Paul Maurice unexpectedly quits his job as head coach of the Winnipeg Jets

Paul Maurice had coached the Winnipeg Jets since January 2014 and had led the team to the NHL playoffs five times.JOHN WOODS / The Canadian Press

Paul Maurice stunned the hockey world on Friday when he announced his resignation as head coach of the Winnipeg Jets.

The 54-year-old had coached the team since January 2014 and had made the NHL playoffs five times, including the Western Conference Finals in 2018.

“I came here on a four-month contract and found a home,” Maurice said at a press conference at the club’s arena. “I love this place and I love this team. They are a good team and I am a good coach. Sometimes you can only push that far.

“I know better than anyone that they need a new voice. They need someone else’s help to get to the next place. It’s time.”

The Jets were 13-10-5 and fifth in the Central Division when Maurice resigned. One of his assistants, Dave Lowry, has been appointed interim coach. Winnipeg was scheduled to face the Washington Capitals on Friday night at the Canada Life Center.

It would be the first time in 640 games that someone other than Maurice has been behind the bench.

Maurice addressed the players in the morning. He said he found last season particularly difficult due to restrictions caused by COVID-19. He called it a grind and said it was the first time he remembered it was not fun to come to the rink.

“If you lose some of that passion and love for the game, you can’t be as good as you should be, and that’s where I feel today,” said Maurice. “I think the team can do better. “They’re trying. They’ve done everything I asked them to do. They have to take it to another level.

“I pushed the rock up the mountain for so long, but you can only push it so far. This is the law of diminishing returns.

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Of the current coaches, only one – Jon Cooper of Tampa Bay – had been in charge of a team longer. Prior to Winnipeg, Maurice had been the head coach of the Hartford Whalers, Carolina Hurricanes and Toronto Maple Leafs.

Only Scotty Bowman, Joel Quenneville and Barry Trotz have coached more NHL games than Mauritius’ 1,684.

Maurice was Winnipeg’s second coach since the club moved from Atlanta in 2011. The club failed to advance to the playoffs in their first three years under Claude Noël. This made them after Maurice’s first full year at the helm.

The Jets achieved a 52-20-10 franchise record in 2017-18 and went on a long playoff streak before being eliminated in the conference final by the Vegas Golden Knights. Last year, they swept the Edmonton Oilers in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, but were themselves swept away by the Montreal Canadiens in the second round.

They started this season with losses in their first three games, then won the next four. But they never quite caught the pace and had lost their last two under Maurice.

“We have always been under what we should be,” said Maurice. “I felt that I had done well and that I had done my best. I am extremely proud of the work I have done here. I just couldn’t find the right catch on this team.

“I could have continued, but I would know it was wrong. I think a new voice in this city is going to be great.

Maurice said the decision to leave was his. He enjoys a lasting relationship with Mark Chipman, Executive Chairman of True North Sports and Entertainment and the Winnipeg Jets. He also gets on well with Kevin Cheveldayoff, the club’s general manager.

“The driving force in all of this is that I’m so attached to the guys in this group that I know they need something different,” said Maurice. “This team is going to be good. I love each of them and I want the best for them and I want the best for myself too. This is why I am here today.

Maurice said he was unsure if this was the last time he would coach.

“I don’t know the answer to that question at the moment,” he said. “You are an artist, just like your players. You must be at your peak. The only way for me to do it is if I felt I could come back and be better than before.

Maurice was under contract for one more season and had an option for another year if he wanted to stay. He didn’t, and he agrees.

“It was a big day when I got hired by the Jets – for the Jets and for me,” he said. “Today is also a big day. For the Jets and for me too.

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