SUNRISE — When new Florida Panthers coach Paul Maurice resigned from his post with the Winnipeg Jets, he cited a loss for the love of the game and his team needing a new voice as reasons why he left.
Two months into his ninth season as head coach, the Jets found themselves outside of the playoff picture with a 13-11-5 record and, after a long period of debating it, Maurice decided it was time to go.
“Sometimes when you take over a team, it’s kind of like you’re starting at the bottom of a mountain and you’re trying to push a rock up to the top,” Maurice said when he resigned.
“You can only get them to a certain place. When you’ve had a 26-year coaching professional hockey career, you know they need a new voice. They need someone to help them get to that next place.”
The Panthers hope Maurice is the coach who can get them to where they want to be.
On Thursday morning, he was officially introduced as the 18th coach in franchise history and he said just talking to general manager Bill Zito about the possibility of coaching these Panthers got him as excited to get going as he has ever been in a long career coaching hockey at all levels of the game.
“I’m excited about the challenge,’’ Maurice said during a press conference Thursday morning in Sunrise.
“I’ve watched this team perform strongly in the playoffs last year and then to watch the progression from year to year, you have to be excited as a coach and you want to be a part of that.”