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Second tour of duty falls short for Carolina's Maurice

by Dave Lozo
Paul Maurice, fired by the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday morning, leaves with the dubious distinction as the only coach in team history to never win a Stanley Cup.

That's because Jim Rutherford has been about as loyal as a GM can be in this day and age, employing only two coaches during his tenure, which started in 1994 when the Hurricanes were still the Hartford Whalers. Rutherford named a 28-year-old Maurice coach in 1995, a position he held through the early stages of the 2003-04 season.

That's when Rutherford fired Maurice for a first time and hired Peter Laviolette, who had been coach of the New York Islanders. In 2005-06, Laviolette took the Hurricanes to a Stanley Cup championship, but he was relieved of his duties early in the 2008-09 season.


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Rutherford re-hired Maurice, who took the Hurricanes all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals that season.

The Hurricanes haven't been back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs since, which is why Kirk Muller finds himself behind the bench starting Tuesday night against the Florida Panthers.

In 2009-10, the Hurricanes went 35-37-10 and missed the playoffs by eight points. They never recovered from a horrific start to the season, as they went 5-17-5 in October and November with starting goaltender Cam Ward sidelined for a long stretch. They closed 30-20-5, but the hole was too deep.

The following season was much better. The Hurricanes went 40-31-11 and amassed 91 points, which is enough to reach the playoffs in some years. However, they fell two points shy of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Hurricanes had a chance to clinch that spot in their final game of the season, but they suffered a 6-2 loss to a Tampa Bay Lightning team that had already cemented its playoff spot.

This year's poor first quarter of the season proved to be the tipping point for Rutherford. A ghastly start from captain Eric Staal, sub-par special teams and a lack of contributions from the much ballyhooed youngsters were the final nails in Maurice's coffin.

Staal's rough start has been thoroughly chronicled, but his League-worst minus-17 rating and 5 goals in 25 games are perhaps the biggest reason for the Hurricanes' current problems. He's averaged 38 goals a season during the past six seasons but has seemingly lost confidence in 2011.

The Hurricanes have generated more power plays than any team in the League, but they've scored on only 12.2 percent of them. Their No. 29-ranked power play and No. 21-ranked penalty-killing unit are the anchors around the neck of a team that's allowing more 5-on-5 goals than anyone in the NHL.

Much was expected from youngsters Zac Dalpe, Zach Boychuk and Justin Faulk this season, but they haven't lived up to the hype. Forwards Dalpe and Boychuk have combined for just 2 assists in 22 games as both have shuttled between the American Hockey League and NHL. Faulk, 19, was given a chance on the blue line early, but he too has been up and down. He has 2 assists in nine games and a minus-9 rating.

Maurice went 116-100-30 in his second stint with the Hurricanes. In his 13 total seasons with the Whalers/Hurricanes, Maurice was 384-391-99-46.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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