It appears Manitoba is getting a little restless. Though its early in the season, the Winnipeg Jets just can’t seem to find a rhythm yet. They’ve had some marquee wins, such as victories over the Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues, however they followed each with a loss. The team hasn’t been able to string together any more than two wins in a row.
At 4-5, they have eight points, good enough to put them just outside of the playoff picture. That said, their lack of consistency has the natives getting anxious, and coach Claude Noel is starting to feel his seat warming up as his team searches for answers. In speaking with The Winnipeg Sun, Noel seems to have figured out why the team is struggling, but not how to fix it.
“The problem right now is that we’re trying to put skill ahead of work — we’ve got it backwards,” said Noel. “I know you’re going to try and decipher all of the things, but that’s the root of the problem. Work first, skill second. The thing that I find is that we care, we’ve just got things in the wrong order and we’ve got to get them in the right order.
“That’s my job and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
It is indeed his job, but for how much longer? After dealing with the loss of their team when the Jets moved to the desert in 1996 to become the Phoenix Coyotes, the Winnipeg faithful are dying to see their club return to the postseason. So its no surprise, then, that fans and media alike are wondering if Noel is the man who can get them there.
He’s been trying to get the message across to his team, both with his words and through assigning a few players as healthy scratches, but the results aren’t showing up. The team doesn’t seem to have enough talent to survive the lack of contributions. While Evander Kane and Bryan Little have gotten off to solid starts, other players haven’t been as hot. Blake Wheeler has just one goal, while Dustin Byfuglien has yet to tally any.
For what its worth, Noel is very aware of his situation.
“I could sit a lot of guys,” said Noel. “We can be a good team when we play as a group of 20. We’re never going to do it here as a group of five (forwards) and then three (defense) or six and six. It needs to be 20 and that’s one of the things we discussed.
“My job is to get the best out of our team and our players. That’s very clear. That’s my job and if I don’t do that, there’s consequences. I clearly understand those things.”
The Philadelphia Flyers already showed the NHL its never too early to fire your coach, cutting ties with Peter Laviolette just three games into the season. Winnipeg isn’t looking as hapless as Philadelphia at the moment, but how much longer will the Jets’ front office wait? For Noel’s sake, he better hope they remain patient, otherwise he’ll be joining Laviolette on the job hunt.