Back in September of 2017, the @Winnipeg Jets announced that both General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and Head Coach Paul Maurice had agreed to “multi-year” contract extensions. At that time we didn’t know how many years those extensions covered, but this past weekend thanks to hockey insider Elliotte Friedman during a segment on Sportsnet’s Hockey Night, it was revealed that 2019-20 is the final season of Maurice’s current contract. At least this is what Friedman has been led to believe saying: “I understand Paul Maurice is in the last year of his contract. When do you decide what you’re going to do with him?”
Following Saturday night’s game against the Calgary Flames, Paul was a guest on “After Hours” and while they didn’t broach the subject of his contract or status within the team, Maurice did have an interesting perspective on how he approaches coaching now as maybe opposed to how he did earlier in his career, “I’m 52 and I don’t know how much longer I’ll get to coach so I’m making sure I enjoy every single day.”
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When he was asked about line combinations and specifically about the pairing of @Mark Scheifele and @Blake Wheeler, Maurice had a bit of a cheeky response for Jets fans on just why he keeps them together with a very cheeky, “I run the bench” final answer.
The Jets are currently 6-6-0 to start the season and even with the multiple issues at defense being front and center in most discussions about the team, a good majority of the team’s forwards have struggled to generate offense, and both the Jets power play (22nd) and penalty kill (31st) rank among the league’s worst. When you factor in the disappointment of the 2018-19 season – a season in which the Jets “window” to contend for a Stanley Cup was supposed to be wide open – it’s maybe understandable that the Jets could be taking more of a “wait and see” approach with Maurice.
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If the Jets can find some consistency with their game, improve special teams to at least respectable levels and keep themselves firmly in a playoff spot, then one would have to imagine that Maurice gets another multi-year extension perhaps going into the playoffs.
Continuing down the current path they are going will be a much different story. Will the team be content to hover around .500 hockey with a faint chance at a playoff spot? If players continue to under-perform, how much will be seen as a player issue and how much will be put on coaching and not optimizing lines?
If the Jets do continue to struggle, does the club pull the trigger early, or do they go the full season with Maurice in charge and what kind of message does that send if at the end of another disappointing season the team finally makes a decision to let him go? Would pulling the trigger on a coaching change sooner be a better option? That may come down to who is available during the season as opposed to the summer when more names become available.
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The idea that Maurice (and perhaps Cheveldayoff?) is in the final year of his contract adds another wrinkle in the months of speculation we’ve seen about his future with the Winnipeg Jets. Back in 2017 when he was in the final year of his first contract with the Jets, there had been rumors that the Jets were very much interested in extending that deal as early as January, and a contract extension was finalized before the 2017-17 season started. This time around things don’t seem to be as certain.
Right now Paul Maurice “runs the bench” but now knowing his possible contract status this season, the question is: For how long?