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Photo Credit: © Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Jets Coaching Staff: Their Jobs Are Safe, Or Are They?

Coaches are hired to be fired. This isn’t really opinion as much as it is a way of life in all of professional sports. It’s very rare that you have a coach or manager in any sport that does so well with a team and is loved and respected enough that they can leave or even retire on their own terms. Coaches are the ultimate in sports middle management and easily the most expendable of assets when things go south for a club.

Fans are just as much aware of these facts as anyone within the team, so in the wake of what was a very disappointing season for the Winnipeg Jets, there were a lot of calls for firings of head coach Paul Maurice or even associate coach Jamie Kompon, or assistants Todd Woodcroft, Charlie Huddy and Wade Flaherty. After all, other NHL teams have fired or dismissed or straight up waved goodbye to coaches for much less than the collapse the Jets endured in the second half of the season.

But as the Jets had their exit interviews the Monday following their first round exit, support for Maurice and the group seemed to be as strong as ever.

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“There’s never been a waning confidence in the coaching staff on my part,” was the reply GM Kevin Cheveldayoff had when asked about the future of the staff. Captain Blake Wheeler was even more assertive in his support:

“The coach isn’t on the ice, the players are on the ice. We’re the ones that are accountable. One of the most winningest coaches of all time in the history of this game. So, I think his record speaks for itself. Obviously, I’d go through a brick wall for the guy. I don’t want to play for anyone else. That’s where I stand.”

Welp, that’s that settled.

Or is it? Let’s go over how safe each of the Jets coaches actually are in their jobs compared to how safe they really should be. We’re going to go on a scale of 5 to 1 for our level of safe with “5” being the safest but a “1” being on the hottest seat of all.


Todd Woodcroft

How safe is he? > 4 – Pretty safe
How safe should he be? > 4 – Pretty safe

Woodcroft is primarily works on the offensive end of things and his preference to up-tempo hockey is ideal for the group of forwards the Jets have. He also works with the team on details like faceoffs as you’ll see in the video below. Unless a new head coach comes in, Woodcroft’s job is pretty secure as there really hasn’t been too many complaints about the team offense.

Wade Flaherty

How safe is he? > 4 – Pretty safe
How safe should he be? > 3 – Somewhat safe

After some rocky years with Ondrej Pavelec where there were often calls for Flaherty to be removed, things have of course stabilized in goal with Connor Hellebuyck and Laurent Brossoit which has taken the heat off Wade, but it’s hard not to feel like he’s had a huge assist from noted independent goalie coach Adam Francilia who has worked with both Hellebuyck and Brossoit. Wade simply seems to have the good sense to complement the changes both goalies have made to their play to be more effective in net.

Charlie Huddy

How safe is he? > 3 – Somewhat safe
How safe should he be? > 2 – Not at all safe

“We weren’t quite a good enough defensive group this year. It wasn’t a strength.”

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When Paul Maurice stated that in the exit interview, it was generally thought he was talking about the players, but he could just as easily be talking about Huddy, the former 17 year NHL defenseman who has been with the Jets since their move to Winnipeg as he’s primarily in charge of helping on the defensive side of things for the Jets.

Just as a team’s general manager will fire a coach to help preserve their own job, a head coach may dismiss his assistants or associate coaches in order to give himself a reprieve of his own job. Huddy could be the first of the Jets coaching staff to be let go, if not this summer, then early into the season if it looks like the Jets are still struggling with zone exits and turnovers as they did most of this past season.

Jamie Kompon

How safe is he? > 4 – Pretty safe
How safe should he be? > 4 – Pretty safe

If Maurice is indeed fired, smart money would expect that Kompon – at least on an interim basis – would be the man to take over for Maurice. he was hired in July 2016 to take over from Pascal Vincent who was moved by the organization to coach the AHL Manitoba Moose. Unlike the other three coaches, Jamie’s title of “associate” suggests he’s involved in more aspects of the team including both offense and defense. How much of the team’s struggles in zone exits and entries can be tied to him is unknown, but it stands to reason that an “associate” will not receive as much of the blame for any team’s shortcomings as a head coach will.

Kompon has never been a head coach at the NHL level, but having worked as an assistant for the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings – the latter being a club he helped coach to a Stanley Cup victory in 2012 – it can be argued that maybe he deserves a chance.

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Paul Maurice

How safe is he? > 3 – Somewhat safe
How safe should he be? > 3 – Somewhat safe

 

Maurice’s seat was cool as ice in September of 2017 as he (and GM Cheveldayoff) were signed to multi-year contract extensions even as the Jets had missed the playoffs for the fifth time in the last six seasons. The thought at the time is that the Jets were still on the upswing and Maurice had done well enough navigating the team through a rebuilding “draft and develop” process, and that he had earned a chance to continue on. After last season there was no reason to believe he was under any real job pressure as the team’s most successful season concluded in the Western Conference Final and it was generally felt that the club as a whole ran out of gas.

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But after this season? Well the seat should at the very least be warmish if not outright toasty. Obviously his captain is his biggest banner carrier, but are the other players on the team? Every other forward on the Jets was tinkered with, moved and and down the lineup save for Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele who were kept virtually glued together almost all season when health permitted it. At the very least, his preference to keep the pair together and play them to the point of exhaustion most games suggested some nepotism or even worse, outright distrust of most if not the rest of the roster.

Maurice at this time is as safe as one in his position could be. Given Cheveldayoff’s past displays of patience, Maurice is going to be given some time to make things better next season. To think otherwise is silly.

That said, Maurice is under more scrutiny than he has been at any other point in his time in Winnipeg. He will more than likely be back for his seventh season with the Jets, but a shaky start to it will no doubt put that relative safe job in all kinds of jeopardy.

  • Unfortunately this staff is safe, for now. A slow start to the season could change things. Anyone who watched the Jets the last 3 months saw a very talented team let down by their coaches. Atrocious defensive system, horrible breakout, poor use of their lineup, questionable line combinations, weak special team play, alienating young players and a fractured room . If this isn’t the responsibility of the head coach what is?