Two decades of Paul Maurice, NHL head coach
This post is part of Jets Day on PHT…
If a typical NHL coach listed perks of the gig, “great job security” wouldn’t make the cut very often. Even a Stanley Cup ring (or two) won’t save them from the cutting block in plenty of cases.
With that in mind, let’s take a step back and just admire the persistence of Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice. Is persistence the better word, or would it be wiser to describe his longevity as ... stealthy?
It might be hard to believe, but Maurice has been employed as an NHL head coach consistently since 1995-96. No, that’s not a typo. Check out his hockeydb page if you need proof/also want to see a photo of Young Paul Maurice.
Long story short: Maurice has been an NHL head coach since before the Carolina Hurricanes and “South Park” existed.
A timeline of Paul Maurice’s career
I’ve added some notes for bigger achievements, changes, and so on. Note that this rundown lists every time his teams made it to the postseason. (If a season isn’t mentioned, it’s because he remained employed but his team missed the playoffs.)
1995-96: becomes assistant and then head coach for the Hartford Whalers, coaching 70 games.
1997-98: The Whalers become the Carolina Hurricanes; Maurice can’t get them to the playoffs for a third straight season.
1998-99: Maurice’s first team makes it to playoffs, loses in first round.
2000-01: Another first-round exit
2001-02: Hurricanes fall in the 2002 Stanley Cup Final, Maurice’s lone appearance.
2003-04: Maurice is fired 30 games into the season.
So, in his first stint with Carolina/Harford (1995-96 to 2003-04), his team missed the playoffs five times and made it three times. There were two first-round exits and that remarkable run to the 2002 SCF.
2005-06: Takes Toronto Marlies to AHL playoffs in lone season with the team ... they lose in first round.
2006-07 to 2007-08: Fails to bring Toronto Maple Leafs to playoffs in two seasons.
2008-09: Second stint with Hurricanes begins with 57 regular season games. Hurricanes lose in Eastern Conference Final.
2011-12: Fired by Hurricanes 25 games into season.
2012-13: Took KHL’s Metallurg to playoffs ... first-round exit.
2013-14: Misses playoffs during first season with Winnipeg, coached 35 regular-season games.
2014-15: Lone playoff appearance as Jets coach. Thrashers/Jets franchise still lacks a single playoff win.
2015-16 to 2016-17: Misses playoffs.
/wipes sweat off brow
In summary, Maurice’s teams made the playoffs five times during his NHL coaching career. Two of those runs included series wins, with five overall. His teams won two Southeast Division titles. Check the bottom of this post for more perspective on his “quantity vs. quality” career.
Young and resilient
All of that aside, the point here isn’t that Maurice is necessarily a “bad coach.” Instead, it’s meant to remark upon just how rare his situation is.
Really, you can get into a philosophical discussion about how much any coach could have managed in Maurice’s situations. The Hurricanes/Whalers faced struggles in building rosters and in their market. The Maple Leafs are the only true “big budget” team Maurice coached, and he came in during a difficult time for the franchise. Just ask Ilya Bryzgalov about how much of a free agent “lure” Winnipeg can be in the eyes of many, a factor that likely didn’t help the Jets in the often-grueling Central Division.
Maurice became the second-youngest NHL coach to reach 500 wins (at the time) in 2015, and he weathered quite the storm with the Hurricanes/Whalers early on, learning the ropes at just 28. And other coaches noticed, as San Jose Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer related to NHL.com:
“There’s only a handful of guys I know that you could stick behind a bench at  and they could survive and still carve out a career,” DeBoer said. “That shows you how special his communication skills are, how big of a presence he is in a dressing room.”
Maurice has two decades of NHL coaching experience, yet he’s only 50.
He’s always looking to learn, and Maurice rarely deployed star-studded rosters ... and especially rarely enjoyed great goaltending.
In Paul Maurice's 19-year tenure as an NHL head coach, his goalies have a combined .904 Save Percentage— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) January 14, 2017
Is Maurice great, bad, or somewhere in between? That’s tough to say, but give him credit for fighting hard enough to at least always be around.
If Steve Mason and Connor Hellebuyck can actually deliver steady goaltending for the Jets, we may finally get a better idea of what Maurice is truly capable of.
Bonus: More on his resounding longevity
According to Hockey Reference, Maurice has coached 1,365 regular-season games and 57 postseason contests. His regular season record overall thanks to the NHL’s shifting standings systems is: 596-569-99-101, with a points percentage of .510.*
Hockey Reference’s NHL Coach Register has some useful listings to provide some context for his career. Maurice has coached the 11th-most games according to their listings. One must reach down to Brian Sutter (1,028 games coached, .517 points percentage) to find a comparable coach.