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Paul Maurice steps down unexpectedly as the Winnipeg Jets' head coach – The Globe and Mail

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Paul Maurice had been the Winnipeg Jets’ coach since January of 2014 and had taken the team to the NHL playoffs five times.JOHN WOODS/The Canadian Press

Paul Maurice stunned the hockey world on Friday when he announced his resignation as head coach of the Winnipeg Jets.

The 54-year-old had been the team’s coach since January of 2014 and had taken it to the NHL playoffs five times, including the Western Conference final in 2018.

“I came here on a four-month contract and found a home,” Maurice said during a news conference at the club’s home arena. “I love this place and I love this team. This is a good team and I am good coach. Sometimes, you can only push so far.

“I am in a better position than anyone to know they need a new voice. They need somebody else’s help to get to the next place. It’s time.”

The Jets were 13-10-5 and fifth in the Central Division when Maurice stepped down. One of his assistants, Dave Lowry, has been appointed interim coach. Winnipeg was scheduled to play the Washington Capitals on Friday night at the Canada Life Centre.

It would be the first time in 640 games that someone other than Maurice was behind the bench.

Maurice addressed the players in the morning. He said he had found last season especially difficult because of the restrictions caused by COVID-19. He called it a grind and said it was the first time he could remember it not being fun to come to the rink.

“If you lose some of that passion and love for the game, you can’t be as good as you should be, and that’s where I feel I am today,” Maurice said. “I think the team can do better. “They are trying. They did everything I asked them to do. They need to get to a different level.

“I pushed the rock up the mountain for so long, but you can only push it so far. It is the law of diminishing returns.”

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Among current coaches only one – Jon Cooper of Tampa Bay – had been in charge of a team longer. Before Winnipeg, Maurice had been the head coach of the Hartford Whalers, Carolina Hurricanes and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Only Scotty Bowman, Joel Quenneville and Barry Trotz have coached more NHL games than Maurice’s 1,684.

Maurice was Winnipeg’s second coach since the club relocated from Atlanta in 2011. The club failed to qualify for the playoffs in its first three years under Claude Noël. It made them after Maurice’s first full year at the helm.

The Jets went a franchise best 52-20-10 in 2017-18 and made a long playoff run before being eliminated in the conference final by the Vegas Golden Knights. Last year, they swept the Edmonton Oilers in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, but were swept themselves by the Montreal Canadiens in Round 2.

They started this season with losses in their first three games and then won the next four. But they never quite got into a rhythm and had lost their past two under Maurice.

“We have been consistently under what we should be,” Maurice said. “I felt I had done well and I had done my best. I am tremendously proud of the work I’ve done here. I just couldn’t find the right grab on this team.

“I could have continued, but I would know it wasn’t right. I think a new voice in this town is going to be great.”

Maurice said the decision to leave was his alone. He has had an enduring relationship with Mark Chipman, the executive chairman of True North Sports and Entertainment and the Winnipeg Jets. He also got along well with Kevin Cheveldayoff, the club’s general manager.

“The driver in all of this is that I am so attached to the guys in this group that I know they need something different,” Maurice said. “This team is going to be good. I love every one of them and I want the best for them and I want the best for me, too. That is why I am here today.”

Maurice said he is unsure if this is the last time he will coach.

“I don’t know the answer to that right now,” he said. “You are a performer, just like your players. You have to be at your peak. The only way I would do that is if I felt I could come back and be better than I was before.”

Maurice was under contract for one more season and had an option for one other year if he wanted to stay. He didn’t, and he is fine with it.

“It was a great day when I got hired by the Jets – for the Jets and for me,” he said. “Today’s a great day, too. For the Jets and for me as well.”

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TRAIKOS: The NHL apparently wants McDavid and the Oilers to miss the playoffs – Toronto Sun

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Edmonton’s playoff hopes took a serious hit on Thursday, with the 13th-place team losing 6-0 to Florida. It was the Oilers’ seventh straight loss — and their 13th loss in the past 15 games — and it put them six points back of San Jose for the final Wild Card spot in the West.

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The team needs Evander Kane more than ever, as well as an upgrade in net and possibly a new voice behind the bench.

Based on what lies ahead, it could also use a ventilator.

On Wednesday, the league released its revised schedule for all the games that had been postponed due to COVID-19. Mostly, the NHL’s schedule makers just crammed a bunch of games (95 in total) during the three-week window that was originally blocked off for the Olympic break.

Now, there is no break. And for the Oilers, who play their final 46 games over 98 days — roughly a game every other day for the next three months — there’s little chance to take even the slightest of breaths.

Seriously, what did Connor McDavid ever do to Gary Bettman to get him so angry? Edmonton’s path to the post-season is not just an uphill climb — it’s now also littered with potholes, as well as several back-to-backs and a couple of insane stretches where they will play three games in four nights.

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Even if they manage to survive this gauntlet and sneak into the playoffs, what’s the point if they won’t have anything left in the tank?

Of course, it’s not just Edmonton that will be challenged in the weeks ahead.

Every team got a bunch of games dumped on their lap next month. Winnipeg now has 10 games in 17 days, while Montreal will play eight games in 15 days.

All it means is that February, which typically represented the dog days of the calendar might now be the most pivotal month on the schedule.

Depth is going to be tested like never before. You better have a backup goalie, because you’re going to need him. And you better have a fourth line that plays more than six minutes a night.

For Edmonton, this could be just a little problematic.

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The Oilers don’t have a backup goalie. These days, they don’t even have a No. 1 that they trust. As for spreading the minutes around, Oilers’ defenceman Darnell Nurse is averaging the second-most ice time of any player in the NHL, while Leon Draisaitl and McDavid are logging more minutes than any other forward.

