SUNRISE, Florida – Paul Maurice’s journey to become the new Florida Panthers coach included a chance flick of the remote, plus he was helped by a college admissions department.
He was watching matches one night in January, about a month after he stepped aside as manager of the Winnipeg Jets. He ran into the Panthers and quickly told his wife that he was intrigued by their club.
Fast forward a few weeks, and Maurice’s son has been admitted to the University of Miami. It was another sign.
“I’m thinking, ‘Hey, this could be good,'” Maurice said.
The Panthers hope he’s right. Maurice was introduced Thursday as the new Florida manager, with the team pointing out that in a month-long search he found that his experience – has the fourth most games and seventh most wins of any manager in the league. history of the NHL – makes him the right person.
“When we spoke to Paul Maurice, it was overwhelming that this was the man for it,” said Panthers general manager Bill Zito. “It was ideal to take us into the challenges that await us to move forward as we move towards our goal.”
Zito called Maurice last week to start the interview process, which led to his hiring. Zito was a longtime agent in the NHL but had never met Maurice, even though he had several players who had played for him over the years.
Whatever Zito told Maurice worked and worked quickly.
“The interview process was wonderful,” Maurice said. “I don’t know how much time you spend with Bill, but he can get you around hockey in about 15 minutes, right? So, I’m an hour from the start of the meeting and I’m ready to go. And that’s what drives me. , and that’s what I love. Really smart and passionate people who want to create not just a great game, but a great program for the community. “
The Panthers will become the fourth franchise coached by Maurice. He started in Hartford in 1995, two seasons before the franchise moved to Carolina. He coached Toronto for two seasons before returning to Carolina, then spent nearly nine years as a manager in Winnipeg before stepping down in December.
Maurice simply felt he needed a break. And then he watched the Panthers play from his couch about a month later. He no longer needed a break and that feeling solidified when he started his talks with Zito.
“They are working on things,” Maurice said. “They have a plan if that happens, a plan if that happens. And they’re ready to work and you know right away, ‘I want to be a part of it.’ So that switch was activated very quickly and it wasn’t from “I’m not training anymore.” It was, ‘I’m only going to a place where I think I can make a difference.’ “
Maurice has been an NHL coach for nearly 30 years and has not yet won a Stanley Cup.
Same goes for the Panthers. They reached the Stanley Cup final in 1996, were dying for most of the next quarter century, then started filming in the last few years. They have won the Presidents’ Trophy this season and have most of their stellar core – Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Aaron Ekblad, Sergei Bobrovsky and others – under contract for at least next season.
They have some questions on the list, some salary cap complexities to tackle this summer, and it’s unclear whether Andrew Brunette – who was promoted from assistant to acting coach when Joel Quenneville was due to resign last fall – will be returning to Florida. The Panthers want him to stay, as does Maurice.
But the ultimate goal is clear: the only thing that will make next year an absolute success is the ultimate hockey prize, and Maurice says he can’t wait to get started.
“Of course, this is the aspiration and where we want to go,” said Maurice. “But we can’t do a Cup race in October, or in retreat. So, what we have to do from Day 1, and every day, is to prepare for that job. And that has to be our goal. We’re not going to come to Day. 1 and we will say: ‘We will win the Stanley Cup’ because we cannot win it that day. “