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Top Shelf: Maurice trying to change the culture in Winnipeg

By Dan Di Sciullo, NHL Editor

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - When your city is looking to land an NHL franchise, the old saying "beggars can't be choosers" is a good one to keep in mind.

To say the Atlanta Thrashers weren't exactly the gold standard for professional hockey teams is an understatement, but the city of Winnipeg was eager to bring an NHL club back to Manitoba. It couldn't afford to be picky.

However, it's been nearly three years since the club uprooted from Atlanta to Winnipeg, and the Jets are still trying to rid themselves of the Thrashers' losing ways.

Enter Paul Maurice, who has a chance to make a respectable NHL club out of the nascent Jets, something his predecessor Claude Noel couldn't make happen in two-plus years as Winnipeg's head coach.

Noel was given the job shortly after news of Winnipeg's relocation from Atlanta was made official in the spring of 2011. The move from the American South, where professional hockey is at best an afterthought, to the Canadian prairie made sense for the NHL but the exodus has done little to change the club's fortunes.

The Thrashers made the playoffs just once during their 11-season run in Atlanta and that was in the spring of 2007, when the New York Rangers unceremoniously swept them out of the postseason. At this stage, a four-game playoff sweep would seem like a vast improvement over the cycle of mediocrity that has made its way from Atlanta to Winnipeg.

At only 46 years of age, Maurice brings with him a wealth of coaching experience. He was 28 when he landed his first job at the NHL level with the Hartford Whalers in 1995-96 and a few years ago Maurice became the youngest coach in league history to reach 1,000 games.

Best known for his time in Carolina, where Maurice spent two separate stints (1997-2003 and 2008-11) leading the Hurricanes, the new Winnipeg bench boss is mainly tasked with getting the Jets into the playoffs. However, getting his teams to the postseason has proven elusive for Maurice in recent years. Since leading the Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup Finals in the spring of 2002, Maurice only has reached the playoffs on one occasion, when he brought Carolina to the Eastern Conference finals in 2009.

With Winnipeg currently sitting in a tie for last place in the tough Central Division, qualifying for the playoffs in 2014 will prove to be a difficult task although not an impossible one. After coaching the Jets to a 5-1 victory over the visiting Phoenix Coyotes on Monday, Maurice finds his new club sitting 10 points behind Minnesota for the eighth and final playoff seed in the Western Conference.

The Jets seem to have enough talent to be a playoff team, but clearly there was a missing ingredient during the Noel years. Since the relocation, the club always seemed to take one step forward and two steps back, as Noel wound up with a mark of 80-79-18 in Winnipeg.

"It became apparent that things were not trending in the right direction," said Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff on his reasons for firing Noel. "It's the consistency factor. We always questioned ourselves internally -- why .500? Why one ahead and two back?"

Right away, Maurice praised the size and skill of the team he was inheriting but also felt the team hadn't displayed a dedication to playing team defense under Noel.

After he picked up his first win behind the Winnipeg bench, Maurice also spoke about his team becoming better at dealing with adversity. Although responding to adverse situations was not a strong suit of Noel's Jets, the club displayed the quality on Monday when they went down 1-0 to the Coyotes in the first period before answering less than a minute later with a goal of their own.

"They did the one thing we had talked about that when adversity came to the doorstep that next goal was huge," Maurice said. "The bench didn't get quiet, we stayed positive and that's the start of the foundation of handling adversity over the course of the game and sticking with it."

Maurice first needs to inject some much-needed confidence into his new team before thinking about the playoffs. After all, the Western Conference is looking much deeper than the East following the onset of realignment and there could be teams with more talent than Winnipeg sitting out the postseason this season.

The good news for Maurice and the Jets is the city of Winnipeg isn't going to abandon this team anytime soon. Unlike the previous situation in Atlanta, hockey is a big priority for the people of Manitoba. The MTS Centre is still getting filled to capacity on a nightly basis and the Jets can always count on the people of Winnipeg to support this club better than the fans in Atlanta did.

Still, it's about time somebody moved this franchise out of the Thrashers' shadow. The Jets hope Maurice is the man to deliver that clean break with the past.

01/14 15:39:38 ET

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Schedule

Wednesday, April 16Full Scoreboard
Montreal «5Final(OT) | Box
Tampa Bay4Rink Replay
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game One. Montreal leads series, 1-0.
Columbus3Final | Box
Pittsburgh «4Rink Replay
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game One. Pittsburgh leads series, 1-0.
Dallas3Final | Box
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Western Conference Quarterfinals, Game One. Anaheim leads series, 1-0.
Full Scoreboard

Standings

2013 - 2014 NHL Eastern Conference Standings
 
Atlantic Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
p-Boston 54 19 9 117 261 177 31-7-3 23-12-6 18-9-3
x-Tampa Bay 46 27 9 101 240 215 25-10-6 21-17-3 19-8-3
x-Montreal 46 28 8 100 215 204 23-13-5 23-15-3 18-8-4
x-Detroit 39 28 15 93 222 230 18-13-10 21-15-5 17-8-5
Ottawa 37 31 14 88 236 265 18-17-6 19-14-8 14-9-7
Toronto 38 36 8 84 231 256 24-16-1 14-20-7 14-13-3
Florida 29 45 8 66 196 268 16-20-5 13-25-3 13-16-1
Buffalo 21 51 10 52 157 248 13-21-7 8-30-3 7-18-5
 
