Jets’ Paul Maurice on player-coach relationships: ‘The game has changed’

Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice talks about relationships with players plus the difference between coaching players past and today.

It seems the hockey world appears to be on the cusp of a moment.

Akim Aliu’s allegations against Flames coach Bill Peters — which has since prompted other former players to speak out — has led to a sense that something is building, with more players coming forth to share stories long buried.

Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice weighed in on this changing climate Tuesday, reflecting on his own evolution as a coach, and the growth of the game as a whole.

“I think there is a real awareness over the last year or two, certainly on our staff,” Maurice told reporters Tuesday. “And if I’m going to give anybody credit, I will give the assistant coaches credit for kind of pushing me to evolve, to be more understanding, maybe, of young players. More caring, possibly. There’ll be a whole bunch of guys that say I haven’t hit that threshold yet.”

Maurice relayed a particular moment with his captain that shifted how he thinks about his approach to managing his players.

“Blake Wheeler grabs me a year and a half ago and says, ‘Just be nice to the guy’ — and I got a list of about 14 reasons why I shouldn’t be, right, because of his play. But that stuck with me,” the 24-year coaching veteran said. “The game has changed. The players, especially — we have such a young group.

“Those interactions have to change.”

Maurice started out in the coaching world back in 1995-96 as the bench boss of the Hartford Whalers. He stuck there, through the organization’s move to Raleigh, until 2004, before getting back to the head coaching stage with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2006. Maurice returned to the Carolina franchise for a four-year stretch from 2008-11, before taking on his current role with Winnipeg in 2013.

“When I first started you would handle a man a whole lot differently than you handle a player now,” he said. “That being said, I got a list, I’m sure. There’s a list — every coach has one — [of] the guys that didn’t like the way you talked to them, didn’t like the decisions.

“I’ve sat captains out, I’ve sat Hall of Fame players out in playoffs. So, you’re going to have players that don’t love you. That just goes with the job.”

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