By Scott Billeck – @scottbilleck
Paul Maurice will be paid to be the coach of the Winnipeg Jets for the next four years and the man of the hour said the decision to commit his and his family’s long-term futures was an easy one.
Maurice, a veteran of 1,100-plus games as an NHL bench boss, said he knew fairly early on in his short tenure with the Jets that he wanted to make it a long-term commitment.
“I don’t know when I made the decision that I wanted to do this job, “said Maurice, “it was somewhere between the day one and the last day.
“Things had got out of the gate pretty strong but when things started to wobble a little, the way the players responded to getting pushed a little, that was when I was sure this was the place for me.
“It was fairly early on for me, I was honest when I said I enjoyed every minute of it.”
However, Maurice remained steadfast in his insistence of talking to his family before making any decision on his future.
“I flew home yesterday because I made the promise to the family,” said Maurice. “Kevin and I quickly agreed to what was fair for both sides, that took no time at all. I got home and that took about three minutes too. I said I wanted to go to Winnipeg; I wanted the family to be part of it. They all smiled and said, ‘let’s go.'”
With a job in Nashville opening up and potential vacancies in Washington and Toronto to come, Maurice said he wasn’t swayed from staying in Winnipeg.
“I looked around,” Maurice admitted. “That is part of what you do as a coach, you try and find the best place. But in my mind there wasn’t another place like this — this was the team I wanted to coach.
“I don’t want to say I had my eyes on this job but I had my eyes on this team for a while.”
When asked if he had an reservations about Kevin Cheveldayoff’s comments earlier in the day regarding Ondrej Pavelec being named the Jets No. 1 going into next season, Maurice had no such qualms.
“No, not at all,” said the 47-year-old. “We are in a stage of our franchise where we have three or four potentially critical pieces in our lineup that are here that we got to make better. We got to put them in a position to be better and then they have to be better.
“In my mind with Ondrej Pavelec, we have to do everything we can as a team to give our goaltending the best possible chance to win us a game and that hasn’t happened yet.
“That being said, he has to do everything every other player is being asked to do: get himself in shape, get himself ready, get focused to give himself a chance to be as good as he can be and then we will make an assessment.”
Meanwhile, Maurice commented on the team’s most pressing needs and what he is looking to accomplish over the summer months.
“Structure,” quipped Maurice, saying he will rarely answer with a player personnel question. “But it’s structure, on and off the ice, that concept of who we are as Winnipeg Jets. I don’t know if that question was ever answered easily and it is something that is going to take time.”