Metropolitan Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
y-Pittsburgh 51 24 7 109 249 207 28-9-4 23-15-3 20-8-2
x-NY Rangers 45 31 6 96 218 193 20-17-4 25-14-2 16-11-3
x-Philadelphia 42 30 10 94 236 235 24-14-3 18-16-7 15-11-4
x-Columbus 43 32 7 93 231 216 22-15-4 21-17-3 16-13-1
Washington 38 30 14 90 235 240 21-13-7 17-17-7 12-15-3
New Jersey 35 29 18 88 197 208 21-11-9 14-18-9 16-9-5
Carolina 36 35 11 83 207 230 18-17-6 18-18-5 15-13-2
NY Islanders 34 37 11 79 225 267 13-19-9 21-18-2 10-16-4
 
x= clinched playoff berth
y= clinched division title
z= clinched overall points title
2013 - 2014 NHL Western Conference Standings
 
Central Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
y-Colorado 52 22 8 112 250 220 26-11-4 26-11-4 19-6-3
x-St. Louis 52 23 7 111 248 191 28-9-4 24-14-3 21-6-2
x-Chicago 46 21 15 107 267 220 27-7-7 19-14-8 13-13-3
x-Minnesota 43 27 12 98 207 206 26-10-5 17-17-7 14-12-3
x-Dallas 40 31 11 91 235 228 23-11-7 17-20-4 13-11-5
Nashville 38 32 12 88 216 242 19-17-5 19-15-7 12-13-4
Winnipeg 37 35 10 84 227 237 18-17-6 19-18-4 9-15-5
 
Pacific Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
z-Anaheim 54 20 8 116 266 209 29-8-4 25-12-4 22-4-3
x-San Jose 51 22 9 111 249 200 29-7-5 22-15-4 18-7-3
x-Los Angeles 46 28 8 100 206 174 23-14-4 23-14-4 16-10-3
Phoenix 37 30 15 89 216 231 22-14-5 15-16-10 14-9-6
Vancouver 36 35 11 83 196 223 20-15-6 16-20-5 12-13-4
Calgary 35 40 7 77 209 241 19-19-3 16-21-4 11-15-3
Edmonton 29 44 9 67 203 270 16-22-3 13-22-6 8-17-4
 
x= clinched playoff berth
y= clinched division title
z= clinched overall points title
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Scoreboard
Local
Final
CHA 91
CHI 86
Final
DUR 6
NOR 9
 
7:05pm Tonight
DUR
NOR
 
Final
CIN 4
PIT 0
Final
BAL 3
TAM 0
Final
NYY 3
CHC 0
Final
MIL 5
STL 1
Final
ARI 2
NYM 5
Final
PHI 0
ATL 1
Final
NYY 2
CHC 0
Final
DET 2
CLE 3
Final
MIA 3
WAS 6
Final
TEX 3
SEA 2
Final
CWS 4
BOS 6
Final
HOU 4
KAN 6
8:10pm Wednesday
MIN 0
TOR 0
Final
ANA 5
OAK 4
Final
SDP 4
COL 2
Final
SFG 2
LOS 1
1:05pm Today
PHI
ATL
 
1:08pm Today
DET
CLE
 
1:10pm Today
MIN
TOR
 
2:05pm Today
TEX
SEA
 
3:45pm Today
SFG
LOS
 
6:40pm Tonight
SDP
COL
 
7:05pm Tonight
PIT
MIL
 
7:05pm Tonight
WAS
STL
 
7:10pm Tonight
TAM
NYY
 
7:10pm Tonight
MIN
TOR
 
8:10pm Tonight
CWS
BOS
 
8:10pm Tonight
HOU
KAN
 
Final
CHA 91
CHI 86
Final
ORL 86
IND 101
Final
MIL 103
ATL 111
Final
CLE 114
BRK 85
Final
MEM 106
DAL 105
Final
OKC 112
DET 111
Final
NOP 105
HOU 100
Final
SAN 100
LAL 113
Final
MIA 87
PHI 100
Final
NYK 95
TOR 92
Final
MIN 130
UTA 136
Final
BOS 102
WAS 118
Final
DEN 112
GSW 116
Final
POR 110
LAC 104
Final
SAC 99
PHO 104
Final
TAM 4
MON 5
Final
PIT 4
CLB 3
Final
ANA 4
DAL 3
7:00pm Tonight
NYR
PHI
8:00pm Tonight
STL
CHI
9:30pm Tonight
COL
MIN
10:30pm Tonight
SJS
LOS
Final
DUR 6
NOR 9
 
7:05pm Tonight
DUR
NOR