The 2013 Winnipeg Jets seemed destined for their first playoff berth since moving from Atlanta to Canada, riding into March with the Southeast Division lead as the Washington Capitals were busy climbing out of the basement. However, the Jets would take a thumping from Washington in their remaining regular-season battles and narrowly miss out on a playoff berth despite finishing second in the division.
Often this can cost a coach his job, but the Winnipeg front-office sympathizes with extensive travel and injuries Coach Claude Noel was forced to deal with in strike-shortened 2013, and his contract was extended an extra year into 2014-2015.
“It became clear this group of coaches worked extremely hard under some difficult circumstances,” general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said, according to the Winnipeg Sun. “This group deserves the opportunity to continue the job they’ve been doing.”
Noel knows a 53 percent win percentage (24-21-3) isn’t going to cut it every year, especially when that lands them outside the No. 8 seed: “Clearly the goal is to make the playoffs,” Noel said, via NHL.com. “I think we need to raise the bar. We have raised the bar. That bar needs to continue to be raised.”
The Jets enter year three in Winnipeg as Noel prepares for his third season with the organization. Whether it could make or break him will be decided down the stretch next spring, and for now the squad can only grapple with the draft and free agency. One thing we do know is that the travel schedule should be much nicer playing in the Western Conference instead of the Southeast Division.