- Rick Haley
All-Time Winnipeg Jet Coaches
Updated: Jan 4, 2022
Okay Winnipeg Jet fans. Who is the best Jet coach of all-time? Who has the most games coached? The most wins? Who was the worst? Read on for some surprises! And remember, as always, the Jet stats at Winnipeg Jest go all the way back to 1972!
Seventeen different men have stood behind the bench for the Jets. Only 7 have lasted more than 2 seasons and only 4 have a better than .500 record (coaching at least 100 games). Five coached in the WHA, 11 led the team through NHL 1.0 and only 2 (now 3 with Dave Lowry) have coached version 2.0 of the team. Tom McVie coached at the end of the WHA era AND the first season in the NHL.
Leader of The Pack?
Who has coached the most games? You guessed it at Paul Maurice. At 601 games he more than doubles the next man in line. Not a surprise as Winnipeg Jets 2.0 management are known for not doing knee-jerk and often erring on the side of caution. To keep a coach in place for 8 plus seasons speaks to Maurice’s ability and the Jets’ brass level of trust in him. A strong communicator and snappy quote machine, he had the support of his players throughout his reign. To resign instead of being fired, only adds to the respect many have for him. Say what you want about him choosing to fall on the sword instead of waiting for the axe, he still walked away from contract money that was his. Classy.
In the number 2 hole sits 1.0 coach and GM, John Paddock. The pride of Oak Lake was hired as the only ever Manitoba born coach of the Jets. After the firing of Bob Murdoch, Paddock was hired at the start of the 1991 season. Coaching longevity is aided when you can also be your own GM and this happened in 1994 when Mike Smith was fired. Paddock stayed on as coach for another year and then named assistant Terry Simpson, head coach. Paddock then focused solely on GM duties. And he was a pretty good coach winning 3 AHL championships. He is the only coach other than Maurice to have 100 wins. His winning percentage is .443 which doesn’t say much but when you realize that only 5 Jet coaches have a .500 or better it isn’t bad.
The next two to round out the +200 games coached club are Dan Maloney and Barry Long. Both had okay tenures with each lasting parts of 3 seasons. Fittingly, these were the only two 1.0 coaches to actually win a playoff round.
Who Coached the Most WHA Games?
Bobby Hull if you can believe that. When Hull was initially signed it was as player-coach which he went on to do for 2 plus seasons. He even had to coach from the stands to start the first WHA season as the NHL had a pending lawsuit, prohibiting Hull from being involved. Name me another coach that also finished the season 4th in scoring (playing 15 less games!).
Guys Who Coached Between 100 and 200 Games
Tom Watt 181
Claude Noel 177
Bobby Hull 169
Bobby Kromm 161
Bob Murdoch 160
Larry Hillman 141
Tom McVie 124
Which Coaches Won Awards?
Bobby Kromm won WHA coach of the year for the 1975-76 season after leading the Jets to a 52 win season. He also won the Avco Cup that year. Larry Hillman and Tom McVie were also Avco Cup winning coaches.
Bobby Kromm .622
Larry Hillman .582
Paul Maurice .577
Bobby Hull .506
Claude Noel .503
How Many Different Times Did Fergie Coach?
Following the Jets in the 1980s, it seemed every year that GM John Ferguson would fire the coach and then go behind the bench. Apparently this only happened once in 1986 where Fergie went on to coach 14 games. He did fire at least 5 coaches over 8 seasons though!
How Many Coached the Jets Into the Playoffs?
Twelve different Jet coaches made the playoffs through the years. Bobby Kromm leads the charge with 33 games and next in place is Maurice at 21.
Who coached the most games without a playoff appearance?
Claude Noel at 177. Hard to pick on the guy when his number 1 powerplay included Tim Stapleton and Nik Antropov...
So Who Was The Best?
Based on numbers alone, hard to deny Bobby Kromm. With a .621 win percentage and 23 playoff wins this guy leads all others. He won an Avco Cup in 1976 and lost in 7 games to Quebec the next season. Also had a hell of a team with the likes of Ulf Nilsson, Anders Hedberg, Bobby Hull, Lars-Erik Sjoberg, Willy Lindstrom, Ted Green and Joe Daley. Paul Maurice at 601 games deserves a nod as well though he certainly benefits from some recency bias. Biggest character would be Tom McVie. Big booming voice and known to be the only coach to bench Bobby Hull.
Always had a soft spot for Rick Bowness and his longevity speaks for itself. I swear I was at a game where as assistant coach, he punched a Flames player! Mike Smith we don’t talk about. Barry Long after almost every Jet loss, when asked 'What happened tonight?' would point to the dressing room door and say, "Why don't you ask the guys in there?"
Best of luck to Dave Lowry!
Check out all the stats here!