After turning around the Winnipeg Jets' misfortunes as a midseason hire, Paul Maurice's status as the long-term answer at head coach was cemented on Wednesday.
According to the Jets' official press release, Maurice and the organization came to terms on a four-year extension.
After starting the season with a disappointing 19-23-5 mark, Winnipeg fired Claude Noel and replaced him with Maurice. Although the Jets were unable to make the NHL playoffs in their first campaign in the Western Conference, Maurice got things moving in the right direction to the tune of an 18-12-5 record.
This season marked Maurice's 16th as an NHL head coach, 13 of which were spent with the Carolina Hurricanes franchise (including time with the Hartford Whalers). Maurice has had mixed success over the course of his career, but he did manage to lead the Canes to the Stanley Cup Final in 2001-02.
The Jets are hoping for similar success moving forward. With this four-year extension, Maurice is now on the same timetable as general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff in terms of making the Jets legitimate playoff contenders, per TSN's Darrin Bauming:
So Maurice's contract will expire at the same time as GM Kevin Cheveldayoff's, following the 2017-18 season. #NHLJets— Darrin Bauming (@DarrinBauming) April 16, 2014
It's difficult to argue with what Maurice was able to accomplish after stepping into a less-than-ideal situation. He seemed to connect well with the players, and captain Andrew Ladd was thrilled with the job that Maurice did, according to Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun:
#NHLJets captain Andrew Ladd on Paul Maurice: "I want him back. He's a great coach, a great mind and is really good for this group."— Ken Wiebe (@WiebeSunSports) April 13, 2014
Now that Maurice has job security, he and the rest of the franchise can focus exclusively on improving and becoming a playoff team in 2014-15 and beyond.
Is signing Maurice to an extension the right move for the Jets?
Winnipeg finished seven points behind the Dallas Stars for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference this year, meaning a modest four-win improvement could lead to playoff hockey next season.
The Jets have a great deal of talent on the roster, particularly in the form of forwards such as Ladd, Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler and Evander Kane. Maurice utilized them effectively once he took over, and he should be able to build upon that.
The Jets haven't reached the postseason since relocating from Atlanta in 2011, but the front office seems quite confident that Maurice is the guy to make it happen.
Based on the way that the team responded to him this season, Maurice seems like a perfect fit.
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