5:33 pm: The Panthers have made Maurice’s hiring official. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that it’s a three-year deal for Maurice, coming in at just under $4MM per season. In a release announcing the news, general manager Bill Zito gave the following explanation:
At the completion of our season, we began an in-depth examination of all aspects of our team. After taking the appropriate amount of time for analysis, we determined that we needed the perfect fit to continue with the growth of our players and stay on the path for our franchise goals. Paul’s experience and intellect were just what we were looking for and we are thrilled for him to step into the role of head coach.
9:14 am: The Florida Panthers won’t be keeping Andrew Brunette on as head coach after all. Several reports have surfaced including from Darren Dreger of TSN that the Panthers are in the process of hiring Paul Maurice as their next head coach, and that it will be a three-year deal when completed. Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic adds that Brunette could still remain with the organization in some fashion, though Dreger expects him to look for a fresh start.
Maurice, 55, resigned his position as head coach of the Winnipeg Jets in December, noting that the team needed a new voice after nearly a decade there. One of the most experienced coaches in NHL history, Maurice was hired by the Hartford Whalers when he was still just 28 years old and has been behind a bench ever since, racking up 1,685 regular season games in the process.
Despite those decades of coaching though, Maurice doesn’t have a ton of postseason success, having only progressed past the first round on four occasions and missing the playoffs entirely in more than half his seasons behind the bench. His best playoff run came in 2002 when he took the Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup Final, only to lose in five games to the Detroit Red Wings.
Still, there are few coaches more well-respected around the league than Maurice, and he’ll now be walking into an outstanding opportunity with the Panthers. Florida won the Presidents’ Trophy with a 58-18-6 scoring at a pace rarely seen in the modern game. Four players cracked the 30-goal mark, with captain Aleksander Barkov leading the way with 39 in just 67 games. Jonathan Huberdeau had 115 points to finish second in the Art Ross race, and the Panthers have difference-makers at defense and in net.
That success though is why so many believed Brunette would be given another chance after taking over from Joel Quenneville early in the year. Fifty-one of those 58 wins came under the rookie bench boss, who posted a .720 points percentage in his first go-round.
There were critiques of his ability in the playoffs when going up against Jon Cooper and the Tampa Bay Lightning, who swept them out of the second round, but it was still hard to believe Brunette wouldn’t be given at least another crack at it.
By moving on to Maurice, the management group in Florida has made a clear statement that they believe there is no time to waste in their current window. Notably, Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar will be unrestricted free agents after the upcoming season, Sam Reinhart and Anthony Duclair will be the year after that, and Aaron Ekblad, Sam Bennett, and Carter Verhaeghe the year after that.
The 2022-23 season could be the last chance for the entire group to stay intact (or at least reasonably intact), so they’ve taken their shot with an experienced coach to try and take them all the way.
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