Can Paul Maurice coach Panthers to a Stanley Cup level?

After already hinting at some, uh, “outside the box” decision-making at head coach, the Florida Panthers indeed went with an eyebrow-raiser. Instead of sticking with interim head coach Andrew Brunette, the Panthers hired … Paul Maurice?

Honestly, it’s still a little baffling. That said, it’s not outrageous to picture it working out.

[Could Peter DeBoer work some magic with the Stars?]

If nothing else, Paul Maurice has a way with words that few NHL head coaches possess. Or, at least, few are willing to embrace the verbose sides of their vocabularies in public.

In talking up Panthers GM Bill Zito, you get a taste of how good of a salesman Paul Maurice can be.

“The interview process was wonderful,” Maurice said, via the Associated Press. “I don’t know how much time you spend with Bill, but he can jack you up about hockey in about 15 minutes, right? So, I’m in a lather an hour into the meeting and ready to go. And that’s what drives me, and that’s what I love. Really smart, passionate people that want to put on not just a great game, but a great program for the community.”

So, should Panthers fan soak up the excitement of Paul Maurice as their new head coach. Or is this just another retread continuing the NHL’s “Lather. Rinse. Repeat” cycle of familiar names and underwhelming results?

Paul Maurice brings experience to Florida Panthers, if nothing else

Truly, it can sneak up on you just how much experience Paul Maurice has as an NHL head coach. Frankly, you may agree that such a notion eventually becomes a criticism: there’s a difference between getting jobs and doing the most with them.

Since 1995-96, Paul Maurice has rarely been without a head coaching gig. With 1,685 regular-season games of head coaching experience, Maurice ranks fourth all-time. Contrast that with Andrew Brunette, who took over for Joel Quenneville and sits at 75 regular-season games of experience.

[Brunette was also a finalist for the Jack Adams Award, won by Darryl Sutter]

Yet, Brunette already accomplished something Paul Maurice never has as an NHL head coach: he won a Presidents’ Trophy.

Remarkably, Paul Maurice has been behind the bench for more losses than any coach in NHL history: 681.

Look at the list of most experienced NHL coaches, and it’s rare to see many with such skinny NHL playoff resumes. So far, Maurice has coached 92 NHL playoff games, winning 41. That number may only impress a Panthers franchise that just won its first playoff series since Maurice became an NHL head coach in 1995-96.

For coaches with longevity, you have to scroll to Ron Wilson to find a similar mix of high quantity and low quality.

Pondering ingredients, and how he cooked them

So, then, how much do you blame the teams he coached? No doubt, part of what made Paul Maurice’s longevity sneak under the radar is that he mostly coached “small-market” teams. Aside from a brief run with the Maple Leafs, Paul Maurice mostly coached the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes and the Winnipeg Jets.

An NHL head coach can only do so much.

For a significant chunk of his career, you could grade Maurice generously. He was a cook tasked with making meals with limited ingredients. But does that same excuse fly once the Winnipeg Jets amassed a collection of talent that became pretty hard to ignore?

Basically since Dustin Byfuglien went from injured to retired, the Jets never really recovered from a structural standpoint.

When you look at stars like Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, and Kyle Connor, their underlying stats look bad enough that you start asking almost existential questions. Are they really that terrible defensively, or is this also a matter of questionable coaching?

As usual, the answer’s likely somewhere in between. Yet, when Paul Maurice resigned, it was tough to shake the feeling that he ran out of ideas.

Will he find convincing answers for the Panthers where he failed with the Jets?

The most important goal: don’t mess up what works

If you’ve followed the NHL long enough, you might be conditioned to assume that a team like the Florida Panthers can only be high-flying and fun for so long. Look at the Dallas Stars. Once, they were the most exciting team in the NHL. After a few setbacks, they totally reversed course, and ended up taking pride in being boring.

After being swept by the Lightning (and slowed by the Capitals), the Panthers clearly lost faith in Andrew Brunette as an NHL-ready head coach.

That’s understandable, if harsh. But they’d be wise not to light everything on fire when so much worked. (Besides, there are worse things than losing to the defending repeat champions, and while frustrating, those losses weren’t all blowouts.)

