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Paul Maurice Should Have Been a Jack Adams Finalist

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Paul maurice
Florida Panthers coach Paul Maurice was not a finalist for the Jack Adams Award announced Friday; his predecessor, Andrew Brunette, was. // AP Photos

FORT LAUDERDALE — Florida Panthers coach Paul Maurice was not one of the three finalists for the Jack Adams Award, which goes to the top coach in the NHL.

Maurice should have been in the mix after helping the Panthers stay above water during the season’s opening months without their top defensemen.

Florida also finished with the second-fewest goals allowed.

Paul maurice

Colby D. Guy – FHN

Yet the NHL’s broadcasters did not name him one of the top three coaches in the league in 2023-24.

Maurice was not even in the conversation, according to a poll of writers by ESPN.

Were Winnipeg’s Rick Bowness, Nashville’s Andrew Brunette, and Vancouver’s Rick Tocchet deserving of their nominations?

Absolutely.

Tocchet is likely the runaway favorite for the award after turning a Canucks team that finished near the bottom of the Pacific Division last season into division champions.

Brunette also took a Predators team that missed the playoffs last year to the postseason in his first season behind the bench.

This is Brunette’s second appearance as a Jack Adams finalist.

His first was with the Panthers.

He did not get a chance to repeat his success here.

“Last time it didn’t go quite so well,” the affable Brunette joked on Friday.

“I think I lost my job a little while later — I don’t know how to take it any more.”

Bowness coached the team which allowed fewer goals than the Panthers.

But Maurice deserved his flowers as well.

More than one expert projected the Panthers to miss the playoffs or scratch and claw their way into the dance because of Brandon Montour and Aaron Ekblad’s early absence.

Sure, general manager Bill Zito deserves a lot of credit for signing Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Niko Mikkola, Dmitry Kulikov, and Uvis Balinskis to contracts in the offseason to remedy the issue, but Maurice deserves just as much credit for making it work.

The Panthers went 10-4-1, allowed the 10th-fewest goals against per game in the league (2.87), and allowed the fourth-fewest shots per game prior to Ekblad and Montour’s return to the lineup on Nov. 16.

After all, it was his system that ultimately helped the Panthers make a deep run in the playoffs once it clicked in the second half of the 2022-23 season.

This year, it clicked for the entire year, and the results show it.

Florida finished first in its division at 52-24-6, allowed the second-fewest goals in the league, had the second-best road record in the league, and had the best goal differential in the NHL at plus-68.

Many players also credit Maurice and his system for their success this season.

Sam Reinhart became a 50-goal scorer for the first time while playing good enough defense to garner some Selke votes.

The first person he credited?

Maurice.

“I think that speaks to the way we try to play,” Reinhart said shortly after scoring his 50th goal.

“Everyone’s playing the same way, everyone’s creating offense the same way and that’s not cheating the game. It’s coming back, being on the right side of pucks and creating ice that way. So it fits in well to our system.”

Matthew Tkachuk, among other players, started to put a more significant emphasis on the defensive end as they bought into Maurice’s system, and the results show for it.

The Panthers were one shootout goal away from having the NHL’s best defense in the league.

“I think I had a lot of work to do on the defensive side of the puck when I came down here from Calgary,” Tkachuk said after closing out Game 1 of the playoffs with an empty-netter.

“I worked them out a lot and I think, just over last year’s playoff run, I was fine-tuning it a little bit.

“Especially in this time, it’s important to be able to play on both sides of the ice and be counted on in those situations, especially when you’re out there on 6-on-5 situations, it’s defense first. But defensively, I think I’ve definitely had to work on it. I’ve worked on it all year and hopefully it’s peaking at the right time.”

Whether he was a finalist for the award or not, Paul Maurice is one of the NHL’s most outstanding coaches.

He has given the Panthers a sense of legitimacy they have not had since 1996, and with a second-round series ahead of them, that will only continue to grow.

For the most in-depth coverage of the Florida Panthers:

STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
FLORIDA PANTHERS (ATL1) V. BOSTON (A2)/TORONTO (A3)
*Round 1 Series Tied 3-3; Game 7 Saturday @ Boston, 8 (ABC)
BEST-OF-7 SERIES
GAME 1

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