Claude Noel is leaving on a jet plane, only he’s never coming back again.
According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, the Winnipeg Jets have fired Noel, along with assistant coach Perry Pearn, as the team continues to struggle this season.
Noel becomes the third NHL coach fired this season, following Peter Laviolette in Philadelphia, and Ron Rolston in Buffalo.
The Jets have lost five straight games, and 11 of their last 16, to fall to 12th in the Western Conference with a 19-23-5 record, which also puts them in the Central Division cellar.
The Jets have yet to make the playoffs since moving from Atlanta, and as they currently sit 12 points out of the final playoff spot, it’s not looking good for a third straight season.
Meanwhile, the Jets have already found a replacement, luring Paul Maurice out of the NHL on TSN studio to become the team’s new head coach.
“I’m thrilled to be joining a first class organization in Winnipeg and very happy to be back on an NHL bench,” Maurice told TSN shortly after the hiring.
In watching the Jets the last few weeks, it was clear based on their body language that they had tuned out Noel, and that a change was sorely needed. In fact, paying attention to some recent quotes would show the writing on the wall.
“The way we play, we can’t expect to be a success, that’s for sure.” – Ondrej Pavelec after a 4-2 loss to Tampa Bay on Jan. 7.
“Losing a few in a row gets so negative and guys get so frustrated in the dressing room. It can build pretty quick. We just need to get out of that kind of a funk.” – Bryan Little in a Winnipeg Sun article, Jan. 10.
Even Noel himself acknowledged changes needed to be made.
“My first look is going to be in the mirror,” Noel said on Jan. 7. “You can’t always look at everyone else. You’ve got to look within first. We’ll keep it in perspective. We’ll have to move past this and move forward. There’s going to be a lot of assessment to be done here.”
Noel leaves Winnipeg midway through his third season, compiling a record of 80-79-18 with no playoff appearances.
In replacing Noel, the Jets get Maurice, whose last coaching experience came with Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the KHL last season.
I’m not sure if Maurice is the right guy to turn things around in Winnipeg, but I’ll certainly give him the benefit of the doubt. While he does have a lot of NHL coaching experience on his resume, including a run to the 2002 Stanley Cup Finals with the Carolina Hurricanes, he hasn’t had much success recently, missing the playoffs in two seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, along with parts of another four seasons in Carolina.
Twitter opinion has been mixed so far, but NHL on TSN analyst Aaron Ward, who played for Maurice in Carolina for parts of four seasons, is a fan of the move.
While a coaching change is usually designed to hold players more accountable for their play, it’s hard to say whether a similar voice in the room will reinvigorate this Winnipeg squad, or if this is just the start of a bigger transformation within the organization.
In a hockey-crazed market like Winnipeg, accountability is a major factor in keeping a fan base happy, so we’ll see how this change impacts the team going forward.