So maybe it was the coach after all, eh?
Poor Claude Noel, even one game over the .500 mark didn’t do it – probably had to do with how much the first half of the 2013-14 season dipped into that record.
Two winning seasons – 37-35-10 and 24-21-3 – but still no playoffs followed by a tumultuous 19-23-5 start to this season saw him ship out and saw the Jets playing uninspired and not improving as they did from year one to year two.
Enter Paul Maurice – who has gone 4-0 since his arrival – and has bumped that Noel record from 19-23-5 to 23-23-5.
The veteran bench boss Maurice has the Jets playing inspired hockey that Jets fans wanted to come to expect from Claude Noel’s coaching, but Noel simply did not have the experience or the personality to do that with the young core intact in Winnipeg.
Maybe it wasn’t just personality – maybe it was just personal accountability.
Such big words for hockey eh?
Well, such true words for hockey too.
To his credit, Claude Noel has a Calder Cup championship, but to Paul Maurice’s credit he has been to the Stanley Cup Finals – two different places and two different ways to get there.
But the thing that has haunted and lagged the development of the Winnipeg Jets 2.0 is their inability to remain above the .500 win mark.
In 2011-12, the team finished two games over .500.
Last year, they finished three games over .500.
Enter Maurice, the team was four under .500 and with a win over Anaheim Tuesday night, the Jets are back at .500.
It always seemed to be the burning question for the media: Will the Jets be able to maintain a balance over .500?
Well, if Tuesday night’s performance over the Ducks – a team that has now lost its first home regulation game to the Jets – is any indication, the Jets may well be a team that is ready to take that next step.
Maurice not only has the team firing on all cylinders, playing a typical Paul Maurice style hockey with a hard forecheck and responsible defensive zone coverage, but he has them believing in themselves, himself as a coach, and in the fact that they can win.
The conversation of whether the players were the ones to blame has fallen to the wayside.
Have you noticed trade rumours for players out of Winnipeg has died down?
Maybe it’s because Paul Maurice knows how to use these players and Claude Noel didn’t.
Or perhaps Maurice can reach them on their own individual levels and as a team while Noel lost that, especially considering Noel never really did get a chance at a "normal" full regular season.
Was that Noel’s fault?
Depends – circumstances were not great for Claude Noel to succeed with a good dose of 20/20 hindsight now administered to Jets fans and media.
The conditions for Noel’s firing were in a year where he could have had one full season – a season that was then locked out – where he had the team playing like they were playoff contenders from October to April, but it turned out to be only from January to April and the team fizzled at times.
Or maybe that lockout season would have been the year where Noel got canned. Last season was certainly the reason he got a one year extension past this year and only for a decent year and a crazy first season back in Winnipeg.
However, Winnipeg, with the management and ownership of the Jets being who they are and with only a few seasons under their belts, contract extensions were a must – look at Grant Clitsome being rewarded with a three-year, $6.2 million contract for 56 games where he didn’t play half-bad.
Or even the long-term deals to relatively unproven players like Zach Bogosian, Evander Kane, or Blake Wheeler.
But for all accounts, Noel never got a fair shake and his reputation as an NHL coach shouldn’t be tarnished, but teams will look at him with skepticism now because of his experience in Winnipeg.
On the other hand, for Paul Maurice, he has these unproven players playing like they have something to prove and it’s working.
The 2013-14 season just turned from a snoozer to a cruiser.