Moose coach in demand
Noel fielded numerous calls before settling on Manitoba
Shortly after finding out he wasn’t going to hang onto his first NHL head coaching gig, Claude Noel quickly became a man in demand.
Although he was disappointed the Columbus Blue Jackets decided to give the job to former Manitoba Moose head coach Scott Arniel rather than remove the interim label for Noel, the 54-year-old from Kirkland Lake, Ont., fielded numerous calls from NHL clubs regarding various levels of employment.
“There was a lot of interest and it was pretty flattering, really with how many teams that called to check on services I might be able to bring to their organization,” said Noel, who had to decided whether he wanted to remain a head coach at the AHL level or stay in the NHL as an assistant. “I moved forward (from Blue Jackets dismissal) right away.”
Noel wasn’t interested in going into specifics but estimated he had “more than five and fewer than 10” inquiries in a matter of days.
However, the first team to reach out to him was the Vancouver Canucks and ultimately, he decided to take a three-year deal with them to become the sixth head coach of the Moose.
“(Canucks general manager) Mike Gillis called me and I was pretty impressed and Zinger (Moose GM Craig Heisinger) called shortly after and just wanted to chat,” said Noel, who guided the Blue Jackets to a 10-8-6 record after taking over from Ken Hitchcock on Feb. 8. “Things just fell into place. The interest the Canucks showed really had a lot to do with it. They’re a first-class organization.”
While it helps that the last three Moose coaches — Randy Carlyle, Alain Vigneault and Arniel — all parlayed stops in Winnipeg into NHL head coaching gigs, Noel is focused solely on his present task.
“It’s a good thing, but I’m not caught up in that right now,” said Noel. “It’s not something I choose to focus on. My focus is on trying to get this team to play well, be efficient and to win and hopefully win in the end.
“If it takes me there, it takes me there.”