The honeymoon is finally over as the Winnipeg Jets have fired head coach Claude Noel after almost three seasons behind the bench. The Jets immediately announced that former Hartford Whalers, Carolina Hurricanes and Toronto Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice to pilot the Jets. Maurice was most recently an analyst for TSN in Canada and the NHL Network.
Noel did go 80-79-18 during his tenure as Winnipeg head coach.
The impetus for the firing is was the team losing its fifth straight game after crashing 6-3 to the Blue Jackets. The loss has put Winnipeg 10 points out of the final Western Conference playoff spot. The Jets currently sit in last place in the loaded Central Division as they are two points behind Nashville.
Claude Noel may not have originally been the man that General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, but Noel had ties to Manitoba as he was the head coach of the previous tenants of the MTS Centre in the AHL’s Manitoba Moose (who have since moved to St. John’s, Newfoundland to become the IceCaps.)
Noel hasn’t had the best the best roster to work with. He does have guys like Evander Kane and Dustin Byfuglien (although some columnist were saying his minutes should be limited and probably get traded) as the centerpieces to the franchise. (There are four guys that will be playing at the Sochi Olympics.) However, there are a lot of young guys in key spots and a couple of guys that may be in over their heads in guys like Ondrej Pavelec that are struggling mightily. (Goalies with a goals against average of 3.14 like him are usually in trouble of losing their job.)
People around the team kind of knew that the writing was on the wall. Reporters covering the team were even pulling off of Noel because they’ve basically written that there needed to be a change. You could read between the lines in the press conference that the Jets had to announce the firing/hiring.
Paul Maurice does bring a wealth of knowledge and experience as he has coached for many years. Jets fans are hoping that this will be the change that will turn them into a playoff contender. However, some wonder if it will even matter and that Winnipeg will have to go through a painful and extended rebuild.
One of the strengths of Maurice is that he is great at developing young talent and that’s something the Jets do have. Maurice has been eager to return to coaching for a while and he’s reached the Stanley Cup final with Carolina in the 2001-02 season.
Will this change be the start of something good for Winnipeg? No one knows that, but it would be a tough task for anyone. Noel is one of the nicer guys in the league, but a change was probably needed. The initial romance surrounding the team just being back has gone and they are just like any other franchise. If Maurice can’t turn it around, him and Cheveldayoff will both be out of work.
I haven’t done this in a while, but I’ll give you some games to watch for the early part of the week.
Phoenix at Winnipeg, 8 p.m. ET (Fox Sports Arizona+): Paul Maurice’s first game between behind the bench is against the team that left Winnipeg ages ago.
Vancouver at Los Angeles, 10:30 p.m. ET (Rogers Sportsnet Pacific, Fox Sports West): The King and Canucks are both fighting to get closer to Anaheim and San Jose.
Tampa Bay at New York Rangers, 7 p.m. ET (Sunshine, MSG2): The Rangers are starting to turn it around. The Lightning provide a good test.
San Jose at Washington, 7 p.m. ET (Comcast California, Comcast Mid-Atlantic): Ovie’s already over 30 goals.
Colorado at Chicago, 8 p.m. ET (Altitude, Comcast Chicago): The Avs are still in playoff position, but have been owned by the Hawks.
It’s that time of the week where I do the best, worst and huh with the First star, Worst star and Who blew up the Death Star?
Ryan Miller of Buffalo makes an early save of the year candidate as he robs Mikhail Grabovski of the Caps.
Buffalo’s Tyler Myers gets Danius Zubrus of New Jersey and gets a 3-game suspension for it.
Who blew up the Death Star?
Check out this goal from Sweden where the team scores from its own zone.
I’ll have more of the Olympic rosters later in the week. Take care.
Dan Mount is an NHL writer for TJRSports.com. He is based out of Watertown, NY and can be followed on Twitter @DanMountSports.