You just had the feeling that the winds of change could be blowing in after the Winnipeg Jets suffered a 6-3 home ice loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at MTS Centre. The fifth straight loss left an underachieving, uninspired squad a disappointing 19-23-5 on the campaign. The axe finally fell on head coach Claude Noel and the organization is banking on new bench boss Paul Maurice to turn things around. Maurice certainly comes to the organization with an established NHL resume with more than 1,000 games behind the bench during tenures with the Carolina Hurricanes/Hartford Whalers organization and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
He inherits a team that has some solid pieces in place but seemingly had lost its way under Noel and was continuously hampered by inconsistent play. Maurice will certainly need to get much better play out of No. 1 goalie Ondrej Pavelec. Pavelec has struggled mightily this season with a 3.14 G-A-A and a save percentage of .898 in 35 appearances. Those numbers aren’t going to lead any team to victory on a consistent basis. The Jets have been grounded by defensive shortcomings and are finding the chore a much more difficult one after relocating from the Eastern Conference to a tough Central Division in the extremely competitive Western Conference.
The organization hasn’t added much in the way of marquee names since moving to Winnipeg from Atlanta and opted instead to make a substantial financial commitment to a number of its key core players with lucrative long-term contract extensions. That happened despite no prior playoff appearances, as the organization felt the group was ready to take the next step. The honeymoon period is clearly over in a hockey-mad market with the Jets facing the grim reality of a third straight non-playoff season in Winnipeg.
The team certainly has some movable assets prior to the trade deadline if management decides that they simply over-valued the current group that’s in place. Dustin Byfuglien and Evander Kane had their run-ins with Noel and it will be interesting to see how they respond with a fresh face behind the bench. If their overall inconsistency continues, perhaps a change of scenery could be in order.
While Maurice has a proven track record, he appears to be entering a situation where the team simply isn’t as good as general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff believed they were. The team has struggled mightily in the goals against department, has a porous power play, and is middle of the pack in goals scored.
Unless the players are able to raise their collective effort, it likely isn’t going to matter whose behind the bench, and trades prior to the deadline will be a distinct possibility.
Rick LaFitte is an NHL Writer for Rant Sports.