November 13 2013 01:50PM
One of the principle caveats of covering a Team, in any sport, is the ability to watch them and translate into words what your eyes feed your brain. A fair requirement. Imagine, then, my (and potentially the boss') dismay at having only been able to catch about 5.5 periods of Winnipeg Jets Hockey so far this season. What kind of informed obseravtions can I offer? What sort of expert had I become?
A bad one. But it hasn't been for lack of effort. Of late, I've had the travel schedule of a shiftless hobo on the run from law enforcement juristictions, coast-to-coast.. I've been on the go, constantly, and seemingly, Jets games come and go just as quickly, often without my knowledge.
Recently, after yet another night of stumbling back to whatever Hotel room I was in, and seeing highlights of yet another Jets game that I had no idea had occured until that moment, I vowed to make a change. Time to get serious. Sure, I was on the road to work, but I simply had to take the time to watch more Hockey games. No excuses - this is serious business, watching Hockey games.
And as will happen when one puts their mind to positive use, things have improved since. I've caught (some of) a couple games on TV. I'm well aware of the drama surrounding Kane's healthy scratching and such. I'm not up to full speed yet, but I'm no longer ingnorant of the Team I'm supposed to write about, which is good news in my books. So, somewhat triumphantly, I present to you some Thoughts and Observations directly from my eye-brain feed.
Just Fire Noel already...
(Authors note - I am well aware that the Jets have now won 3 in a row, and my mind has not changed one iota.)
You know things are bad when distrant observers are calling for your head. But that's where it's at for Claude Noel these days. I'm far (far, far...) from the first person to call for his firing, but hopefully, I can be the most convincing.
As of this writing, the team sits 5 points back of the St. Louis for the 3rd and final playoff spot in the division, while having played 4 more games than the Blues. I do not have a math degree, but I can tell you that is not good. And it's far more than this that makes me want the man canned. Naturally, as I write this, the Team has just come off a victory over the impressive San Jose Sharks and the Red Wings, and are winners of the 4 of the last 5, so the heated 'Can the Coach' talk will subside for the time being. But allow me to fan the flames once again.
To start, I've never believed it's a good idea to hire the not-asked-to-return Interim coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Until the arrival of John Davidson, Columbus was not exactly a winning organization to emulate. It would be like asking (WARNING - Football reference) Tim Burke to coach the New England Patriots. Makes no sense.
More than anything, I'm tired of his wry, cocky attitude at his press conferences. There's a great line from a Kid Rock song:
"They say I'm cocky, and I say, 'what'
It ain't bragging motherf*@$#* if ya back it up"
Which makes me wonder what exactly has Noel done at the NHL level to be this cocky. Not be retained as Interim coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets? Lead the Jets to 2 non-playoff seasons, with a third one on the horizon? I haven't seen anything from the man that would indicate that he should be this confident. Seems he's in love with the fact that he's Head Coach of a team that's as popular in Winnipeg as Rob Ford jokes are everywhere that people tell jokes.
Just win something, you turd. You weren't hired to wear three piece suits and make quips that aren't nearly as witty as you think they are, buddy. You were hired to win.
The Noel problem goes further than this. When a coach has a BS attitude like this one seems to, is it any coincidence that certain guys, like say Evander Kane, seem to have an attitude problem as well? It starts at the top and bleeds down. Kane is, outside of all things Hockey, a young man who's just 22 years old. And as rich and succesful as he is, nothing changes that. Do you think a 22 year old benfits from a jack ass quip machine as a head coach? All I know is when Noel presents to the Media - and thus, the public - his dry, unfunny and supposedly witty observations on all things Winnipeg Jet, that flippant, smug attitude becomes contagious on a molecular level. And Kane, it appears, has caught the bug.
It also speaks to another issue within the Organziation. Loyalty. There's too much of it. Claude Noel, no doubt, was hired due to his time as Coach of the Moose. Craig Heisinger, Senior Vice President for TNSE and director of Hockey Operations for the Jets, began his career as assistant equipment manager for Jets 1.0, and stayed on with the Moose once they took over the old Winnipeg Arena as their new equipment manager. Now he's top dog of Hockey Ops of an NHL team.
