When the Jack Adams Award finalists were announced, Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice was not listed. All of the coaches listed are worthy of the nomination, but what Maurice did with the Jets this year was remarkable. However, being in the Western Conference Maurice and Jets do not get the respect they deserve. In fact, dare we say that Paul Maurice is the most underrated coach in the National Hockey League.
Paul Maurice Most Underrated Coach In NHL
Regardless of where Maurice has coached in the NHL, he has truly been underrated. The man took the Carolina Hurricanes took the Stanley Cup Final in 2002. Yet when it comes to top coaches in the league, Maurice’s name is never mentioned. Why is that? Probably he has a style that is not the prettiest but it gets the job done. He brings a calmness to the position and he is the type of coach any player would want to play for. The work this year with the Jets alone should wake people to see what kind of coach Paul Maurice is.
Heading into the season, Paul Maurice had a lot of work to do especially on defence. For the last couple of seasons, the Jets had one of the best right side defences in the NHL. However, with the departures of Tyler Myers, Jacob Trouba and Ben Chiarot, the Jets’ right side was still anchored by Dustin Byfuglien. Or at least the Jets thought it was. During training camp, Byfuglien was granted an infinite personal leave of absence from the team. However, when it was known he wasn’t coming back, Byfuglien was suspended by the team and ultimately had his contracted terminated during the 2019-20 season.
With no Byfuglien, Maurice went to work putting together a makeshift defence. Having Neal Pionk was huge, as he was a part of the Trouba trade. But the big piece was Josh Morrissey, who signed a new deal to stay in Winnipeg. Morrissey and Pionk anchored the defence. Along with that duo, the Jets had Nathan Beaulieu and Dmitry Kulikov as mainstays. They brought in Carl Dahlstrom, Luca Sbisa, Tucker Poolman, and brought up youngster Sami Niku. Not to mention they traded for Dylan DeMelo to add depth on defence.
Regardless of who Maurice put out there on defence, he had the belief they would get the job done.
Injuries Mount Up
From the start of the season, injuries plagued the Jets. But who was there to calm things down and set the lineup? Paul Maurice was. Prior to the start of the season, Beaulieu goes down to injury. An already depleted defence got even worse. Then Morrissey went down to injury. In addition, Kulikov left the team because of a personal issue. The Jets continued to fight through these injuries. Maurice was able to put the right pieces in place to get through early stretches until these players returned.
But for whatever reason, the injury bug hit the Jets hard this year. Guys like Patrik Laine, Mason Appleton, Andrew Copp, Beaulieu, Mathieu Perreault, Sbisa, DeMelo, and others lost time to injuries. The big blow came when Bryan Little was lost for the season after taking a puck to the head in November. Losing Little, left a hole that needed to be filled in on the third line. Not only did Little bring offence but brought that kind of intangible that you win with. However, Maurice didn’t panic, he plugged guys into that spot and the Jets continued to roll.
Being healthy going into the Stanley Cup Qualifier against the Calgary Flames, you thought things would change. Nope, Maurice had to motivate his team after losing Appleton, Laine and Mark Scheifele in Game One. Even with those injuries the Jets still made a series of it. Players like Jansen Harkins and Nikolaj Ehlers have stepped as they are hanging for their playoff lives. Maurice will always give a player an opportunity to succeed when others are out of the lineup.
Ready to Play
No matter what the situation, a Paul Maurice-coached team is always ready to play. He is able to adjust his style to the players that are in the lineup. When the top players are missing, the Jets play a more defensive style. But when everyone is healthy the Jets play physical and fast. And course it does not hurt to have a Vezina Trophy finalist in Connor Hellebuyck in between the pipes. But when Maurice thinks he is not playing well or needs time off, he knows exactly when to use Laurent Brossoit.
Plus he knows what to say and to say it when his team needs a boost. Just look at how he handles this entire season with the media. He is upfront as any coach can be having that calming voice around puts the players at ease. They can go out and play their game despite injuries or players leaving via free agency. The team can count on Maurice to be that guiding light and help the focus when sometimes it is hard to. You know he will have his team ready to go even though they are down in the series against Calgary.
Maurice is one of the best coaches in the NHL today, but perhaps because he coaches the Winnipeg Jets he is the most underrated coach in the NHL.
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