Paul Maurice has resigned as head coach of the Winnipeg Jets, the team announced on Friday.
The shocking move comes with the team in fifth place in the Central Division with a 13-10-5 record. Heading into Friday’s game against the Capitals the Jets have dropped three of their last four games.
Assistant coach Dave Lowry will take over for the remainder of the season.
The 53-year-old Maurice has coached the Jets since Jan. 2014, leading them to a 315-223-62 record. He has coached the fourth-most games in NHL history (1,684) with four franchises — Winnipeg, Toronto, and Carolina.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Maurice said he had taken the team as far as he could.
“This is a good team. I’m a good coach, but sometimes when you take over a team and it’s kind of like you’re starting at the bottom of a mountain and you’re pushing a rock to the top you can only get it to a certain place,” he said. “That’s where I feel I’m at.
“I would say I’m better positioned than anyone to know that they need a new voice. They haven’t quit on me. They’re a good bunch of men. My relationship is strong with all of them, and I’m cheering for them. I am. But when you have a 26-year professional hockey coaching career, you know. They need a new voice. They need somebody to help them get to that next place. It doesn’t need to be more experienced, more talented guy, it needs to be a different voice because it’s the right time for it, and I know that.”
“I think he definitely felt that he couldn’t push the buttons, and we came to an agreement,” said Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff.
Maurice mentioned that the NHL Return to Play bubble playoffs and the 2020-21 season with no fans was the first time he did not enjoy coming to the rink. Those COVID-19 pandemic-related issues plus him questioning if he was the right coach for the job all played into his decision.
“If you lose some of that passion for the game, the love of the game, you can still be good, but you can’t be as good as you should be or could be, and that’s how I feel I am,” he said.