Jones on Jets: Coach Maurice, GM Cheveldayoff contracts renewed
Coaches have lost their jobs mid-contract plenty of times, so Maurice is not fire-proof and still needs to produce.
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The pilots of the Winnipeg Jets have had their contracts extended, ending a long summer of speculation.
On Thursday, the team announced both General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and head Coach Paul Maurice have fresh multi-year deals to continue leading the team into the future. No further details were made public.
Cheveldayoff, who has been with the organization since it relocated from Atlanta in 2011, has stocked its cupboards with what many regard as the best pack of prospects in the game while watching his top draft picks turn into impressive role-players quickly. His job wasn't necessarily in jeopardy.
But for the head coach he claimed had his "full support" at the end of last season, after the Jets missed the playoffs (again), things were a bit more tenuous.
It seemed that, with just one year remaining on the books for Paul Maurice and no contract renewal all summer, the first few months of the 2017/18 season would be his opportunity to earn a new contract.
If the Jets wound up with a winning record by December and were on their way to a second post-season berth, fine, ink the deal and stay the course. But if discipline, special teams, defensive play, or any other issues of seasons past re-emerged to keep the Jets out of contention around the halfway mark of this campaign, a change of leadership would make sense.
So what could it mean that the deal got done in this next-to-final hour, mere weeks from the season opening?
From the administrative side, it's anyone's guess—maybe there was squabbling over the term or dollars Maurice wanted, who knows. But more importantly, on the ice, it means the roster Cheveldayoff has carefully assembled (and arguably gone the most "all-in" on to date) knows who its coach is without a shred of doubt. Maurice will be able to set the tone early on and the success of the team will hinge on players buying in, or not.
Of course, coaches have lost their jobs mid-contract plenty of times, so Maurice is not fire-proof and still needs to produce.
The Winnipeg Jets are under tremendous pressure to win after qualifying for the playoffs just once in six seasons, and now more than ever the team seems to be a winning one – on paper anyway.
Now it's up to the coach to take the ingredients he's been given and make it happen.
Coachable keys to success for 2017/18:
Shore up the defensive game:
It takes more than inconsistent goaltending to allow more goals against (255 last season) than all but three teams. The Jets need defensive commitment up and down the roster, and that has to start with the coach communicating it's a priority.
Improve penalty kill:
The Jets' poor defensive game is exposed most on the penalty kill, where they allowed 62 power-play goals, third most in the league last season. Discipline could improve the situation by limiting penalties, but killing more than 77.5 per cent would go a long way, too.
Put best weapon in position to fire:
Patrik Laine netted nine power-play goals in his rookie year without getting the lion's share of powerplay minutes, but could contribute even more if given the chance. He was also most productive on a line with Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers, but that line was rarely together. As a rookie, Laine was 7th in league scoring, and 54th in shots on net. Giving the sophomore more power play time and the best possible line-mates gets more out of the Jets' most dangerous scoring threat—easy call, coach.