[Should Flyers fans be excited about John Tortorella?]

If nothing else, Paul Maurice gains praise for a willingness to adapt. In media appearances, he undeniably seems sharp.

So here’s hoping he’s bright enough to tweak, rather than to make wholesale changes. It’s fair to wonder with Florida, too.

The Athletic’s Jets beat writer Murat Ates provided an intriguing breakdown of what Panthers fans might expect from Maurice. Among other things, Ates noted that Maurice’s Jets teams focused on cycling the puck rather than attacking off of the rush.

Realistically, the Panthers need to be more versatile. At times, they seemed baffled when the Capitals and especially Lightning managed to slow them down.

A total about-face wouldn’t be wise, though. Again, there’s a fear that the Panthers might overreact.

Panthers face some salary cap/free agent hurdles

Ideally, this would be that perfect chance for Paul Maurice to show that he’s actually a brilliant head coach who just needed the ideal roster. We could truly learn if he has the chops. No more excuses.

But Bill Zito and the Panthers face challenges in putting as good a team on the ice.

Via Cap Friendly, the Panthers only have a bit more than $3M in salary cap space, with just 17 roster spots covered.

That’s with Claude Giroux, Ben Chiarot, and breakthrough forechecker Mason Marchment lingering as pending UFAs.

To make things more complicated, there are also mysteries about future spending. Jonathan Huberdeau‘s been a bargain at $5.9M, but he needs a new contract after 2022-23. MacKenzie Weegar is wildly underrated, and a key catalyst for their attack. Yet his steal of a $3.25M cap hit expires after 2022-23, too. Even promising goalie Spencer Knight‘s an RFA after next season.

Could the Panthers gain some wiggle room? It’s certainly possible with someone like Patric Hornqvist ($5.3M through 2022-23).

[Lightning sweep Panthers in Second Round]

More elaborate dreams of trading Sergei Bobrovsky seem a bit outlandish, though. Even dreaming big, you’d picture bribing a rebuilder with first-rounders to take Bob’s deal.

Unfortunately, the Panthers traded away a ton of their futures already. Between trades for Sam Reinhart, Claude Giroux, and Ben Chiarot, the Panthers are down three first-rounders.

Overall, it seems like there are signs of strain. Personally, the greater concern is that the Panthers decide they want to turn away from the speedy style that gave them franchise-best results. Such ideas bring up nightmares about trading away Weegar to make room for Chiarot.

That … would be grim.

Perhaps the plan is something less extreme.

As much of a feel-good story as Anthony Duclair has been, he found himself as a healthy scratch at times during the postseason. Personally, Duclair seems worth the occasional mistakes at $3M per year. However, you could start to gain precious room by trading Duclair and Hornqvist, and doing so wouldn’t totally negate the Panthers’ ability to still be a beautiful, kinetic scoring machine.

Ultimately, we’ll learn a lot more about Paul Maurice and the Florida Panthers soon enough.

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    Teravainen scores late, Hurricanes rally to beat Rangers 3-2

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    NEW YORK – Teuvo Teravainen scored the tiebreaking goal late in the third period, Frederik Andersen stopped 29 shots and the Carolina Hurricanes rallied to beat the New York Rangers 3-2.

    Jalen Chatfield and Stefan Noesen also scored for the Metropolitan Division-leading Hurricanes, who won for the third time in four games.

    With the comeback win, the Hurricanes became the second team – following Boston – to reach the 100-point mark this season as Carolina increased its Metropolitan Division-lead over second-place New Jersey to two points and the third-place Rangers to eight.

    “That was a great effort. All 20 guys contributed and we got what we deserved,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “If we play like that, we’ll be in good shape. This time of year it gets tougher and tougher.”

    Tyler Motte and Kaapo Kakko scored for the Rangers, who had won four straight were 6-0-1 in their last seven. Igor Shesterkin finished with 36 saves as the Rangers played their third game in four nights – the previous two shutout wins at home.

    “Igor kept us in there as long as he could and we just didn’t have enough in the tank,” Rangers captain Jacob Trouba said. ”They won more battles and played a hard game.”

