The Winnipeg Jets announced the termination of head coach Claude Noel today, the result of a disappointing first half to the 2013-14 NHL season. With Noel behind the bench, all the Jets have been able to accomplish is the securing of last spot in the Western Conference’s Central Division. Time for change.
Replacing Noel is seasoned former NHL head coach, Paul Maurice. With more than 1,000 games coached in the big league, the Jets new bench boss has a freight train worth of experience that should help the club approach the post-Noel era with a new optimistic outlook.
Noel was originally hired by the Jets II at the beginning of Winnipeg’s return to the NHL at the start of the 2011-12 season. Throughout his two-and-a-half campaigns as game strategist, Noel’s rendition of the Jets failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs each year. Arguments can be posed suggesting the club doesn’t have the personnel to attain a postseason seat, however, it does appear a coaching change was strongly worth considering and acting on, in light of recent poor results.
Over the course of this season, rumours have circulated that a rift exists between Noel and his star left-winger Evander Kane. The validity of these rumours are questionable, yet telling all the same. Back in early November, Kane was vocal with media about a perceived healthy scratch incident that occurred against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Kane told the CBC he believed his coach had kept him out of the lineup in spite of his readiness to play. When pestered further for about his relationship with Claude Noel, Kane simply said he, “didn’t want to get into it.”
“The definition of a healthy scratch is a healthy player not playing so that was my interpretation, and it’s pretty obvious that’s what it was.”
Evander Kane quote courtesy of CBC. Read full article here.
In all likelihood, Noel was not fired because of his alleged rocky relationship with Jets forward Evander Kane. Noel wasn’t getting results; missed two chances to reach the postseason, and his club appears to be on the verge of a third miss under his reign.
Paul Maurice will coach his third NHL team (Hartford/Carolina, Toronto), and his second Canadian one. He’s enjoyed moderate success: his Carolina Hurricanes made it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals in 2002, succumbing to the mighty Detroit Red Wings in six games.
The Jets have some significant young pieces in place: Jakob Trouba and Mark Scheifele. The club’s core of veteran forwards and defencemen is not without bright-spots, either. They may not have the entire roster of a top team in the NHL, but this current Jets squad is one that – under a new head coach’s fresh direction – should be able to improve upon recent results.
The Jets are 19-23-5 this season, and in my opinion, in a win-win situation. If Maurice provides the team the boost it needs to somehow climb into a playoff spot by season’s end, his successful mission will mark the return of The Sea of White – the end of a 19-year Winnipeg absence from the playoffs – something the city will enjoy thoroughly. If Maurice fails to rectify the non-playoff status of his new group, the Jets will draft high again at this summer’s draft. There is no harm in surrounding the promising youth in the stable with another young gem.