Photo Credit: © Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Paul Maurice: Good Coach? Bad Coach?

There has been plenty said already very early on this season about Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice and just how effective he’s been for the team as it is built now. Sportsbooks like BetOnline have predicted the Jets can be playoff contenders, but they’ve disappointed in recent years. 

That ongoing debate has only been fueled by a disastrous two-game start to the regular season, wins that haven’t  looked overly convincing and have defied some statistical odds, and the prospect of two coaching milestones that he will hit within the first month of the season – one of which he accomplished on Friday night.

The Jets 4-3 win over the Minnesota Wild was the Paul Maurice’s 600th win as head coach of an NHL club.

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Paul is now 17th all-time in head coaching wins, 6th amoung still active coaches (Toronto’s Mike Babcock is two wins ahead of him, Alain Vigneault is 16 ahead)

He also has the second-worst winning percentage in that all-time top 20 list with a .439 mark. The “race” for the worst winning percentage mark is a tightly contested battle between PoMo and Washington coach Barry Trotz who at .438 is one notch below him as of publishing time.

Maurice’s other coaching milestone that he’s about to hit is quite a bit more dubious.

Six more Jets losses with Paul at the helm will help the coach set the all-time mark for most regulation losses by an NHL head coach. Maurice has 572 losses, the record is 577 held by Al Arbour.

One more loss for Maurice ties him with Scotty Bowman for all-time losses.

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About Scotty and Al…

Throwing around hall of fame names around in association with the idea of most losses ever does seem a bit blasphemous, but when you look into the careers of both Arbour and Bowman, you understand how they have so many losses.

Scotty Bowman has never coached a team that played a full season of sub .500 hockey, and only three times did he coach a team that had 30 or more losses in a season. That all said, he coached a remarkable 30 seasons so even if he only picks up 20 losses per season, it still adds up.

Al Arbour is also in the same argument as Bowman as he has coached 23 seasons in the NHL, but where Al’s numbers were hurt was by Islanders teams that suffered through rebuilds during the late 80’s and early 90’s.

For Maurice supporters, these are also arguments that can be made in support of why Paul is about to set the mark for most losses.

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Maurice has coached for 20 years. The quality of goaltending he’s had in those 20 years has long been a source of many blog posts and conversations.

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Paul has never had full control of his roster as a general manager, so there is some legitimacy to the argument that Paul has done as well as can be hoped for what he’s been given to work with.

So is he a good coach, or a bad one?

As it’s been suggested by some, he’s probably more of a survivor than he is a good or bad coach. His ability to communicate with management and players alike has always been listed as a strong suit of his and is likely what got him an extension in Winnipeg even without any real success to be seen.

In previous seasons, his coaching style would be ideal for a team that maybe had a few good, talented players but needed to rely on the hallmarks of defence and “gritty play” but this season has been different.

The Jets clearly have some dynamic, talented players on the roster and yet Maurice continues to verbally state that players like Adam Lowry and Matt Hendricks and how they play on the third and fourth lines will be key for a successful Jets season.

The debate isn’t going away.

Jets fans will have to get used to the Paul Maurice debate and conversations for the near future. A multi-year contract extension suggests that True North Sports Entertainment sees no reason to let him go even if things do go sideways. Perhaps they have so much faith in Maurice that they feel there is no possible way this season can’t be anything but one that has a playoff run in it.

By the end of this season, Maurice will be top 15 all time in head coaching wins and possibly be knocking on the door of the top 10. He’ll also have the most regulation losses of any head coach ever.

And even after his time with the Winnipeg Jets is done, many a hockey fan and media member alike will continue to debate.

Paul Maurice: Really good persevering coach, or coach that somehow managed to survive despite multiple bad seasons and lack of any consistent playoff success?

  • ProfessorPottyMouth

    Comparing coaches in different eras isn’t totally fair. In the good old days of 21 teams and 16 playoff spots essentially everyone made the playoffs. I think Barry Trotz and Al Arbour are both excellent coaches, so PM is in good company.

    I think PM has some old school tendencies that I don’t like, but I’m not a professional coach, so take this with a grain of salt. He is not an innovator. He likes his grinders, and he sometimes prefers to use them over more skilled players. I don’t like the look of the Jets PK, and I think some players are not utilized to their best potential on the PP. I think Huddy needs to go, and whoever Hellebuyck was using in the summer, the Jets should hire him and get rid of Flaherty.

  • FishWhiskey

    If coaching in the NHL is graded from bad to great then Maurice is a “good coach”. He falls right in the middle of the pack and if you want a perennial bubble team then he is the man for the job. Good enough to keep his team out of the basement but lacking the elite ability that defines the great coaches who consistently reach the playoffs and sometimes win Stanley Cups. His 20 year record is a pretty good data set to judge from and it speaks for itself. Maurice’s teams have rarely made the play-offs and no Cup Ring to show. Some would say he has been just plain unlucky in that all his teams have suffered from poor goaltending, shaky defence and poor special teams but a great coach innovates and solves those kinds of deficiencies. I have yet to see any signs of adaptive management from the Jets coaching staff and it shows. Different players but the same problems year after year…….. What’s the common denominator?

  • Paul from NZ

    Judging a coach on win% is a bit similar to judging a goalie on GAA or win% – it is an indicator of ability but there are too many other variables that also come into play.

    Its fair to say that during his time at the Hurricanes, Maple Leaves and early years at Jets, the teams were not obvious playoff teams. His performance is then judged on if the team did better than expected and / or if players were developed and grew.

    I didnt really follow any of those previous teams closely, but in his time with Jets its probably a B-.

    The team has done about where you could expect, no better no worse. Kind of the survivor level you mention in this article.

    Players have been developed in a slow and steady way. Cant argue that players like Shiefele, Laine, Ehlers, Trouba and Morrissey are doing great and have developed under Maurice’s watch. Some of us want to see faster and more from Connor, Petan, Dano, Poolman, etc. But maybe this is Maurice’s way: low risk, slow and steady. Dont burn a young player for the sake short-term needs.

    This year I think it is viewed that this team has the talent to make the playoffs. Last year perhaps too, although injuries and schedule were not kind. This is a big year for Maurice, if he cant win with this team he will (or should) feel some job security pressure.

  • JN

    This team will not be anything until he is gone. He does not use his best talents effectively and uses the players with less talent far too often. His record with the Jets says it all, 1 playoff series, 0 WINS!