With the team chasing the pack — and playing from behind in most games — there’s little chance that their ice time will be decreased. If anything, it’s probably going to be going up, especially if Dave Tippett is still coaching.

After all, the Oilers can’t afford to have another losing month. They can barely afford to have another losing week.

With so many games scheduled in so few days, the playoff picture is coming into focus faster than ever. By the end of the month, we should have a clear indication of where teams stand heading into the March 21 trade deadline.

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That is, if any teams are left standing by then.

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*****

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

Record: 24-10-3, 51 points (3rd in Atlantic)

Games rescheduled: 9

The result: From Jan. 31 to Feb. 27, Toronto plays 12 games in 29 days. But that is still less than the 14 games they played in the month of November.

What it means: The Leafs got off real easy. They now have two back-to-backs scheduled, but one is a home-and-home against Devils — meaning both teams will be at a disadvantage — and the other features the 10th-place Blue Jackets and the last-place Canadiens If anything, this could be Toronto’s chance to put points in the bank.

OTTAWA SENATORS

Record: 11-20-2, 24 points (9th in Atlantic)

Games rescheduled: 15

The result: The Senators’ schedule looks completely different. They now have 10 new games in February — including two that were originally scheduled for April and got moved up. Too bad fans won’t be allowed in the building for most of those games.

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What it means: Though Ottawa is probably not going to make the playoffs, there had been talk that the Senators would be playing games in May. That didn’t happen. But there are 16 games in April, at a time when the 31st overall team could be playing meaningless hockey.

MONTREAL CANADIENS

Record: 8-25-6, 22 points (10th in Atlantic)

Games rescheduled: 12

The result: During a three-week span in February, Montreal will play eight games in 15 days. All but one of those games is at home, which might not be a good thing based on how the team has been playing.

What it means: Not a whole lot. It’s a pity the NHL even bothered to reschedule Montreal’s games. All it does is delay the inevitable.

CALGARY FLAMES

Record: 18-11-6, 42 points (5th in Pacific)

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Games rescheduled: 10

The result: The revised schedule includes three back-to-backs in February and increases the number of games they’ll play in the month from four to 11. But Calgary also gets seven straight games at home.

What it means: Compared to the teams they’re jockeying with for playoff positions, the Flames got off relatively easy. Their toughest stretch is a back-to-back against Vegas and Toronto. But they are book-ended with games against Arizona and the New York Islanders, which should allow Calgary to breathe while others might be running out of breath.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS

Record: 18-18-3, 39 points (6th in Pacific)

Games rescheduled: 7

The result: Vancouver will play six of the seven rescheduled games during what was supposed to be the Olympic break (Feb. 7 to 22). All but one of those games are at home. Consider it payback for what the league put the Canucks through a year ago.

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What it means: If you were hoping the Canucks had a shot at grabbing a wild card spot, you’re probably feeling optimistic right now. Sure, they still have to win those games. But considering that the team is 10-3-1 since Bruce Boudreau stepped behind the bench, would it surprise anyone if Vancouver ends up with the most points out of the Canadian teams out West?

EDMONTON OILERS

Record: 18-16-2, 38 points (7th in Pacific)

Games rescheduled: 9

The result: Someone in the league office does not appear to be an Oilers fan. How else do you explain that Edmonton now comes out of the All-Star Game (in which Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are both attending) and immediately plays eight games in 13 days? Or that the team twice plays three games in four nights?

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What it means: Kiss those playoffs goodbye! Seriously, this schedule is going to reveal what the Oilers are made of. This has already been a difficult season for McDavid and Draisaitl, who are feeling the pressure like never before. Now, they have to chase a playoff spot while running on fumes, with the team staring down a five-game road swing at the end of February against Tampa Bay, Florida, Carolina, Philadelphia and Chicago.

WINNIPEG JETS

Record: 17-13-6, 40 points (5th in Central)

Games rescheduled: 9

The result: From Feb. 11 to Feb. 21, Winnipeg plays seven games in 11 days.

What it means: After playing six times in the past four weeks, the Jets are going to be busy in February. There are now 12 games scheduled, with 11 of them coming in the final three weeks of the month. The team will pretty much be playing every other night — or every night, considering there are three back-to-backs also scheduled. And because six of those games are against divisional rivals, this should be a make-or-break month for Winnipeg.

mtraikos@postmedia.com

twitter.com/Michael_Trakos

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Bombers sign All-Star OT Bryant – TSN

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The two-time defending Grey Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers re-signed another cornerstone player on Friday, inking All-Star offensive tackle Stanley Bryant to a one-year contract. 

The 35-year-old was selected as the CFL’s Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman for a third time in his career this season in addition to being named to his sixth All-Star team.

The Bombers also signed All-Star linebacker Adam Bighill as well as starting quarterback and Most Outstanding Player Zach Collaros to extensions this week. 

Bryant had played in 103 consecutive games for the Bombers since arriving in Winnipeg in 2015 before that streak came to an end in November. 

The East Carolina product also won a Grey Cup with the Calgary Stampeders in 2014. 

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Soccer-Brazil to stop unvaccinated footballers playing in top leagues

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The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) said on Friday players must be vaccinated against COVID-19 to take part in this year’s league championship,

The CBF said it was in constant contact with health bodies and had sent an updated list of requirements to member clubs.

“One of these is the obligation to present a full vaccination certificate against COVID-19 to the CBF’s Medical Commission,” it said in a statement.

The top four national divisions kick off in the second week of April.

Brazil coach Tite has said he was not selecting Atletico Madrid defender Renan Lodi for his squad for upcoming World Cup qualifiers because he was not fully vaccinated.

The issue of athletes’ stance on vaccines has dominated sports headlines recently after tennis player Novak Djokovic, who is unvaccinated, was deported ahead of the Australian Open.

 

(Reporting by Andrew Downie; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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