Paul Maurice has resigned as the head coach of the Winnipeg Jets, telling a news conference Friday that he loved the team, but that it was time to move on.
The team announced his resignation Friday morning. Assistant coach Dave Lowry will assume the coaching duties on an interim basis.
"This is a good team. I'm a good coach, but sometimes when you take over a team it's kind of like you're starting at the bottom of a mountain and you're pushing a rock up," Maurice said.
"You can only get it to certain place. That's where I feel I'm at."
New leader needed, Maurice says
Maurice said he thinks the team needs a new leader at the helm to advance — and stressed that this was "100 per cent" his decision.
"And if you would allow me some arrogance, I would say I'm better positioned than anyone to know that they need a new voice," he said. "They haven't quit on me, they're a good bunch of men and I'm cheering for them, I am."
He also said coaching during the pandemic had been hard on him, saying he had lost some of his passion for the game.
"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 could be or you should be, and that's how I feel I am," he said.
When asked if he thought the team was under performing, Maurice replied that he thought they could do better.
"I think we've been very consistent. We're just under where we could be. We've been consistently under where we could be."
Jets' GM Kevin Cheveldayoff was asked if he was planning on firing Maurice if he hadn't resigned. Cheveldayoff said he and Maurice had been having conversations about his future with the team over the last few days.
"It became clear certainly in these last couple of days here with our conversations that, you know, I think he definitely felt that he couldn't push the buttons and we came to an agreement."
WATCH | Maurice on his decision to resign:
Maurice, who turns 55 on Jan. 30, coached Winnipeg into the playoffs in each of the previous four seasons. The Jets swept the Edmonton Oilers in the first round in May and before they were swept by Montreal Canadiens in the next round.
Maurice took over as Jets coach in January 2014. He coached exactly 600 regular-season games with the franchise, going 315-223-62.
His first head coaching job was with the then-Hartford Whalers ahead of the 1995-96 season. He has a career record of 775-680-99-130, spending two stints with the Carolina franchise and also coaching the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Jets are 13-10-5 heading into Friday night's game against the visiting Washington Capitals.
They lost to the Buffalo Sabres 4-2 Tuesday night, following a loss to the Vancouver Canucks last Friday.
But Maurice said the less-than-stellar week had nothing to do with his decision, saying it was a long time coming.
"There is a far longer runway on this than a loss to Buffalo," he said.
WATCH | Winnipeg Jets coach announces decision to resign:
Resignation forces team to reflect, players say
Maurice let the players know ahead of the announcement during a team meeting. Friday morning, players said the news came as a shock and was forcing them to reflect.
"I think any time a coaching change happens … I think you can't help but feel onus on yourself as a player," said Josh Morrissey. He also noted he agrees with Maurice's point that the team hasn't been playing at its best.
"When the team is underperforming, that doesn't just fall on the coach, the coach can't go on the ice."
WATCH / Players react to Maurice's resignation:
Mark Scheifele said he doesn't think the team needs a new voice as Maurice has argued, but said he accepts his decision to step down.
"I don't feel that way at all. it's been a strange year, especially for me with COVID and all that crap," he said.
"That's his decision and we can't change that. All we can do is come to work tonight and battle."
WATCH / Maurice's first day as coach of the Jets:
Lowry, 56, joined the Jets as an assistant coach in November 2020 after serving as head coach of the WHL's Brandon Wheat Kings.
The former NHL player was an assistant with the Calgary Flames and Los Angeles Kings.
He now takes over behind the Jets coach, replacing the sixth-winningest coach in NHL history.
"Paul's a world-class individual and he gave me an opportunity to come in and work with him and be a part of this group," Lowry said.
He calls himself fortunate to have been able to coach alongside someone like Maurice and "learned a tremendous amount from Paul."
The Jets need to become more consistent if they're going to emerge from a funk that's resulted in a mere four wins over the past 13 games, and Lowry said that starts with creating more speed.
"We want to continue to build the speed factor in the game and continue to find ways to play faster."