The Florida Panthers hired Paul Maurice as their new head coach on Wednesday, replacing interim coach Andrew Brunette, who was a finalist for the Jack Adams Award as NHL coach of the year after taking over for Joel Quenneville eight games into the 2021-22 season and leading the Panthers to the Presidents’ Trophy.
Maurice resigned as head coach of the Winnipeg Jets in December following almost seven years with the team. Despite the success the team had under Brunette, the Florida front office must have decided that the Panthers have a better chance of winning the Stanley Cup under Maurice instead of Brunette, who led them to one playoff series win before they were swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round.
Before we start thinking about the future of the team, let’s take a look back at Maurice’s resume to this point. The 55-year-old Ontario native has plenty of NHL head coaching experience and has made trips to several different stops during his career.
Maurice’s Pre-NHL Career
Maurice played defenseman for the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) from 1984-88, totaling 40 points (eight goals, 32 assists) and 256 penalty minutes in 189 games. He was selected by the Philadelphia Flyers in the with the final pick (12th round, 252nd overall) of the 1985 NHL Draft, but never signed with them.
Following his retirement as a player, Maurice joined Windsor’s coaching staff as an assistant. In 1990, he left that role to become an assistant for the expansion Detroit Compuware Ambassadors of the OHL. Three years later, he was elevated to head coach of the team, which was now named the Detroit Jr. Red Wings.
Maurice spent two hears at the helm of the Jr. Red Wings. In 1993-94, they went 42-20-4 under him and lost the OHL Final in seven games. In 1994-95, they went 44-18-4, this time winning the OHL Final in six games and making it to the 1995 Memorial Cup Final, where they lost. After that season, Maurice was off for the NHL.
Maurice’s NHL Career
Maurice joined the Hartford Whalers as an assistant coach in 1995. The 28-year-old was promoted to head coach 12 games into the season, becoming the second-youngest head coach in NHL history (behind Gary Green, who was 26 when he became head coach of the Washington Capitals in 1979).
In 1997, the Whalers were relocated to Raleigh, North Carolina, and renamed the Carolina Hurricanes. Maurice served as head coach of the team until December 15, 2003, when he was fired following a last-place finish the season before and a slow start to that season. In all, Maurice led the team to the playoffs three times in seven full seasons at the helm, the high point coming in 2002, when they made it to the Stanley Cup Final, falling to the Detroit Red Wings in five games.
Following a one-year stint as head coach of the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, Maurice was brought up to their parent club, the Toronto Maple Leafs, in 2006. The team missed the postseason in each of the next two years and he was fired as head coach on May 7, 2008.
Maurice returned “home” to Carolina in 2008, becoming head coach of the Hurricanes 25 games into the 2008-09 season. He led them to the conference finals that year, where they were swept by the Pittsburgh Penguins. After no playoffs the next two seasons and an 8-13-4 start to the 2011-12 season, he was fired.
Maurice ventured overseas after that, going to the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) to become head coach of Matallurg Magnitogorsk in 2012. He spent one year there, leading the team to the playoffs, where it lost in the first round. He returned to North America to be closer to his family and was hired by the Winnipeg Jets in January of 2014.
Maurice and the Jets made the playoffs in five of his seven full seasons in Winnipeg, going as far as the conference finals in 2018. He stepped down in December because he felt that “they need a new voice”. Although he had never led a team to the Stanley Cup Final, Maurice is the youngest coach in NHL history to reach 1,000 game (which he did in 2010, at the age of 43), ranks fourth all-time in games coached in the league (1,684), and ranks seventh in career wins (775).
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It is clear what the goal is for the Florida Panthers next season. Anything less than a Stanley Cup Final appearance will likely be considered. This team has oodles of talent, and GM Bill Zito and the others in charge felt that Maurice gave it a better chance of reaching that goal than others, including Brunette. Whether Maurice can lead the Panthers to that elusive Stanley Cup remains to be seen.
Grant is a freelance writer covering the Florida Panthers/Columbus Blue Jackets and contributing to Morning Skate for THW. He started his own sports blog (Head in the Game) in 2013 and worked in the sports information department while at Trine University, from where he graduated in 2019. You can follow Grant on Twitter @G_Tingley.