By Scott Billeck – @scottbilleck
Paul Maurice is now 3-0 as head coach of the Winnipeg Jets. The record is all fine and dandy, but it’s what the man they call “Mo” is doing within the players themselves that has them heaping praise on the their new maestro.
Need some evidence? Blake Wheeler has some for you.
“I think there was a little bit of frustration going through our bench in the first two periods,” Wheeler said. “Mo did a great job of just coming in and saying ‘this is fun, you’re at home and down one goal, this is a great opportunity’.
The result? The Jets scored two third period goals. And even when the Oilers tied it up with two minutes on the clock, there was a sense of belief among the players that they could do it. They could go out a win a game that pre-Maurice, would have been written off by player and fan.
“It was a good opportunity for us and even if we didn’t get the job done, we were going to give it our best,” added Wheeler.
It’s that attitude this dressing room hasn’t seen or experienced in a long while.
While Paul Maurice is getting used to his hotel room, Andrew Ladd and the rest of the Jets have been getting used to their new coach.
New relationships are never easy, especially in the manner that this one came about. But Maurice has been able to do something seldom seen from his predecessor this year: build confidence.
“One thing Paul has done a good job of when he came in was getting our confidence up,” said Ladd. “The whole group I don’t think was the most confident group when he got here and he has done a good job of building us up and letting us know we are pretty good hockey players. ”
It is an interesting statement from Ladd, which he and his teammates had to be reminded that they are “pretty good” hockey players. It is a testament to how bad things got in the Jets’ dressing room, and another testament to how Maurice has been able to reverse the depression in a relatively short time.
What remains to be seen from this team is whether they can hang with the big boys. With stiff tests coming up against Anaheim and San Jose next week, Maurice and his troops will face their toughest tests to date.
Their newfound confidence won’t hurt their chances, and a coach who is able to communicate with them could give them a decisive edge.
“I really, really liked the bench, I liked where their heads were,” said Maurice of this team on Saturday.