    Teravainen scored his 11th goal with 2:33 left on a pass from defenseman Brent Burns, redirecting the puck past Shesterkin. The Hurricanes, who trailed 1-0 and 2-1.

    “Somehow they left me open in the back side, great pass by him,” Teravainen said of the winning-goal pass to him in the slot. “We knew this would be a tough night. They have a good team. We knew we had to battle to win this game.”

    The Rangers led 1-0 entering the third and were vying for their third-straight shutout before Chatfield tied the score at 9:49 – the first goal the Rangers allowed in more than eight periods. New York was coming off a 6-0 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday night with Shesterkin in goal and a 7-0 triumph over Nashville behind Jaroslav Halak on Sunday.

    Kakko then put New York back ahead 31 seconds later with his 13th goal, only to have Noesen answer right back 18 seconds later to tie it 2-2.

    Motte opened the scoring at the 17-minute mark of the first, knocking the puck past Andersen for his third goal in four games and sixth of the season overall.

    The Rangers hadn’t lost in regulation since a 4-2 defeat on March 4 at Boston.

    “Tonight we didn’t play near well enough to beat that team,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. ”Honestly, the whole game they outplayed us. They were a lot quicker. They managed the puck real well … We didn’t play our game.”


    Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal played his 729th game with Carolina on Tuesday, tying defenseman Glen Wesley for the second-most games played in franchise history since relocation from Hartford in 1997. Staal, 34, trails only his brother Eric, who played 909 games for the Hurricanes from 2003-16.


    Hurricanes: Host the Rangers on Thursday night to finish the home-and-home set in the opener of a four-game homestand.

    Rangers: At Carolina on Thursday night to open a two-game trip.

    Ullmark’s 40 saves carries Bruins past Senators, 2-1

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    BOSTON – Linus Ullmark made 40 saves, Jake DeBrusk had the go-ahead goal and the NHL-best Boston Bruins continued their pursuit of the league’s record for regular-season victories with a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators.

    “I thought he was outstanding and he needed to be,” Boston coach Jim Montgomery said of Ullmark. “Unfortunately we gave up a lot of good looks, a lot of odd-man rushes because of our puck management and he bailed us out like he has all year.”

    David Krejci added a power-play goal for Boston, which won its fourth straight.

    Dylan Gambrell scored for the Senators and Mads Sogaard made 33 stops.

    “We had a shooters’ mentality for two periods,” Ottawa coach D.J. Smith said. “The third period, they’ve won 54 games now, they’re not going to give you an odd-man rush, they’re not going to give you anything. You’re going to have to earn it.”

    The Bruins posted their 54th win and with 12 games left are on pace to break the mark of 62, set by the Detroit Red Wings in 1995-96 and matched by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2018-19.

    Chasing the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot, Ottawa has lost six of seven following a season-high, five-game winning streak.

    Coming off a 3-2 road trip where they won the last three games by a combined score of 15-2 that included two shutouts by backup Jeremy Swayman, the Bruins converted on a two-man, power-play advantage to tie the game at 1 midway into the opening period when Krejci poked in a rebound from the edge of the crease.

    DeBrusk completed a nifty play with Brad Marchand when he collected a pass cutting down the slot at full speed, shifted and tucked a rebound past Sogaard at 15:52 of the first period for his 23rd goal.

    “It was ‘all world.’ I saw him and he fed it through a lot of guys for a breakaway,” DeBrusk said of the pass. “It was one of those passes where I didn’t know what to do. I was going to point at him (after) but I was going too fast.”

    Gambrell’s wraparound score gave Ottawa a 1-0 edge.

    “I thought I played a good game today,” Sogaard said. “I just battled and stayed with it the entire way. … These ones are tough because we were so close.”


    Ullmark stopped 22 shots in the second period with at least a dozen of them high-quality chances. During an Ottawa PP, he jumped from a crouch to make a right-shoulder stop on Alex DeBrincat’s bid from in close.

    “We talked about it,” defenseman Hampus Lindholm said of the second period. “We know we’re a good team in the third and wanted to tighten it up for him. … They got a lot of chances that were our own fault in the second.”


