True North Sports and Entertainment has named Claude Noel as Winnipeg’s new head coach. He will take over for Craig Ramsay, who coached the Thrashers for one season prior to the team’s relocation. A press conference was held on Friday morning to introduce Noel as the sixth head coach in franchise history.
It is also being reported that the new team will be called the Winnipeg Jets.
“We have a great opportunity ahead of us,” said Noel. “I really look forward to building a good tight team that’s going to play hard and play for each other.”
A native of Kirkland Lake, Ontario, Noel has spent the vast majority of his coaching career in the minor leagues. His most notable accomplishment came in 2003 when he won the Calder Cup with the Milwaukee Admirals. He coached the Manitoba Moose last season, leading them to a 43-40-1-6 record and a playoff berth. Noel’s NHL experience includes three seasons as an assistant for the Blue Jackets and a short 24 game stint as Columbus’ interim head coach in 2010.
“Claude is someone that can teach, bring players together as a group, make the sum better than the whole of their parts,” said GM Kevin Cheveldayoff.
Noel’s experience developing players in the minor leagues should come in handy with Winnipeg’s plethora of young talent. Players such as Zach Bogosian, Evander Kane, and Alexander Burmistrov have the chance to turn into blue chip hockey players with proper development.
Mark Chipman–the chairman of Winnipeg’s ownership group–has a strong personal relationship with Noel and virtually everyone he’s hired thus far. He fired Rick Dudley (an experienced GM with a strong reputation) to make room for Cheveldayoff, a man Chipman considers a close friend. New assistant GM Craig Heisinger and Noel worked for True North with the Manitoba Moose.
Sensing a trend?
“The type of culture you try to build is one where people feel like they’re part of a family,” Chipman said several weeks ago.
He makes a good point. Relationships are important in any business, but at what juncture does loyalty become a bad thing?
Supporters of this move will cite Noel’s achievements in the AHL as reason enough to give him a chance with the Jets. While his accomplishments cannot go without notice, minor league success does not always translate well in the National Hockey League. John Anderson coached this franchise for a short time in Atlanta, having won four championships with the Chicago Wolves before accepting the role as head coach of the Thrashers. Despite his previous success, he failed in Atlanta and was fired after two mediocre seasons.
On the contrary, lots of coaches have risen from the minor league ranks and succeeded in the NHL–Bruce Boudreau, Alain Vignault, Dan Byslma, and Randy Carlyle are a few.
Noel might flourish in Winnipeg, but hindsight is 20/20. The fact of the matter is True North didn’t hire the coach that would do the best job behind the bench; they hired the coach that they have the best relationship with.
The Jets 2.0 have set themselves up with inexperienced management and an inexperienced head coach to accompany a very young roster. Winnipeg has a great opportunity to build a successful hockey club, but if the team goes downhill during the next few seasons, the blame will have to rise straight to the top.