Does Claude Noel Need To Step Up His Game?

Why aren’t the “experts” talking about Claude Noel needing to step up his game? — 

The experts (quote, unquote) talk about Olli Jokinen needing a bounce-back year.

The experts talk about Mark Scheifele finally stepping up and earning the centre-ice position on the second line.

The experts talk about a seemingly fit and trim Dustin Byfuglien playing 82 games without running out of gas.

The experts talk about Ondrej Pavelec’s technical deficiencies.

The experts talk about a lot of things that actually make sense, even though they’re not actually experts.

Claude Noel2

Jets coach Claude Noel

I mean, a game-day pass hanging around your neck doesn’t exactly qualify one as an expert. I’m living, breathing proof of that. I wrote hockey for 30 years. I probably fooled some people into thinking I was an expert, but I didn’t fool myself. Sure, I knew plenty about the game. I still do. But so do a lot of lumps sitting on bar stools in your neighborhood sports bar. The difference between them and me? I had access to the inner workings of professional hockey, they didn’t, so I was privy to insider information. I knew who was playing hurt, they didn’t. I knew who played with a hangover, they didn’t. I knew who was toxic in the dressing room, they didn’t. I knew if John Ferguson was working on a trade, they didn’t.

That made me an insider, not an expert. Mike Babcock is a hockey expert. Joel Quenneville is a hockey expert. Scotty Bowman is a hockey expert. I was an insider.

Alas, I surrendered those insider privileges in 1999, which makes me just another lump on a bar stool. (Actually, I don’t sit on a bar stool. I sit prim and proper at a table with my legs crossed and I yell across the room at the lumps on the bar stools.)

Anyway, let’s play along and accept that the guys and girls who write and talk about hockey for a living are experts (quote, unquote) on the Winnipeg Jets. As I said, they’ve made some good points to date in the run-up to the 2013-14 National Hockey League season.

What I wonder, however, is why they aren’t discussing the need for Claude Noel to step up his game.

Two full seasons in, I’m still not sold on the Jets head coach. Apparently, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff isn’t either, otherwise he would have given Noel something more substantial than a one-year extension on his contract in June. The coach’s re-up was not a reward. It was more an unwillingness to enter the fray this season with a lame duck coach. It also told us one other significant thing: The GM and the coach are not joined at the hip.

If we needed confirmation of that, it comes in the form of the two-year contract extension for Cheveldayoff that the hockey club revealed on Wednesday. Should the Jets fail to qualify for the Stanley Cup tournament for a third successive spring, the GM isn’t going anywhere. Noel, on the other hand…thanks for coming out and here are some swell parting gifts.

Coaches, of course, are forever on the clock. That’s their cross to bear. But Claude Noel is now officially on the clock.

I have issues with Coach Claude, not the least of which is the scorn he heaps on his players in public. Alexander Burmistrov took his puck and went home to Russia due, in part, to conflict with the head coach. This cannot be viewed in a positive light. Burmistrov is young. He has upside. Unless the Jets have given up on him, he shouldn’t have been chased away for exactly zero in return. Noel has called out Evander Kane publicly. He’s called out Byfuglien publicly. Heck, he even went all Torts and assailed a member of the media late last season for asking “the dumbest question in the world.”

I still recall this memorable assessment of his troops from his first season behind the bench: “Why are you, an NHL player, playing like an American league player? And it’s not one or two, it’s more than that.”
Motivation by insult. How’s that worked out so far, Claude?

Coach Claude has shown zero ability to reign in Byfuglien, his free-roaming rearguard. Yo, Claude. Big Buff isn’t Bobby Orr. Make him play to a system.

Last season, the Jets ranked 30th in a 30-team league on the powerplay and 24th while skating a man or more short. That isn’t a lack of talent. That’s down to coaching.

With apologies to all you Noel boosters, your man is officially on the clock for a very good reason: He should be.

Please discuss on a bar stool near you.



  1. Paul Poirier says

    Great article very to the point. Claude needs to take control of his team. His method should not be to bash or call out his team in public

    • Patti Dawn Swansson says

      Sometimes I wish players could be as free-speaking with their comments as are coaches. Really, I’d like to know what the Jets honestly think of Noel.

      • Mitch Kasprick says

        Coach Noel hasn’t put any type of a stamp on this team yet. Are they a run and gun team, are they are hard working checking team, are they hard to play against? Are they consistently inconsistent?

  2. Very valid point, and very good article. Yes Its time , I give him 40 games this year. Havin said that whom would you like to see take over as head coach…..A former player perhaps? Who is out there,

    • Mitch Kasprick says

      I guess you are talking Ducky? Is he tough/mean enough? This teams needs tough love and somebody that GETS “special teams” cause we are lacking both. BUT in fairness to Coach Noel we don’t know how he is behind closed doors. My opinion from “the outside” is he’s a player’s coach that gets taken advantage of by his players.

      • Patti Dawn Swansson says

        If he’s constantly calling out his players in public, he must be awful behind closed doors.
        Ragging on players through the media isn’t tough love. It’s ill-advised.
        By all means, be demanding and make your players accountable, but don’t dump on them in public. That’s seldom productive.
        Insofar as Hawerchuk is concerned, he was a very, very competitive player. He had a fierce desire to succeed. I imagine he would be very much the same as a coach.

  3. Darryl Mills says

    Great piece Patti Dawn. I don’t know what Noel’s issue with younger players is, but there certainly appears to be one. I fear that Noel is singlehandedly messing with Scheifele’s head.

  4. Maybe Noel has forgotten, he is no longer coaching in AHL. Could that be

    • Mitch Kasprick says

      AHL coaches are supposed to develop prospects for the parent club and NHL coaches want to win to keep their jobs. Tough gig ….. we’ll see how good the”anointed one” is in Edmonton now that his parameters have changed.

  5. I’ve never been sold on Noel. It’s been two years since he’s arrived and I don’t see any identity on this team. Don’t be surprised if Charlie Huddy is the next head coach of the Jets. Zach Bogosian, who some say is a future captain of the franchise, speaks very highly of Huddy and how much he’s helped his game. That is sending a strong message to the organization on who he trusts.

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