By Scott Billeck – @scottbilleck
Does Paul Maurice want to stay in Winnipeg?
It’s a fair question at this point, no? The guy only has an 11-3-1 record since joining the team and yet, still doesn’t have a contract offer that a) we know about and, b) he has accepted.
Sure, Maurice said before that the he and the team had an agreement in place until the end of the season. It was a good move by the Jets at that point, especially after they fired True North Sports and Entertainment alumni Claude Noel, to bring someone in that could assess the issues with the team and act accordingly.
Now, with 11 wins under his belt and his team playing like a well-oiled machine, what is the hold up?
Maybe the hold up isn’t Kevin Cheveldayoff at all. Certainly, it isn’t unrealistic to think that discussions have happened. After sticking with Noel and the status quo for two and a half years, Chevy – for the sake of his own job – needs to hire someone with a winning pedigree.
Does Maurice offer that? His career numbers suggest he is a .500 coach. But his numbers and his fit with the Jets has been notable. Never mind the 11 wins, Maurice has captured the attention of the whole of the roster, one that was left down and depleted under the leadership of Noel.
Maurice’s philosophies have been nothing short of remarkable given what he has done with a team that was considered dead two months ago. Andrew Ladd was quoted as saying that Maurice made the players feel like they were good again.
That kind of thing is priceless in a dressing room.
So if the hold up isn’t Chevy, perhaps it lies on the shoulders of the man in the middle of it all: Maurice himself.
It is entirely possible that the Winnipeg Jets are a stepping-stone to something greater for the man with more than 1,000 games under his NHL head-coaching belt. Maurice was an afterthought in the NHL not long ago and spent time coaching in the KHL due to a shortage of jobs in the show.
Now, however, Maurice has a chance to not only coach in the NHL again, but also to sway other GM’s around the league to open up their cheque books for his services.
It’s not out of the question that Maurice is waiting to see what becomes available to him at the end of the season. Jobs will open and there are jobs already out there he could be contemplating. The New York Islanders come to mind as do the Buffalo Sabres.
Let’s say that the Columbus Blue Jackets have a vacancy this summer, they miss the playoffs and Jarmo Kekäläinen is upset and pulls the trigger and fires incumbent coach Todd Richards. Maurice must be licking his chops at the thought of that. He has plenty’o’ties in Columbus. He joins a team that doesn’t have a reluctant general manager, has a better goaltending situation and has solid, young talent with a veteran core.
What keeps Maurice in the Jets fold if there is a better, more economically superior job out there?
Chevy has to move quickly with this. Maurice is the meal ticket that fell into the Jets lap. Playoffs or not, what Maurice has done has garnered attention around the league and this is a cutthroat business; a winning business.
Chevy has some convincing to do. His best move as a GM might not start with a player after all.