Noel to be named Winnipeg head coach
|Manitoba Moose head coach Claude Noel directs play as defenceman Lee Sweatt skates past during practice in Winnipeg October 2006 (BRIAN DONOGH/QMI AGENCY)
ST PAUL, MINN. - Claude Noel is getting a promotion and he won’t even have to clean out his office to make the move.
The former head coach of the Manitoba Moose will be unveiled as the first head coach of Winnipeg’s soon-to-be-named NHL franchise in Minneapolis on Friday. The Sun was able to confirm the news through multiple sources on Thursday after Chicago Blackhawks assistant Mike Haviland was told he didn’t get the job.
Noel becomes the fourth consecutive Moose head coach to move to the NHL, following Randy Carlyle (Anaheim Ducks), Alain Vigneault (Vancouver Canucks) and Scott Arniel (Columbus Blue Jackets).
The 55-year-old from Kirkland Lake, Ont. made an impression during his lone season with the Moose, guiding the team to a 43-30-1-6 record, good for 93 points and third spot in the North Division standings.
The team overcame a 3-1 series deficit to the Lake Erie Monsters in the opening round of the Calder Cup playoffs before pushing the Hamilton Bulldogs to triple overtime in the seventh game of the North Division final.
“He was very positive every day he came to the rink and he tried to bring a lot of joy to the guys,” Moose captain Nolan Baumgartner said from California. “It makes it fun to come to work every day. His passion for the game is very high and it rubs off on you. He’s a very smart man. He has a great grasp of the game and he is a good teacher and that’s going to be key for some of the young guys in that lineup. They’re going to need that type of direction.
“He got a taste of what it’s like to be a head coach in the NHL and he’s been a head coach in the AHL for many years. Sometimes you have a few more issues to deal with in the top league in the world, but he’s ready to handle that and ready to make that jump.”
Moose forward Jason Jaffray only got a glimpse of Noel’s coaching after returning from a knee injury, but also came away impressed.
“He’s a very personable guy and very easy to talk to, as a player, which is great,” Jaffray said from Olds, Alta. “He was a guy you love to play for and his door was always open. He’s very passionate. You could see it in his eyes, after periods and after games. You can tell he cares for everybody on the team.
“He’s very intelligent, he’s been around the game for a lot of years and I think he’ll do really well in Winnipeg.”
Prior to joining the Moose, Noel spent three seasons as an assistant coach with the Columbus Blue Jackets under Ken Hitchcock.
After Hitchcock was fired, Noel guided the Blue Jackets to a 10-8-6 mark as interim head coach but general manager Scott Howson elected to hire Arniel instead.
Before joining the Blue Jackets, Noel spent four seasons as head coach of the Milwaukee Admirals and led them to two Calder Cup finals, winning it all in 2004.
When meeting with reporters to discuss the NHL schedule, Heisinger dismissed a question about the identity of the new head coach.
“We’re not going to comment on that,” said Heisinger. “We’re going to go down that road a little further down the week. That story will come.”
Now that Noel has been chosen and is about to be unveiled, the process will soon shift to rounding out his staff.
Moose assistant Keith McCambridge is sure to receive consideration, though he is also likely mulling over a couple of head coaching opportunities in the AHL.