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Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice shootout philosophy

A look at the philosophy of Jets coach Paul Maurice.

While fans seem to love the three on three overtime format the shootout is generally regarded with a little more distaste (or perhaps that is just my own sentiment).  The push to alter OT was done to reduce the number of games that were being decided by the shootout.  When the shootout was adopted in 2005-06 almost 23% of NHL games required extra time and of those 48.4% ended in OT with 51.6% ending in a shootout.  This peaked in 2009-10 when 24.4% of games had extra time and 61.1% ended in a shootout.  With the introduction of three on three OT last season the number of games being decided in OT rose up to 61.1% and that number is holding steady for this year as well.

Wheeler to Scheifele in OT

Photo Credit: Colby Spence

Clearly (and thankfully) more games are ending with this new format OT which is a lot more exciting (in my opinion) than a shootout, which really is anticlimactic.

Of course with games still ending by way of the shootout it requires teams to have players who are skilled in this aspect of the game.  Luckily, for the Jets bench boss he has a guy named Patrik Laine who has shown he has some pretty solid ability in this area of the game.

Patrik Laine on the shootout

Photo Credit: Colby Spence

In the seven games that the Jets have required extra time this season just two have gone to a shootout.  Their OT record is three wins and two OT losses in five games while they are an even split of one win and one loss in the shootout.

To date they have used the following players in the shootout:

Patrik Laine (2/2)
Mark Scheifele (1/1)
Blake Wheeler (0/2)
Bryan Little (0/1)
Drew Stafford (0/1)

Coach Maurice was asked about his shootout philosophy the other day and how he selects his shooters which included “Historical numbers.  Current numbers.  What a guy has done over his career, what a guy has done recently, we haven’t had big numbers of that this year.  You almost always see us put our highest percentage or the hot guy in the two hole.  Especially a guy like Patty (Laine) gets a look at least.”  In the two shootout games this has held true as Patrik Laine has shot second twice and as can be seen scored on both opportunities including this beauty against the Wings.

Further to the above comment by the Jets coach, in the game against Detroit, one which Winnipeg lost in a shootout, Paul Maurice selected Wheeler, Laine and Little as his top three shooters.  The coach added this to the end of his scrum about the shootout “…there is a bit of whose hot tonight but at the end of the day in the top part (first three shooters) of it, especially for teams where every point is important to you, you play your best.”  That reinforces why he went with Bryan Little who has had the hot hand with goals in each of the preceding three games.

In his previous comment however coach Maurice said they look at historical numbers and last season the Jets had six games go to a shootout.  The team won three and lost three.

2015/16 Jets used in shootout:

Ladd: (3/4)
Scheifele: (2/3)
Wheeler: (2/6)
Little: (0/2)
Stafford: (0/1)
Ehlers: (0/1)

As you can see only the current captain of the Jets took a shot in every game that went to 65 minutes while former captain Andrew Ladd was able to put the most in.  It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the Jets used Wheeler, Laine and Little as outlined above.  The curious move was choosing Drew Stafford over Mark Scheifele or even Nikolaj Ehlers as the fourth shooter.

Interestingly, as the scrum was concluding Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun asked coach Maurice if he has ever used the shootout to break a player out of a slump “it’s a good theory and you’d love to get to that point when you feel that comfortable” which had he answered in the affirmative would have justified his decision.

With expectations that a few more games will end in a shootout it will bear watching who Jets coach Paul Maurice selects and see if that player fits the above philosophy or if the coach decides to play a hunch.

*lockout season
**All shootout and overtime percentages are courtesy of Sporting Charts.