    The Bruins highlighted women who work and compete in the sports community, having Olympic gold medalist and Boston Pride defender Kali Flanagan accompany Bruins players during pregame walk-ins along with local high school scholastic award winners. In addition, in-arena host Michaela Johnson handled the PA for the night and they also left yellow roses at the seats of female reporters.

    NOTES: The Senators entered the game as the only team holding an advantage in their series against the Bruins this season, winning twice in three games. … Montgomery said after the morning skate that defenseman Derek Forbort would likely be sidelined with a lower-body injury at least through the rest of the regular season. … DeBrusk, playing on the top line most of the season, is four off his career-high goal total, set in 2018-19.


    Senators: Host Tampa Bay on Thursday.

    Bruins: Host longtime rival Montreal in an Original Six matchup Thursday.

    Boldy’s goal with 1.3 left in OT lifts Wild over Devils

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    NEWARK, N.J. – Matt Boldy scored with 1.3 seconds left in overtime and Filip Gustavsson made a career-high 47 saves to give the Minnesota Wild a 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils.

    The game was a chippy, defensive struggle. After two scoreless periods, the Devils were outshooting the Wild 22-19.

    Minnesota finally broke through 6:41 into the third when Mason Shaw scored his seventh goal of the season on a wraparound.

    Timo Meier answered for the Devils five minutes later with his 35th goal of the season on a wraparound of his own.

    New Jersey was unable to convert on a late power play, and the teams went to overtime.

    It was a back-and-forth five minutes of extra hockey, with both goaltenders making good saves. After Jack Hughes hit the post for the Devils, the puck caromed off a post to Boldy and he beat the buzzer with his 23rd goal of the season.

    Vitek Vanecek stopped 27 shots for New Jersey.

    NOTES: The Devils are 10-4 in overtime, while the Wild improved to 4-5.


    Wild: Play at Philadelphia on Thursday night.

    Devils: Play at Buffalo on Friday night.

    Avalanche coach Jared Bednar signs extension through 2026-27

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    DENVER — Colorado Avalanche coach Jared Bednar has signed a three-year extension that will keep him in charge of the reigning Stanley Cup champions through the 2026-27 season.

    The new deal for the winningest head coach in club history kicks in once the current contract runs out after the 2023-24 season.

    Bednar, 51, is the only person to win championships in the ECHL, AHL and NHL as head coach. He directed the Avalanche to their third Stanley Cup title in team history last season by beating Tampa Bay, the two-time defending champions.

    This season, the Avalanche have dealt with an array of injuries, which include missing captain Gabriel Landeskog all year after he underwent knee surgery in October. But they’re starting to creep closer to being healthy – and working their way up the standings. Colorado is riding a six-game winning streak to remain in a tight race with Dallas and Minnesota for the Central Division crown. The top spot in the Western Conference is in play, too.

    “Jared has done a tremendous job behind the bench and certainly deserves this extension and to continue as the leader of our team,” Joe Sakic, the team’s president of hockey operations, said in a statement.

    It wasn’t the prettiest of starts for Bednar in his inaugural season for Colorado. In 2016-17, his team amassed only 48 points (22-56-4) to finish last in the league. Since then, it’s been full steam ahead for Bednar and the Avalanche. They became the first NHL squad to go from worst to first in a span of four seasons or less since the 1970-71 Bruins, according to research by the team.

    In addition, Bednar has led the Avalanche to five straight playoff appearances – and is closing in on a sixth – to become the first Avalanche coach to accomplish the feat. His 40 postseason wins are the second-most in team history, trailing only Bob Hartley (49).

    “His strength as a communicator, his relationship with the players, the way he prepares each and every day is a huge reason our team has been so successful,” general manager Chris MacFarland said. “He is an exceptional leader.”

    Bednar is currently the third-longest tenured coach in the league, behind only Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper (March 2013) and Pittsburgh’s Mike Sullivan (December 2015).

    “Being able to lead this team over the last seven years has been a privilege,” said Bednar, whose team faces the Penguins on Wednesday. “I am grateful and excited to have the opportunity to continue building on what we’ve accomplished so far.”

    Bednar captured a Kelly Cup (ECHL) with the South Carolina Stingrays in 2009, along with a Calder Cup (AHL) with the Lake Erie Monsters in 2016.