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What Paul Maurice Brings the Florida Panthers

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The Florida Panthers decided on a new head coach on Wednesday, surprising some observers that interim coach Andrew Brunett didn’t become a regular on their bench, but instead switched to veteran Paul Maurice.

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There are many great head coach candidates, including Brunet, but it makes sense that Panthers general manager Bill Zito chose Maurice, who has 1,665 NHL games to his credit, as well as two conference finals and one Stanley Cup final. . For this team from Florida, at this point in the competitive cycle, Zito didn’t want anyone to learn on the job. And Maurice brings a composure and calmness that the veteran Panthers can emulate on the ice.

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Zito could have gone off the mainstream and gone with untested merchandise, as the Edmonton Oilers did last season when they replaced Dave Tippett with Jay Woodcroft. Still, sticking with Brunette, especially after Tampa Bay crushed the Panthers in the second round this spring, was clearly not Zito’s first choice. The day may come when Brunette is the right choice for the franchise, but the longer the hiring process went on, the clearer it became that Zito needed someone who had been through hard times before and emerged as the rightful leader of the Cup.

With that said, consider: 55-year-old Maurice, a remarkable accomplishment in the industry, has coached for over 23 seasons at the NHL level. He saw it all. He is also one of those rare coaches who can take a step back and take responsibility for their positive performance, or lack of it. That’s what he did one-third of the 2021-2022 campaign, stepping down as head coach of Winnipeg after eight seasons in charge of the Jets. Maurice recognized the ailments that had crept into the dressing room and realized that he could not handle them, so he left despite the remaining period of the contract extension he signed in February 2020.

Do you know how many coaches would have ignored the warning signs Maurice saw and just kept going according to the terms of their contract? I know a few. It’s so hard to get a secure job in today’s NHL that most coaches who, let’s face it, have some sort of ego, aren’t going to voluntarily give it up. Showing that he could do it showed courage and maturity on Maurice’s part.

But the notion that Maurice burned out after his time in Winnipeg has always been hard to take into account. We’re talking here about a hockey life sentence. He ended up taking a break for about half a year, and now he’s back with a team that posted the best regular season record (58-18-6) in the entire league last season.

Nothing against Winnipeg and its lovely townspeople, but it’s a step forward for Maurice. The Jets will be in contention for a place in the Central Division playoffs next year regardless of who they hire as Maurice’s permanent replacement, but few expect them to be at the top of any group in the standings. The Panthers, on the other hand, will expect Maurice to push them at the end of the season. For Zito et al. it is enough just to speak in the final of the conference. This is a challenge that Maurice certainly welcomes.

This summer, the Panthers have just $3 million in their salary cap and have just 17 players under contract. Zito is likely interested in signing goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, but the remaining four years and $40 million on the goalie’s contract makes Zito likely the only NHL grandmaster interested in signing him. If Florida has any hope of bringing back star forward Claude Giroud, the Panthers will have to sacrifice other cogs; for example, winger Patrick Hornqvist can be moved even though he has a modified no-trade clause. In any case, in 2022-2023, Florida will be stripped of some of its depth. Maurice will have to do more with less.

Is he ready to take on the challenge? We think he is. You can’t coach for almost a quarter of a century in the best hockey league if you don’t constantly learn and adapt. This is a strength that you can only show with time. This is something that the Brunette did not have.

This season, the Panthers finally made it out of the first round. The last time they did this was in 1995-96, Maurice’s first year as an NHL head coach. That’s how long he’s been in the trenches, and Zito is banking on that wealth of experience.



Source: thehockeynews.com

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