Should the Winnipeg Jets Hold On to Paul Maurice?

Photo by “Krazytea” via Wikimedia Commons

Mark Chipman, Kevin Cheveldayoff, & Co. took a huge step yesterday, firing their first choice in the new Winnipeg Jets coaching history, Claude Noel. Noel has the unfortunate (no, scratch that, earned) legacy of mediocre results, questionable lineup decisions, and the uncanny ability to look like nothing’s going on while standing in a tire fire. Whatever the case, the Jets decided to turn away from the new-coach idea towards a very-seasoned veteran in Paul Maurice. With 1,137 NHL games of coaching experience, and one trip to the Cup Finals (with Carolna in 2002), Maurice is definitely a smart choice if a team’s trying to find itself and build up from the relocation identity.

It’s also significant that Maurice has already endured the relocation process. First breaking into the league at the helm of the Hartford Whalers, he helped that team build up from a series of dismal years and a move from Hartford to North Carolina. Though he’d be fired before he could enjoy the ultimate prize of those efforts (the ‘Canes would win the Cup the year after he left), there is little doubt he has the experience for those that prize that sort of thing.

But that leaves a few hanging questions: is he a good coach? Can he make this a better team? Is there any way we can find answers to those questions?

We can, and we will.

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A Tale of Two Riverboat Gamblers: Analytically Comparing Jack Johnson and Dustin Byfuglien

Source: Harry How/Getty Images North America

There are probably enough fan bias tendencies in sports to fuel psychology graduate theses for years to come. Sometimes these biases even creep into the minds of hockey’s brain-trusts, including GMs, coaches, and national team selection committees.

One such bias is the propensity against players who are strong offensively but can be a risk defensively. Whether these offensive players are a net-positive to the team depends on whether their offensive output outweighs their defensive lapses. Period. You win the game by out-scoring, not by just increasing your own scoring or limiting your opponents. However, if you were to survey most fanbases, you would probably find very few defensive risk-type defenders that are considered a net-positive.

When it comes to the traditional plus/minus statistic, there are great intentions of evaluating a player’s net contribution, but the statistic ultimately fails at achieving this. There are a few issues with plus/minus, one of them being sample size; another fault to the statistic is its low repeatability, which is its ultimate failure. This unreliability in plus/minus relative to most other statistics can be seen here:

Using analytics, we can demonstrate how numbers help differentiate two gambling defensemen who have been the butt-end of scrutiny from their fanbase.

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Journalism in the Prairie Provinces: Gary Lawless Goes for Dustin Byfuglien’s Jugular

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Photo by John Slipec, via Wikimedia Commons

In case you missed it at 1 am this morning, Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press decided to add to a chapter in his future collection, Gary Lawless Gets Tough – Online Version (CD of Lawless Gets Tough – Radio Version coming soon!), by declaring Claude Noel needs to reduce Dustin Byfuglien’s minutes. The chapter, titled “Black Players,” is the longest of the book, filled with relentless reminders of how the players in-question aren’t anything like Gary Lawless.

The spark for the uproar, uproar being a requisite thing in the sports talk world where blowhards and mittenstringers are made to look hard-hitting and important, was an admittedly bad weekend for Byfuglien, who made a few costly errors that contributed to Jets losses. I get that “admission” from Byfuglien himself, as he’s quoted in the Lawless column: “Not playing my top. Something I have to figure out myself. Slow down and play the game I should be. Keep it simple. I might be playing a little too fast for myself right now. Tighten it up.”

That explanation, for Lawless, is “a refusal to be responsible with the puck.” But that’s just the beginning.

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