of this game is emotion and drive and as the head coach you have to bring that. And it was, it was just a really small return for that energy and that’s why coaches get changed.”

Winnipeg Jets Celebrate Kyle Connor, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Brenden Dillon
Kyle Connor, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and Brenden Dillon celebrate a goal for the Winnipeg Jets (Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Jets were just 13-10-5 under Maurice this season despite having a potent group of forwards, a much-improved defence, and Vezina-calibre goaltending.

Maurice’s systems and messages were stale and predictable, with the Jets struggling with basic facets of the game such as the penalty kill. His long-standing stubbornness and veteran bias pushed promising young prospects to the fringes, and the team often played down to inferior opponents.

Related: Jets’ Poor Performances in Winnable Games Cause for Concern

Indeed, the fans — many of whom have become alienated and apathetic due to watching the same problems fester forever — deserve better; they deserve to see their team fly high.

“They need to get to a different level and they’re capable of it,” Maurice said of the team. “I could have continued. I just would have known it wasn’t right.”

Maurice Deserves Credit for Stepping Aside

Maurice is not, and has never been, a bad person. He embraced the city and brought the Jets 315 wins. There is nothing sinister about his departure, nor any scandal going on behind the scenes. He simply took the team as far as it could go, and finally realized that.

He deserves credit — if for nothing else — for allowing assistant coach Dave Lowry to take control and a new era to begin.

“This is a good team. They’ve got a great fan base,” Maurice said. “They love their players and their team. I’m cheering for these guys, I love these guys. I love this place. I know that it’s time and that’s a good thing for the Jets and that’s a good thing for me.”

He spoke at length last summer with Cheveldayoff and owner Mark Chipman about his waning passion. He said doing the right thing by his friendship to those two men meant clearing the way.

“I would have ground, and grind, and grind and try to make it better, but I believe they need a new voice… This was a long build. I just felt I had done well and done my best. I truly do love these guys… You need to fix something here and it’s me.”

“I’m not going to be looking back two months from now going ‘you knew you should have stepped aside and you didn’t and that’s wrong,'” he continued. “I get to at least feel I’ve done it right.”

Some Questions Remain Unanswered

Some questions certainly remain as Maurice heads out the door.

How much did his internal struggles exacerbate his worst tendencies? Did True North push him to resign, and would they have fired him if he didn’t?

When Cheveldayoff was asked as such by the Winnipeg Free Press‘ Mike McIntyre, the GM didn’t give a direct answer, instead saying only “we came to an agreement.” However, McIntyre opined “it’s pretty clear Paul Maurice was going to be fired by Kevin Cheveldayoff, based on how Cheveldayoff answered my questions on the subject. So this was a mutually-agreed upon resignation.”

Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice
Would the Jets have fired Maurice if he didn’t resign? Based on how loyal they are, it’s hard to say. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods)

But would True North — known for being loyal even to their own detriment — really have had the guts to drop the axe? How much longer would they have allowed him to be the coach? The rest of the season? Longer?

But the biggest question of all — one that will only be answered as this season goes on under Lowry and next season under whoever’s hired next — is if they can achieve more without Maurice than with him.


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