Paul Maurice’s journey to become the new Florida Panthers manager included a fortuitous remote flick and was aided by a college admissions service.
He was watching the games one evening in January, about a month after he stopped coaching the Winnipeg Jets. He ran into the Panthers and immediately told his wife that he was intrigued by this club.
Fast forward a few weeks, and Maurice’s son has been admitted to the University of Miami. It was another sign.
I think it could be good, Maurice thought to himself.
The Panthers hope he’s right. Maurice was introduced Thursday as the new Florida manager after a month-long search. His experience of him – he has the fourth most games and the seventh win of any manager in NHL history – makes him the ideal person.
“When we spoke to Paul Maurice, he was the right man,” said Panthers general manager Bill Zito. He seemed like the perfect person to help us face the challenges that lie ahead as we move towards our ultimate goal. “
Zito called Maurice last week to start the process that led to his hiring. Zito was a longtime agent of an NHL player, but he had never met Maurice, although he had several players who had played for him over the years. “
The two men got along quickly.
The Panthers become the fourth franchise led by Maurice. He started in Hartford in 1995, two seasons before the franchise moved to Carolina. He coached in Toronto for two seasons before returning to Carolina, then spent nearly nine years coaching in Winnipeg before leaving in December.
Maurice just felt he needed a break. And then he watched the Panthers play on his couch for about a month, then he felt he didn’t need to take a break anymore and that feeling cemented when he started his talks with Zito.
“They are working on things,” Maurice said. They have a plan. They are ready to work and you know it right away. I want to be part of it. Everything changed very quickly and it wasn’t like “I don’t drive 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, but has not yet won a Stanley Cup.
The same for the panthers. They reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 1996, were dying for most of the next quarter century, and then rocked things in recent years. They have won the Presidents’ Trophy this season and their core are the stars – Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Aaron Ekblad, Sergei Bobrovsky and others – under contract at least for next season.
The Panthers have issues on the table like the roster, salary cap issues to tackle this summer and it’s still unclear whether Andrew Brunette – who was promoted from assistant to interim manager when Joel Quenneville had to resign last fall – will be back with. Florida. The Panthers want him to stay, and so does Maurice.
But the ultimate goal is clear: the only thing that will make next year an absolute success is ultimate honor. Maurice said he couldn’t wait to get started.
“This is definitely where we want to go,” Maurice said. But we can’t organize a cup in October, or a retreat. So what we have to do from day one, and every day, is prepare for this job. And this must be our goal. I’m not going to show up on day one and say we’re going to win the Stanley Cup because we can’t win it that day. “