When the Winnipeg Jets finally put Claude Noel out of his misery and brought in Paul Maurice, you could expect an initial reaction from the players. The result? A convincing 5-1 thrashing of the Phoenix Coyotes.
It may be a gruesome metaphor, but teams that fire coaches often get a “dead cat bounce” once the replacement takes over. It makes sense: Professional athletes don’t like losing and they take it personally when their boss gets the ax. Whether or not they liked or even respected the guy is irrelevant; they’re the ones on the ice, they’re the ones who didn’t get the job done.
So when the Winnipeg Jets finally put Claude Noel out of his misery and brought in Paul Maurice, you could expect an initial reaction from the players. The result? A convincing 5-1 thrashing of the Phoenix Coyotes.
Funny enough, it was some of the most maligned players on the team that got things going. After the Jets surrendered the first goal of the game, defenseman/forward/whatever-he’s-huge Dustin Byfuglien did some great digging behind the net, coming in with speed and setting up Olli Jokinen to tie the game less than a minute later.
In net, Ondrej Pavelec wasn’t necessarily busy, but he did make some excellent stops when he had to, while his Olympic peer Mike Smith had a rough night in the Coyotes crease, enabling the Jets to jump all over the usually solid Desert Dogs.
Winnipeg fans gave the team a standing ovation when all was said and done and Maurice got what he wanted – bounceback after surrendering the first goal. The new bench boss even got the win without one of his best players; Evander Kane is still day-to-day with a hand injury.
Will the Jets ride Maurice and his good vibes to a playoff spot in the West? Let’s not go crazy, here. The team is still dead-last in the Central Division and nowhere near the Western wild card race, but at least there is legitimate hope in the short-term.
The Jets always looked a lot better on paper than they did on the ice and if Maurice can keep the mojo going, that will eventually turn into long-term success. And dare I say, even a playoff game in Winnipeg one day.