For comparisons sakes, lets look at the Calgary Flames front office. President is Brian Burke, he of no Flames connection at all AND is an owner of a cup ring. The GM is Jay Feaster, a former Cup winning GM with Tampa. Assistant GM John Weisbrod (who's last name sounds like an insulting compliment to a lady in your office) is a Harvard educated former GM of the NBA's Orlando Magic, who also won a Cup with the Bruins as the director of collegiate scouting. What's the common thread here? All are winners, and none of which had one bit of business with the Calgary Flames outside of beating them on the ice, in trades, and scouting.
So why do the Jets insist on loyalty? It's something Mark Chapman has spoken proudly of, how this team is the evolution of the Manitoba Moose. Well, news flash - the Moose sucked. They were an IHL/AHL team. This is the big leagues now. If the English National Soccer team could hire a Swede to lead them in Inernational Competitions on the world stage, why is it impossible for the Winnipeg Jets to think outside of the AHL box that is the graveyard of the Manitoba Moose? I have an infinite amount of gratitude to Mark Chapman and all of TNSE for bringing Jets hockey back to Winnipeg, but isn't it time to bring some legitimate NHL heavy's to help get these Jets off the ground?
I think the man they should hire as head coach is Peter Laviolette, and they should hire him yesterday, which is probably today, because no doubt I've got this in later than expected. Laviolette is a man with a Stanley Cup win, another Cup appearance, and record that of ass-kicking success everywhere he goes, posting a career mark of 389-282-25-63 to date. That is rather good.
Plus, the Jets need a guy like this in the organization. He's been around. He's won everywhere he's gone. A stern, seasonsed voice strikes me as exactly what this team, and organization, need to help it to the promised land. The pieces are there. If only there was a maestro able to harness the assembly and turn them into championship music. And Laviolette would be that man, until he ultimately gets fired down the line.
I Hope Jonathan Toews feels gulity when he scores against The Jets...
I realize as a player, unless you're the cunning and unscrupulous type a la Justin Schultz and Eric Lindros (Blake Wheeler gets a free pass because I like him), you have no control over where you start your career. So Toews also gets a free pass for not forcing the Blackhawks to trade him to a Jets team that did not yet exist upon his being drafted. But as arguably the best Winnipeg born Hockey player this side of Terry Sawchuk, he damn well better feel some guilt when be scores against them. How does it feel to crush the hopes of a Province that named a Lake after you, Jonathan? It's disprespectful. The right thing to do is ask Quenneville to scratch him for for all future Jets matchups until he can force a trade to Winnipeg.
Back up the Money Truck for Steen
Until the Jets are a legiimate Cup contender, we'll hear again and again of how Winnipeg is not a prime destination for free agents. So, imagine the blessed stroke of luck that one of next year's UFA's is none other than Winnipegger done-good, Alex Steen. If ever there a free agent out there that would love to play for the Jets, it would have to be him, wouldn't it?
I don't imagine that his scoring proficiency this season is who he'll forever be as a player from here on in, but just a touch of that, combined with the intangibles of his being a local who just happens to be the offspring of a Jet legend, makes it too perfect to deny. A 1-2 punch down the middle of Little and Steen, with Schiefele centering the 3rd line, would be none-too-shabby at all.
Unfortunately, he'll command a kings ransom with his numbers this season, but undoubtedly, it would be worth it. They'd have to move one of their big contracts to fit him in (BYFUGLIEN!!!) but it's a move that would be well worth it, at least from my perspective, especially since it's not my money or job on the line. I'd imagine something like 5 years / 30 million of TNSE money would get it done. If you need me to do some tampering for you Jets, send me a coded email entitled 'dirty work for the greater good'.
So the Jets have won 3 in a row now...
Will it continue? My gut says no. In some circumstances, before a Sun explodes, it expands first, and I think this is what we're witnessing here with Noel and the Jets. Noel's bubble is going to burst. They'll stay at this level for a bit as he coaches his dapper heart out, but they'll eventually regress back to what he's made them, which is a maddeningly frustrating, inconsistent team. I expect the Star that is Claude Noel to explode somewhere around the Holidays. Merry Christmas. Will accept bets.
It's good to be back.