We are continuing to run through different head coaching options for the Chicago Blackhawks. This is our ninth in the series, and it has been fun to examine these candidates. Today we will cover Paul Maurice, former head coach of the Hartford Whalers, Carolina Hurricanes, Toronto Maple Leafs and the Winnipeg Jets, as requested by many of you.
In 1995, Paul Maurice became the second youngest head coach in NHL history when he was named the Hartford Whalers head coach at the age of 28. This was after a disappointing 5-6-1 record under sitting head coach, Paul Holmgren. His first two seasons as Hartford's head coach were quite underwhelming, as his team posted records of 29-33-8 and 32-39-11.
The next season (1997-98), the Hartford Whalers relocated to Raleigh, North Carolina where they became the Hurricanes. Fortunately for Maurice, he was retained. The first season in Carolina proved to continue to be unsuccessful as the the Hurricanes finished with a 33-41-8 record. Finally, the tide started to turn for Maurice and Carolina in the 1998-99 season. Maurice led the team to a 34-30-18 regular season record and a playoff appearance, where they lost in 6 games to the Boston Bruins. After missing the playoffs (despite a 37-35-10-0 record), Maurice and the Canes returned the postseason in 2001 where they also lost in 6, this time to the New Jersey Devils. At 35-26-16-5, the Carolina Hurricanes finished first in their division and made a run to the Stanely Cup Finals where they lost to the Detroit Red Wings in 5 games. The Hurricanes followed that exciting run up with a disappointing season of 22-43-11-6 and after 30 games in the 2003-04 season, Maurice was let go with a record of 8-12-8-2.
After a two year stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, Maurice was promoted to be the head coach of the Leafs after the first season in Pat Quinn's tenure where the Leafs failed to make the postseason. Under Maurice, the Leafs continued above-.500 hockey, but continued to miss the postseason narrowly. After the 2008 postseason, Maurice was let go from his position.
After 25 games into the 2008-09 season, Maurice was rehired by the Carolina Hurricanes to replace Peter Laviolette with a record of 12-11-2. Under Maurice, the Hurricanes finished with a stellar 33-19-5 record to make the postseason, in which they propelled themselves to the Conference Finals, poetically defeating New Jersey and Boston before getting swept by the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. The rest of his tenure was unimpressive. The Hurricanes finished with back to back sub-.500 seasons (when you include OT losses), and missed the playoffs. Just like the coach before him, 25 games into the 2011-12 season, Maurice was let go a second time by Carolina.
After a one-year coaching gig in the KHL, Maurice was hired by the Winnipeg Jets to finish out the 2013-14 season after the firing of coach Claude Nöel. In his 35 games that season, Maurice led the Jets to a 18-12-5 record, finishing the Jets full season at 37-35-10, missing the playoffs. He signed an extension with Winnipeg and the Jets had a rough go over the next few seasons. Maurice propelled the team to a 43-26-13 record, making the postseason, though they were swept by Anaheim. The next two seasons they missed the postseason, though it seemed Maurice was able to keep the Jets at a steadied record, always hovering around .500.
Finally, a breakthrough. in 2017-18, Winnipeg finished with a 52-20-10 record, good for 2nd in the Central Division and a run to the Conference Finals where they eventually lost to the new kids on the block, the Vegas Golden Knights, 4-1. Each of the next 3 seasons, the Jets made the playoffs, but never got past the 2nd round again. During the 2021-22 season, Paul Maurice voluntarily resigned after a 13-11-5 start. When asked about his resignation, Maurice simply stated,
"I know that it’s time. This is a good thing for the Winnipeg Jets and a good thing for me."- Paul Maurice on his resignation
He had lost his motivation for coaching and felt his voice was not making the impact he felt it should. It was a jarring move, and you can read more about it here.
So here's the question: is Paul Maurice a good fit for the Blackhawks? I think he can be. Like Tocchet, I feel he has extremely valuable experience as he's worked in several different locker rooms from a young age and has been able to evaluate what methods are effective and what's not. He has been a part of teams that were of the worst in the league and he has worked with Stanley Cup finalists.
I think what sticks out most is his time with the Jets. He really seemed to finally come into his own as a coach, and it led to several successful seasons, which is why his resignation was so shocking. If you focus on the fact that he helped two very underperforming teams (when he started with them) in Hartford/Carolina and Winnipeg excel to playoff competition again, you can see why he would be valuable to the Blackhawks. Chicago is another team who has been underperforming and is due to go through a lengthy rebuild. Maurice seems like he may be able to get more out of those players than most, which is why he is worth the look. Of course, this all depends on if he is able to rekindle his motivation in coaching.
All in all, I'd take him above several of the coaches profiled, including Tocchet. Right now he is probably sitting very middle of the pack for me in terms of rankings. I will have a full rankings come out shortly when I am finished with my coaching profiles. Seeing as this is the ninth article about potential coaches, I'd at least put Maurice in the top half of my list.