WINNIPEG - If you think you're a frustrated fan of the Winnipeg Jets, try being their coach.
Claude Noel is no longer Mr. Nice Guy. The honeymoon is over. The bench boss’ frustration level has reached new peaks after Thursday’s dismal 5-2 home loss to the Florida Panthers, which was Winnipeg’s fourth setback in a row.
“I’m a pretty black-and-white, up front guy. So this is what we are,” Noel said after Friday morning’s practice at MTS Centre. “We’ve spoken to each other, and this is what we’ve said, and right now this is unacceptable. This is not what we’re going to be about moving forward. You may think this is what we are, but it’s not going to get shaped this way. This is not going to go. This is not what I want, and this will not be the representation that we’re getting. It will get going in the right direction.”
Winnipeg is 5-8-3, which leaves it tied with the Carolina Hurricanes for 13th spot in the Eastern Conference.
Noel was in a surly mood on the ice on Friday morning. He stopped drills, swore like a sailor at his players and pointed out to them that they screwed up a drill four times in a row. Afterwards, during his daily media session, his frustration was never more evident. His eyes were red, he didn’t smile, and after a few short answers he let it all out.
“Last night’s game was an identifying moment for our team. It wasn’t good,” he said. “The comfort level has set in, and we have what we have, and we know what we have. We’re going to move forward from this day.”
Noel doesn’t think the roster needs to be blown up. He said it will take time to become a good team and to erase the losing culture that enveloped the Atlanta Thrashers for the last 12 years. Then again, he said the pitiful play stops now. He won’t let it continue and doesn’t want to consider the alternative. Right now, he said, his players are looking for the easy way out.
“You don’t go like this. This is just how it goes. You don’t design this stuff. This is the way that teams shape themselves,” Noel said. “We’re not going like this. This is what we are trying to get away with. This is the weak character part that we want to present. So we don’t go this way. This is going forward from today, from last night. So we’re taking steps in the right direction here. This is going to go forward. We’re moving this way (he pointed his hand upward) today.”
The Jets are travelling to Columbus on Friday, and they will battle the Blue Jackets — one of only two teams with worse records than Winnipeg — on Saturday night. Expect to see a better performance out of the visitors.
“My task is to get our team to look in the mirror,” Noel said. “My task is to get you, as an individual player, to deal with reality. This is what you are. Now, they sometimes don’t see that. People have different levels when it comes to that. There are people that choose to maybe live in a house with not many mirrors, so we have to provide them. That’s OK.
“... I’ve seen us play where we’re good enough to be what I see us being. We have to be more consistent. (The players) know where we have to go, and it’s hard.”
ROSTER MOVE: The Jets assigned goaltender Peter Mannino to the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps on Friday after backup Chris Mason was taken off the injured reserve list.