The Home Stretch
Paul Maurice has a perfect record as head coach of the Winnipeg Jets, but it won’t stay that way.
Brought in to coach the Jets after Claude Noel’s firing on Sunday, Maurice and the Jets defeated the struggling Phoenix Coyotes 5-1 Monday night at the MTS Centre in his debut.
Noel coached the Jets for 2 ½ years, leaving with an 80-79-18 record. Over his time with the club he couldn’t seem to get them to the point that general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff wanted them to be at and after a 6-3 loss to Columbus on Saturday, their fifth straight, he was done, as well as assistant coach Perry Pearn.
Bringing the Jets back to Winnipeg was a big deal and the first season they likely could’ve finished with a worse record than the 37-35-10 record in 2011-12 and fans wouldn’t have cared. The Jets were back and that was exciting enough.
In their third season the honeymoon phase is well over with and the city wants a winning product on the ice. Noel’s head has been on the social media chopping block for awhile as fans share their displeasure in their team being 12th in the Western Conference and last in the Central Division.
Maurice recognizes that Rome wasn’t built in a day and that he likes some of the parts on his new team, but work needs to be done for fans and the organization to have that winning product.
“We’ve got our challenges,” he said after his first practice with the team. “I’m not saying I’m coming in here and taking this team to a completely different level over the next week.”
When there is a change in bench bosses players are always asked about it and I think it speaks volumes to the situation the Jets organization was in when the players take blame for Noel getting the boot.
“All of us should be embarrassed that we’re at the point we have to change to coach,” Olli Jokinen said in a National Post report.
Jokinen added that the coaches were putting in long hours trying to figure out how to turn things around, but the team didn’t respond.
Jets captain Andrew Ladd said it was a shock and that, ultimately, two good people losing their job came down to the performance of every player in the room.
Accountability should be there, especially at the NHL level, but for players to take this one on their shoulders and admit they played a role in his firing is a big deal in a city like Winnipeg where they are already heavily scrutinized by fans. Admitting they didn’t respond well could be a negative if Maurice doesn’t turn things around because it could put the target on their backs in the future.
“Any Canadian market you play, you know expectations are high,” said Jokinen. “You’ve got a lot of media attention, you’ve got 15,000 GMs watching the games and another couple 100,000 at home.”
It’s not like that changes any all the way down the ranks, even as far as minor hockey. If a team is losing then that dad or parent likely "doesn't know anything" and needs to go.
I mean the Weeks Crushers have lost two games in a row and in some people’s opinion Jason Malone may as well screen-print a target on his back. As Daniel MacLeod told me Monday, the team didn’t have their best effort in either of their last two games and their work ethic wasn’t where it had been in the games they were winning over the last month.
That doesn’t stop “GMs” in the audience that Jokinen refers to from questioning what is going on and throwing around my all-time favourite line, “that Malone has to go.” Another line that got me laughing to myself, before Harrison Wood even hit the ice for Pictou County last week, was someone asked me if Malone was bringing the whole island (P.E.I.) with him because Wood is from Charlottetown. What difference does it make even if that was the case? – which it definitely isn’t. Again, I had a good chuckle over it.
Fans want a winning product on the ice and he’s done a good job putting this group together, a group that is first in the MHL and nationally ranked. I’m definitely one to be critical, analyze and sometimes be a pessimist, but two games isn’t a big deal.
The team can’t win ’em all and there will never be a time that people won’t find something to complain about, so I hope the hilarious comments keep coming.