Maurice takes Jets’ helm
WINNIPEG—Claude Noel was fired as head coach of the Winnipeg Jets yesterday morning but general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff revealed the axe began swinging on Tuesday night.
Cheveldayoff told reporters at a press conference yesterday afternoon that he first contacted newly-hired Jets’ head coach Paul Maurice on Tuesday after the team played poorly again—mustering only 14 shots in a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“At that point in time, it still wasn’t something that I was ready to do,” Cheveldayoff added. “But [Saturday] night, I went to ownership and talked to them about making the change.”
The Jets lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets 6-3 on Saturday, giving up four goals in the first nine minutes of the second period.
Fans booed the team off the ice.
“It’s not just the last two games, it is the consistency factor,” Cheveldayoff stressed, adding the team kept taking a step forward and then two steps back to stay around .500.
The club is 19-23-5 and 10 points back of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Saturday’s loss also put the Jets on a season-worst five-game losing streak—matching the longest regulation-game skid since the team moved to Winnipeg from Atlanta prior to the 2011-12 season.
After getting the go-ahead from Jets’ owner Mark Chipman to fire Noel, Cheveldayoff said he called Maurice again and they reached a verbal agreement on a contract until the end of this season.
“We don’t have anything on paper, we have a handshake over the phone,” Cheveldayoff noted.
“He’s flying in here [Sunday] night and going in that fashion.
“Again, he’s very passionate about getting here,” Cheveldayoff added. “When we talked about what he would need, basically it was like, ‘What time is the flight?’”
Born in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Maurice had been working as a TV analyst for TSN and NHL Network after spending the 2012-13 season as head coach of Magnitogorsk Metallurg of the Kontinental Hockey League.
Maurice inherits a Jets’ team that has struggled in its third season in Winnipeg, thanks in part to inconsistent goaltending and defensive breakdowns.
The 46-year-old has been behind the bench for 1,084 games as an NHL head coach.
His first game leading the Jets will be tonight at MTS Centre against the Phoenix Coyotes.
This will be the third franchise he has coached, after the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
He got the Hurricanes to the 2002 Stanley Cup final and made five total playoff appearances with Carolina.
Hired after the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg, Noel went 80-79-18 during his tenure with the Jets.
He had been given a one-year extension last June through the 2014-15 season.
The team was scheduled to practice late yesterday morning at another local rink, but it was cancelled when Cheveldayoff drove there after the dismissals to give players the news.
Captain Andrew Ladd and his teammates shouldered the blame for the coaching changes.
“I think it always comes as a shock,” Ladd said after the team meeting. “I don’t think anyone expected it this morning so it’s not an easy day.
“Two good people lose their jobs.
“Ultimately, it came down to the performance of all the guys in here,” Ladd added.
“It’s tough for everyone.”