It seems the common wisdom and general consensus amongst the Toronto media and fans is that Maurice is a decent to good coach and is not to blame in any significant way for the Leafs woes this season. But is Paul Maurice really a good coach? I personally don’t think so.
A lot of people point to how Maurice took the Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup finals in 2001-02 as evidence of his good coaching ability. Certainly he has to be given some credit for that but on the flip side if we assume that the Leafs won’t make the playoffs this season Maurice coached teams will have missed the playoffs in 7 of 10 seasons. That isn’t a record to be proud of or one that I would consider evidence of good coaching ability. Add to that his 7-12-8-2 record in the year he was fired in Carolina and you could easily argue that his historical track record is quite horrible.
But let’s take a closer look at what he has done with the Leafs. In 2005-06 the Leafs were coached by Pat Quinn and finished the season with a 41-33-8 record narrowly missing the playoffs. This Pat Quinn team featured a defense that included Alexander Khavanov and Aki Berg neither of whom played another game in the NHL and who were essentially replaced by Pavel Kubina and Hal Gill. Regardless of what you think of the contracts given to those two players you all have to agree that Kubina and Gill are vast upgrades over Berg and Khavanov. Also on the Pat Quinn team was Jason Allison and Tie Domi who haven’t played another game in the NHL and Eric Lindros, who had one more largely unsuccessful campaign in Dallas before retiring. In essence that Pat Quinn team that ended up with 92 points had 5 fringe players on the roster 4 of whom never played in the NHL again but Quinn managed to get them to 92 points.
But the following season Maruice took an improved team (on paper) from 92 points to 91 points and a 40-31-11 record. That was followed up with this season where Maurice essentially has the same team as last year with better goaltending (Toskala) and a 40 goal scorer (Blake) and turned the team into a team on pace for 76 points. Something doesn’t seem right.
But what may be more of a statement against Maurice is what he has done with the Leafs special teams. In 2005-06 under Quinn the Leafs power play was one of the best in the league with a 21.4% success rate while the PK% was 80%. In Maurice’s first season the power play dropped to 17.7% and the penalty kill to a near league worst 78.5%. This season the Leafs powerplay is a dreadful 13.9% (only the Blues are worse) and the Leafs penalty kill is 78.5% (only Carolina is worse). A huge part of the Leafs problems this season and last can be attributed to their bad special teams play. This is nothing new as Paul Maurice coached teams have rarely had good powerplay or penalty kill percentages. In the year he took Carolina to the Stanley Cup finals the Hurricanes were 20th in the league in PK% and 12th in the league in PP%.
In summary, seven of ten Maurice coached teams missed the playoffs, Maurice coached teams have poor special teams play, and Maurice led a more talented Leaf team to fewer points than the less talented Pat Quinn team. Is Maurice a good coach? The evidence says certainly not.