WINNIPEG - Claude Noel was not happy after Thursday night’s 5-2 loss to the Florida Panthers.
The Winnipeg Jets head coach was still simmering Friday morning, and there were no signs he was about to cool off anytime soon.
He barked at the players throughout their practice at MTS Centre, dropping F-bombs like they were going out of style and at one point stopping a drill to inform the players they had screwed it up four times in a row.
It’s official: Any honeymoon period the players might have been enjoying is over.
“(Thursday) night’s game was an identifying moment for our team. It wasn’t good,” Noel said, his eyes red and his mood surly. “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.”
Don’t panic, Jets fans.
Noel is saying they are not a good hockey team right now, but he’s not saying they can’t be one down the road.
In fact, he’s seen them be a good team, so he knows they can do it. It’s up to the players to determine if they want to be that team all the time. He told them so before Friday’s practice.
Noel said the roster does not need to be blown up, but you wonder how much longer he’s going to take awful performances like the one against Florida.
“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.”
The Jets returned from a two-week road trip and laid an egg against the Panthers for their fourth straight loss, although two of those setbacks came in overtime.
The Jets left Friday afternoon for Columbus, where they will battle Scott Arniel and the struggling Blue Jackets on Saturday night. Winnipeg has a 5-8-3 record, while Columbus is the NHL’s worst team at 2-12-1.
The way the mood was around MTS Centre on Friday, you would have figured the Jets were dwelling in the cellar. The joy, as Noel likes to call it, was nowhere to be found.
“It’s not good,” he said. “What we basically told each other is … I’m not happy and they’re not happy and it’s going to continue down that road until we get this thing walking in the right direction.
“This is just part of the way things go. This is how team cohesion gets built. It’s what happens on teams. It’s not disrespectful to the players. They’re not bad people. I like them as much as I liked them before. We’ll get back going.”
The Jets went more than 23 minutes without a shot against the Panthers and were downright dismal except for a five-minute burst to begin the game and most of the third period, during which they scored both their goals.
They are taking way too many penalties, their scorers aren’t scoring, and goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, who has to be fatigued after making eight straight starts, didn’t play great against Florida.
Noel said the organization has to rid itself of the losing culture that enveloped the Atlanta Thrashers over the last 12 years. He wants to be around to see that happen, but it’s going to take time.
“This is what we are,” he said. “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.”
Maybe the Blue Jackets will be just what the doctor ordered. If they aren’t, it would be wise to stay as far away from Noel as possible for the next few days.