Maurice back at Carolina, on opposite bench
Posted February 4
A familiar face will be behind the visiting bench Tuesday at the PNC Arena, as former Hurricanes head coach Paul Maurice and the Winnipeg Jets take on Carolina at 7 p.m.
Maurice was named the head coach of the Jets on Jan. 12. He took over a Winnipeg team that was 19-23-5 and, in his first ten games since returning to the NHL coaching ranks, guided the Jets to an 8-2 mark.
Maurice took a team that a month ago had become an afterthought in the Western Conference to a few points out of playoff contention, but reclamation projects are something that Maurice has had to handle in the past.
And his coaching stints in the Triangle (Oct. 1997-Nov.2004 and Dec. 2008-Nov. 2011) looks like it has prepped him for the job in Winnipeg.
“There are some similarities between this market (Carolina) and the Winnipeg market. It’s a smaller group, it seems to be very personal to the fans,” said Maurice Tuesday after practice at PNC. “They are really attached to the team.”
Maurice is now in charge of the second youngest team in the NHL, the average age of his team is 26.078 years old, and having immediate success certainly helps.
“Think about how most of these guys get to the National Hockey League, especially the guys in their first or second year. They’ve probably had really, really positive experiences coming in. They’ve either been on World Junior teams or their Junior team was really good as a function of them being on it because those guys usually drive those Junior teams,” said Maurice
Maurice noted most players that age aren’t used to losses piling up.
“They are not used to the pressure of the National Hockey League, what an NHL room is like especially in a Canadian market when you drop a few in a row, that’s a different beast for them,” said Maurice. “So they like it [winning], things are going good and this is the way hockey is supposed to be played, this is what they’ve known.”
Maurice has had other professional coaching stints with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL and the Maple Leafs in the NHL. His time overseas in Russia with the KHL might have had more of an impact on his coaching style than being the bench boss in the scrutinized pressure cooker of Toronto.
The valuable lesson learned in Russia is the communication between player and coach. Maurice coached Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the KHL to a playoff appearance, but it was the language barrier off the ice, that put an imprint on him.
“That was the single biggest lasting memory for me and it had the biggest impact on me was the number of times I walked by somebody there and couldn’t say anything to them,” said Maurice. “The small conversations between a coach and a player and you realize when you do that you missed an opportunity in the past to get out to your players more and you make sure that you don’t miss that opportunity anymore.”
While the nerves of coaching in the PNC Arena with a different team might not be the same as when he was with Toronto, he says it is outside the building where the reminiscing of his time in Carolina hits the hardest.