Jets Finally Ready to Make Hard Decisions?
Claude Noel’s dismissal as Winnipeg coach last weekend represented the first significant move the team has made since the franchise relocated to Manitoba.
Currently bottom of the Central Division, Winnipeg prepared for life in the Western Conference by changing exactly nothing, and now sport a 19-23-5 record which leaves 12 points shy of a wild cars spot.
Perhaps firing Noel signifies the Jets are finally ready to make the tough decisions needed to succeed in the NHL.
In November I talked about how the Jets golden return to Winnipeg had become all a little bit bland, as on ice results failed to match the hype of the clubs return to the NHL.
They were 10-10-3 then, and the story was the clubs decision to nip the ‘Helmet Pardy’ in the rear.
A less than stellar run since then has brought starting goaltender Ondrej Pavelec’s play in to focus, cost Noel his job and put stars like Evander Kane and Dustin Byfuglien under even greater scrutiny – as the two men, who many feel should be leading the Jets, seem more interested in eating hamburgers and pouting in the press than performing on the ice.
You can’t disagree with those who believe Noel would still have a job if Pavelec wasn’t posting a .898 save percentage this season.
Though Sportsnet’s Mark Spector perfectly captured the clubs difficult relationship with Byfgulien and Kane as a prime example of the clubs problems.
It’s just as hard to disagree that a club that allows Byfgulien to so frequently turn up out of shape, play sloppily and then give him ‘premium ice time’ doesn’t have some serious flaws.
But then, that is entirely Winnipeg’s problem.
They brought the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg, a team who only made the post season once in their brief existence (and were eliminated inside 4 games), and then did nothing to change it.
Even in the dumpster fire that was the South East Division they couldn’t reach the play-offs; but still hitched their wagon to perhaps the most divisive starting netminder in the NHL, inking the Pavelec to a 5 year $19.5m deal, and allowed Byfuglien and Kane to continue in the same vein they did in Georgia – because their ‘act’ isn’t new.
To compound the clubs defensive woes, Tobias Enstrom is having the worst season of his career whilst Zach Bagosian remains as enigmatic as ever.
Throw in the fact that no one is on pace for more than 60 points this season (Blake Wheeler is currently projected to hit 58), and the Jets seem destined to dwell in the ultra competitive Central Division’s basement for some time to come, unless serious changes are made.
Hiring Paul Maurice is a step in the right direction. As much as I liked Noel’s candid press conferences and honest opinions, something needed to happen to shake this club up.
Maurice has been around the block, and he’s a solid hiring; but the decision to replace Noel needs to signify more than just a change behind the bench. This needs to signify a new attitude from the Jets management – one committed to winning.
General Manager Kevin Chevaldayoff has made his first big move – the one most will tell you is the toughest – now he has to make a few more if he is to lift the Jets out of basement and turn this club in to a serious competitor.