January 13, 2012
Jets coach going too far?Jury's out on whether critique of Kane will bring good results
By PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency
WINNIPEG - I’ve seen a lot of coaches publicly criticize a lot of players, and I often wonder: at what point are they going too far?
In the case of Winnipeg Jets boss Claude Noel, it might have been this week, in Boston, the fallout from which hung in the air going into Thursday night’s game against the San Jose Sharks.
Noel’s post-game critique of Evander Kane’s game against the Bruins was blunt as a sledgehammer.
It’s not the first time Noel has delivered a public wakeup call to a player, his recent challenge to Eric Fehr coming to mind.
Kane, though, has been one the Jets’ best players. So when Noel basically said he needed to get his head out of his butt after the Bruins game, Tuesday, it jumped off the page.
“I wasn’t happy with the way he started the game,” Noel began. “Either you’re gonna play or you’re not. Figure it out. I saw two or three shifts, I’d seen enough. What do you wanna do here? If you wanna be a key player on our team, that’s what you think you wanna be, then get ready to play the game, like everybody else.”
It was a calculated speech, designed to light a fire under Kane’s butt — or so we thought.
The next chance he got, Noel pulled a mea culpa, complete with a poke at the media for “provoking” him and an attempt at the old “it’s a non-issue, I’m not talking about it” routine.
Asked Thursday whether he’d spoken with Kane since the Boston game: “Evander Kane is not a subject for me,” Noel began. “He’s a subject for you guys. I like him today like I liked him every other day. To me he’s a non-issue.”
Next Noel expressed regret for what he’d said in Boston, after being asked how he decides when to criticize a player publicly and when to do it one-on-one.
“It’s pretty easy how you decide... you don’t do it again,” he said. “You have to remember, and I have to remember, that you get into emotions from the game, and you guys are very good at provoking emotions. That’s what you do. And when you get caught you pay the price. That’s something I’ll be ready for next time.”
Provoked? Noel was simply asked about how he’d played Kane that night.
Just like the prior week with Fehr, when his criticism, “It’s his career, not mine. He’s gotta figure it out,” came after a similarly innocuous question.
Look, Noel’s interviews are a breath of fresh air from the stale spewings of some coaches. There’s no call for him to change his style from this corner.
It appears there may be one from somewhere else, though.
I can only imagine what his homogenous GM, Kevin Cheveldayoff, thinks of it.
“I’ll become a generic coach,” was Noel’s conclusion. “I don’t deal with players in the media. That’s not my avenue. I would sooner deal with the players face-to-face, which is where I do it.”
The thing is, Kane said Noel hadn’t spoken to him since the Boston game. So the only feedback he received on his play that night was through the media.
That surprises me. Communication is vital.
Of course, tough love isn’t a bad thing, either, as one league executive told me, Thursday, “unless you go to that well too often.”
Noel hasn’t dipped into it a lot.
When he has, the results have been mixed.
Fehr has discovered a spark since his calling-out.
Kane, like his teammates, was shut out in a 2-0 loss to the Sharks, Thursday night.
Nobody likes it, but it can work.
“There’s two ways to respond,” Andrew Ladd said. “There’s going out and showing him you’re way above that. Or the wrong way, which is feeling sorry for yourself and letting it get to you.”
Maybe that’s the key, then, the coach pushing the right buttons, with the right players.
The jury’s still out on which one he hit with Evander Kane.