Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice is entering the final year of a four-year extension that he signed in 2014 and that’s just fine with him. While it’s not unheard of for a coach to play out the final year of his contract, the standard protocol is for a general manager to show some faith in his hire and provide him with the security of at least two seasons. The theory is that a coach on an expiring contract may be more likely to make rash decisions with a ‘win at all costs’ mentality to earn a new contract.
For Maurice however, he doesn’t seem to be concerned. “Completely comfortable. I’ve done it four, maybe five times and it’s always worked out really well,” said the veteran head coach when asked about the matter.
Whether Maurice is a part of the Jets’ long term plans or not, there’s no denying that the team must rebound next season from a disappointing 19th place finish this season. The team’s potent offence is led by youngsters Mark Scheifele, Patrick Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers and supported by a veteran secondary cast that features captain Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little and Mathieu Perreault. The high-end scoring power and depth of the Jets’ group up front looks to be good enough to compete and there backend led by Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers is respectable, but it’s in goal where the Jets truly fell apart this season.
Thankfully, Ondrej Pavelec and his $3.9 million cap hit will finally be off the team’s books this offseason. But what does Maurice make of the young goaltending tandem of Michael Hutchinson and Connor Hellebuyck? Both were expected to take steps forward this year and, instead, took giants leaps backward. Can Maurice roll forward with the two between the pipes again, or might he implore general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff to bring in a veteran for spot duty?
It will be an interesting offseason for Jets fans. The pieces seem to be in place for success, but the team’s management have some tough decisions to make with regards to how those parts all fit together.