After some initial discomfort, Paul Maurice’s first practice, which came just over an hour after he was re-introduced at a press conference, seemed fast-paced.
It may not have been fast enough, however.
”We’ve actually got a ways to go on that tempo,” he said. “The players spent a lot of energy before they stepped on the ice today. It’s hard for everybody, and I didn’t think we were moving the way I expect to be moving fairly soon.”
That’s just one example of the no-nonsense approach that Maurice brought to the RBC Center
in his first day back as head coach of the Hurricanes.
Another example came near the end of his response to a question about how the players will react to the change.
“Some will be nervous and perform a little better because they’re not sure where they sit with the new guy,” he said. “There will be some that are probably going to struggle for a week or two until they find out that if you perform at your peak, you’re going to play and everything’s going to be good.
“There will be three or four guys that have a fairly rude awakening coming in the next week because their performance is off and they’re going to hear about it in a matter that they’re not going to care to.”
Maurice said the biggest challenge facing him at this early stage of his new tenure would be instilling belief in a team that has been lacking in that department recently. He said part of doing that would be to remove what he called the “unhealthy pressure” that the team is putting on itself before every game for fear of missing the playoffs for a third straight season.
“There’s that specter around this team right now of “Oh no, what if,” he said. “I really can’t qualify that more, but that’s my number one job, to get that out of there.
“We’ve got to build a little bit of confidence in there, and that doesn’t always have to be done with hugs. There are other ways to do it.”
Another issue brought up by GM Jim Rutherford at the press conference was chemistry – the belief is that the right players are in place, but they aren’t playing as a cohesive unit.
“Any of the teams I’ve coached that I thought overachieved or did well did it because they did it together,” said Maurice. “They were a close-knit group of guys. As a head coach, there’s two ways to get them to do that. You can either pull them together or drive them together. At times, I guess you’ve got to do both.”