Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice won his 600th game earlier this season and will coach his 1,400th contest in short order, but the two positive milestones may go overlooked after he tied the record for most losses by an NHL coach.
There are two types of records and milestones one can find in the history books. The first are the more celebrated achievements, the prestigious ones that the stars of the game hold for most goals in a game, most points by a rookie or most shutouts in a season. The others are those unfortunate marks, ones for the most goals against in a game, most losses in a season or, when it was a much more respected statistic, worst plus-minus over the course of a campaign.
For Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice, this season will feature two accomplishments of the first kind. Earlier this season, when Winnipeg downed the Minnesota Wild 4-3 to earn their fourth win of the campaign, Maurice won his 600th game behind an NHL bench. It’s a mark only 16 other coaches have reached, including Hall of Famers Pat Quinn, Dick Irvin, Al Arbour and Scotty Bowman, while active coaches to win 600 games include Joel Quenneville, Ken Hitchcock, Barry Trotz, Alain Vigneault and Mike Babcock. And with four more games behind Winnipeg’s bench, Maurice will reach another milestone when he becomes the 10th coach in NHL history to reach 1,400 games. By season’s end, he will have moved ahead of all but six coaches.
Unfortunately, Maurice has also managed to land one of the milestones of the other variation this season, as well.
On Thursday night in Winnipeg, Maurice’s Jets entered the contest against the Chicago Blackhawks with their bench boss sitting on 576 career regulation losses, the second-most in NHL history, one behind Arbour, the longtime Islanders coach who led New York to four Stanley Cups. But when the final buzzer sounded and the Blackhawks downed the Jets 5-1, Maurice picked up the 577th loss of his big-league tenure, officially tying the mark for most regulation losses in an NHL coaching career. And while we don’t doubt the Jets’ ability to keep picking up wins this season, at some point soon, maybe even some point before he reaches game No. 1,400, Maurice is going to find himself in sole possession of the record for most losses by an NHL coach.
Maurice matching — and eventually setting — the loss record doesn’t necessarily reflect poorly on his ability as a coach, mind you. Maurice’s career dates back more than 22 years, all the way back to the 1995-96 campaign when he took over the Hartford Whalers bench as a 29-year-old, and he’s been behind an NHL bench for 20 seasons since then. It’s not as though he’s got a sub-.500 record, either. Over the course of his 1,396 games, Maurice is a healthy 614-577-205, giving him a respectable .513 points percentage for his career and only six times in 18 full seasons has he had a team finish with a points percentage below .500. Nevertheless, the history books will say he’s lost more games than any other bench boss in the history of the league.
However, Maurice isn’t the only coach who will hit some milestones — both good and bad — this season. Here are several other coaches who will hit personal marks this campaign:
Joel Quenneville, Chicago Blackhawks — 1,600 games and 500 losses
On Feb. 21, when the Blackhawks host the Ottawa Senators in the penultimate game of a five-game homestand, Quenneville is set to stand behind the bench for the 1,600th time. As such, he will become the third coach in league history, behind only Arbour and Bowman, to have coached 1,600 NHL contests. By the time that comes to pass, though, Quenneville will have also become the 10th coach to watch his team drop 500 games. He sits at 498 career losses and with Chicago playing five of its next six games on the road, there’s a chance he could reach 500 losses before the new year.
Ken Hitchcock, Dallas Stars — 800 wins and 500 losses
Hitchcock was supposed to be in his final year behind an NHL bench when he signed on with the Blues last season, but after being let go by St. Louis after a shaky mid-season performance, ‘Hitch’ found himself back in familiar territory with the Dallas Stars. Now, he has a chance to earn himself some career milestones before he ride off into the sunset. The first of those will be 800 wins, which Hitchcock needs only one more victory to achieve. Doing so will make him the third coach behind Quenneville and Bowman to hit 800 wins. But Hitchcock could also very well reach 500 losses. He’s only 13 losses away, and there’s a fair chance the Stars drop another 13 games in regulation this season.
Barry Trotz, Washington Capitals — 1,500 games
Given he spent the first 15 years of his coaching career with what was an expansion organization, one might not expect Trotz to be climbing the all-time wins list the way he has, but he happens to be only five wins back of passing Lindy Ruff for fifth all-time in wins by a coach. That victory, which will be win No. 737, won’t be a nice, round milestone for Trotz, however. What will be, though, is his 1,500th game as an NHL coach, which is scheduled to come when the Capitals go into Chicago to play the Blackhawks on Feb. 17.
Alain Vigneault, New York Rangers — 1,200 games
The notable milestone for Vigneault, like Trotz, is a games-coached mark, as he sits a mere 35 contests away from directing traffic for 1,200 NHL games. That game will come close to the end of the campaign, March 3, when the Rangers face the Oilers in Edmonton. But what might stand out more to Vigneault is his pursuit of the top 10 in all-time wins. With 630 to his name, he’s 19 wins shy of passing Ron Wilson for 10th. An up-and-down season hasn’t been all that kind to the Rangers, but another 19 wins in 51 games seems more than likely.
Bruce Boudreau, Minnesota Wild — 500 wins and 50 playoff wins
As it stands, Boudreau’s Wild are clinging to one of the wild-card spots in the Western Conference. The expectation surrounding Minnesota this season, though, is that they’ll make the playoffs. And en route to fighting for the post-season, Boudreau will be inching ever closer to 500 career wins. He’s 26 shy at the moment, so the Wild will need to have a big push to make the milestone a reality for Boudreau this season. Likewise, Boudreau will have to guide Minnesota on a three-round playoff run if he wants to hit 50 playoff wins in his career.
Randy Carlyle, Anaheim Ducks — 50 playoff wins
If any coach stands a chance of hitting a playoff milestone this season, it’s Carlyle. Unlike others who need multiple wins to hit a new plateau in post-season performance, Carlyle needs his Ducks to pick up just a single victory. Presently, he sits at 49 playoff wins — he has a career record of 49-37 — with a chance to become the 27th coach to win 50 games in the post-season. The issue right now is that his banged-up Ducks squad is having trouble keeping pace in the Pacific Division. When healthy, though, Anaheim might be able to go on a run, and one win in the playoffs? That should be no problem.
John Tortorella, Columbus Blue Jackets — 50 playoff wins
The Blue Jackets under Tortorella have been nothing short of excellent. In less than three seasons, the team has pieced together a 103-68-17 record for a .593 points percentage. The tricky thing for Columbus, however, has been winning when it matters. Last season, the Blue Jackets won just once in the post-season and exited in five games. This year, though, Tortorella is hoping to drive the team forward and, in the process, become only of 27 coaches with 50 playoff wins. He needs six more to make that a reality.
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