A few years ago on a cold January day Claude Noel was fired and Paul Maurice was hired. The Winnipeg Jets did not make the playoffs that season, but they started to steadily improve under him until they stopped. Two seasons later the Jets were one of the top teams in the Western Conference and made it to the Conference Finals. They have not been the same team since that fateful day. Should Paul Maurice pay for the decline in play?
The Jets had multiple things happen after they lost in the Conference Finals. Toby Enstrom left to return to Sweden after being a healthy scratch in the playoffs. Enstrom’s loss coupled with him not being adequately replaced has had a lasting impact on the Jets to this day. Without an Enstrom-like defenceman; someone who can move the puck well, but is also strong at defending, the Jets have been a little lost at sea.
How does this relate back to Maurice? He has long struggled to dress the best defensive unit for the Jets. Even when Enstrom was with the team, it was clear that his contribution was not realized and it showed when he left. He was the one who made Dustin Byfuglien’s adventures possible and he managed to stabilize the back end. Along with Trouba, the Jets have lost three of their top four from that team. Maurice had been using the four of them moderately well and the only real complaint might have been that he should have made Josh Morrissey and Trouba his top pairing instead of Byfuglien and Enstrom.
The bigger flaws in Maurice’s coaching comes out when the forwards are looked at. While Maurice has been blessed with an abundance of talent and has struggled to maximize that talent over the seasons. He has insisted until this year that Patrik Laine is best used alongside Bryan Little even though it seemed pretty clear that their playing styles did not mesh well. He has also insisted that Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler must always play together until an injury to the aforementioned Little forced his hand. Maurice being stubborn even in the face some something blatantly not working is probably his worst quality as a coach.
However, there is one damming piece of evidence against Maurice and it is really hard to defend this. Expected goals include shot quality in their model which has been one of the biggest criticisms of both Corsi and Fenwick. The Jets are really bad when using this model. Really, really bad.
xG share— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) January 18, 2020
There's as much difference between WPG (31st in xG share) and DET (30th) as there is between DET and CGY (20th). pic.twitter.com/dFyTrIfcRu
First of all, I would recommend going through the whole thread which was posted last Saturday. The Jets play this week would not have caused any major changes in the data, so you can rest assured that they are still bad. They play a system that has them not moving their feet much and relying on one playing making the play instead of constantly working and moving with the play as a unit. In essence, they play almost a man to man style when a zone defence would probably help them more and that is entirely on coaching.
How did the Jets fall so far so quickly? They did not replace the players they lost over the years and their system does not work for the team they have. Instead of making changes and trying to find something that works with the players here now, Maurice has been plodding along using the same strategies that no longer work in the NHL. The buck should not just stop with Maurice. The person who has put this team together should be equally responsible for the flaws they present and how hard it is to make it work when there are a lot of replacement level players getting regular playing time because there is not one else to play.
Should Paul Maurice be fired? Yes, but so should Kevin Cheveldayoff who constructed this team from day one.