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A Perfect Result For A Good Guy

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
The Carolina Hurricanes have fired coach Peter Laviolette and there is a sweet, sweet symmetry in Paul Maurice's return to the club.


Maurice, who took the Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup finals in 2001-2002 and stood as the team's all-time winningest coach was fired 30 games into the 2003-2004 season.

Laviolette took over the team, finished out the season, waited out the lockout and guided the Hurricanes to their first-ever Stanley Cup the following season.

Paul Maurice bore Peter Laviolette no ill will. He had been kept on by the Hurricanes for a much longer term than most coaches enjoy. He remained a fan and a friend of Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford.

But Paul Maurice got the bride to the aisle. Laviolette took over from there. For Maurice, as deeply competitive a man as ever drew a breath, that was agony.

He understood the firing, understood the need for succession, but Carolina was always going to be the one that got away.

Not anymore.

Whether Paul Maurice is a brilliant young coach or a brilliant guy who happens to be a coach may never be resolved. Certainly, he inherited Leaf teams that brought higher stacks of expectations than talent to the table. Maurice was inexorably tied to the hunches of rookie GM John Ferguson. Some of them, the signing of Pavel Kubina and the drafting of Nikolai Kulemin look great. Trading prospect Tuukka Rask to Boston for Andrew Raycroft, not so much.

Maurice was Ferguson's guy so when Cliff Fletcher took over last January, Maurice was done.

What can't be denied is that Maurice has been blessed with a great intelligence, a jarring wit and when he wanted, an intimidating presence. For all his easy charm, Paul Maurice was scary when he was angry. He loved coaching dearly, loved the xs and os, loved the interaction with the players, loved the juice of being in the NHL.

He will return to the Hurricanes smarter, tougher, more experienced. He is back with the men, Rutherford and owner Peter Karmanos, who mentored him. He has a chance to set things right, to go back and get the championship that has eluded him in the city where he came the closest.

It is a result too perfect for words if you are, like me, a fan of Paul Maurice.
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