The pieces are beginning to fall into place for the NHL’s Seattle franchise, but it seems the coaching picture remains fuzzy.
With a general manager in place and the expansion organization expected to announce its team name in early 2020, the questions have turned to who will be the first to take over the bench and lead the squad to be selected via expansion draft in June 2021.
After Paul Maurice heard his own name enter the fray recently, the Winnipeg Jets head coach made clear he’s in no rush to move on from the Manitoban club.
“I’m here as long as Mark [Chipman] and Kevin [Cheveldayoff] want me to be here,” Maurice told reporters Monday when asked about the Seattle rumours. “This is home for me. I love this place. I’m not looking to go anywhere. It’ll be kicking and screaming on the way out, that’ll be how that transition happens. So, I don’t know — it’s a little unusual that the speculation is related to a coach that has a job. Usually it’s the three or four guys that are out. It’s also something that’s kind of down the road.
“I’ve worked with Ron [Francis], I’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for Ron, but this is my home. I don’t want to go anywhere else.”
While speculation surrounding Maurice’s potential future with Seattle hinges on the question of whether his current contract with the Jets might be nearing an end, the coach said the particulars of his deal factor very little into his decision-making.
“Whether I have a lifetime contract here or I’m getting paid by the hour here, nothing changes. This is all about having the right guy at the right time to coach the Winnipeg Jets. That fit’s really important,” he said, reiterating his thoughts on that fit. “I’m a little unusual in my tenure and my age, I feel I’m very unusual because I found a place that you just love living in, love coaching in, you just want to be a part of, you feel like you’re a part of the growth.
“I just can’t see that changing. We all know that coaches, it changes for some — I don’t feel that we’re close to that. I plan on being here for a long time.”
Maurice has been behind the Jets’ bench since end of the 2013-14 season, when he took over the role on an interim basis. Returning the following season, he went on to coach a total of 478 games with the franchise, amassing a 255-173-50 record. The Jets have made the post-season in three of the past five seasons, reaching the conference final in 2017-18, while rising to become a formidable power in the west.
The fit that’s brought that success has made all the difference, Maurice said.
“I value, far more than necessarily the security of a contract, I value the enjoyment of being in a place that you feel you fit. That’s really important to me now. I mean, I’m not going to live until I’m 170, so these are important years — but fun years for me, too, to coach,” he said. “I want to enjoy it. I want to enjoy the group. Not everything’s going to be smooth all the time, there’s always going to be wrinkles, but that’s paramount for me.
“To enjoy my life, enjoy my job coaching here. So my contract really isn’t an issue.”