Paul Maurice has resigned as head coach of the Winnipeg Jets after nine seasons, saying he was no longer the person to lead the team to success through "the law of diminishing returns."
"If you'll allow me some arrogance, I feel I'm better positioned than anyone to know that they need a new voice," Maurice said. "They haven't quit on me. But they need somebody that can get them to that next place."
Maurice was in his ninth season as Jets head coach, amassing a record of 315-223-62. The Jets are currently fifth in the Central Division with 31 points in 28 games. Their .554 points percentage is ninth best in the Western Conference.
A source told ESPN that the Jets players didn't expect this decision from Maurice, and that his meeting with them on Friday morning left them stunned.
Maurice said the resignation was "100 percent" his decision. Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said "we came to an agreement" on Maurice leaving the team, and that "he's going to be well taken care of" moving forward. Maurice had one more year left on his contract at around $3 million.
The Jets have struggled since mid-November, going 4-7-2 since Nov. 18. The Jets only won once in their last four games, including a 4-2 loss at home to the Buffalo Sabres on Dec. 14.
"If you'll allow me some arrogance, I feel I'm better positioned than anyone to know that they need a new voice. They haven't quit on me. But they need somebody that can get them to that next place." Paul Maurice
Maurice said he had conversations with Jets management and ownership last summer about whether he was the right coach for the team. There were a couple of occasions this season when he considered leaving the job, but the Jets would win a few games to keep him from doing so.
"This is a far longer runway on this than a loss to Buffalo," he said.
Maurice said that the last two seasons, in which the NHL has played through the COVID-19 pandemic, were emotionally taxing for him as well -- especially last season, which was played without fans in the arena for games in Canada.
"I didn't enjoy it. And that's the very first time I could say I didn't enjoy coming to the rink. I thought that maybe it was all of what was going on," he said. "If you lose some of that passion for the game, you can still be good, but you can't be as good as you should be. That's how I feel I am."
The Jets are 15th in goals per game (2.96) and 13th in goals against per game (2.75), both declines from their numbers last season.
Under Maurice, the Jets made the playoffs in five of eight full seasons, but only had one significant postseason run in 2017-18, when they made the Western Conference finals. Winnipeg lost in the second round last season to the Montreal Canadiens in the all-Canadian North Division. Money Puck gives the Jets a 43.4% chance of making the playoffs this season.
"I think I pushed that rock pretty far up that mountain, and I'm really comfortable where I handed it off," he said.
Maurice, 54, previously coached the Hartford Whalers, Carolina Hurricanes and Toronto Maple Leafs in 1,684 NHL games, the fourth-most in NHL history. He's sixth in career wins (755) and first in career losses (680).