Noel reveals plenty as Jets prepare to face Capitals

- October 21st, 2013

Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel spent a lot of time teaching and talking on Monday.

And after practice wrapped up, the head coach of the Jets spent some additional time in meetings with his players.

“It’s always good to talk to your players, you never seem to talk to them enough,” said Noel, who is big on communication. “It’s all good stuff.”

Then Noel stepped to the podium for his daily media availability and seemed a bit more like himself — which means he spoke a bit more from the heart and with a lot more passion (most of his sessions this season have taken on a more reserved tone).

Noel understands the Jets consistently inconsistent ways need to change and this goes a lot deeper than a 4-5 start to the season that has featured five losses in seven games following a 2-0 start.

The solution is simple in theory, but requires a large, 23-man commitment on game days and the days in between.

As noted by Noel, the Jets need to put work before skill. Right now, the order has been the opposite and the results have been predictable.

The most startling revelation from Noel was that he seemed to acknowledge his coaching mortality.

“My job is to get the best out of our team and our players. That’s very clear. That’s my job and if I don’t do that, there’s consequences. I clearly understand those things,” said Noel.

I dealt with this subject in my column available online at www.winnipegsun.com and in Tuesday’s paper.

The rest of today’s coverage include a preview for Tuesday’s game against the Washington Capitals, getting some thoughts from Jets players if seeing a former Southeast Division rival that helped squash their playoff hopes might help ratchet up the intensity.

Most players asked said the familiarity was welcome after playing many Western Conference teams for the first time in two seasons, but RW Blake Wheeler probably said it best when he told me: “We’ve got bigger things on our plate than that.”

Fair point from Wheeler and he’s bang on. The Jets need to worry more about themselves and the issues that have been plaguing them so far — slow starts, defensive-zone lapses, not having high enough intensity or playing physical enough.

“It’s not all just straight up work ethic, some nights we do work hard but we don’t work smart,” said Jets centre Bryan Little. “We turn pucks over, we’re squeezing the sticks too tight or not playing simple and trying to do too much. It’s about putting it all together.”

Here’s what Noel said about the somewhat gloomy morale inside the Jets’ dressing room.

“I don’t know how you could be happy when you watch yourself play like that,” said Noel. “If you want to be happy or have joy or have confidence, then build it. Start with winning games, that will bring some joy. Play better, that will bring you confidence. That’s how you do it. Work first, skill later. That will help you. It’s not that tough. We need more from the players and they know.”

My Jets notebook included some talk about the new line combinations Noel was testing out (16-18-40, 9-55-26, 27-12-67 and some combination of 17-28-14/15).

One thing that didn’t make its way into the print pages today was Noel talking about the quest to find the right chemistry among his forwards.

“Right now, I can’t find the right 12 to play together,” said Noel. “Who is my first, second, third and fourth line? I don’t know. Do you know what I mean? If you’re asking me about the right goes to play together, I’m trying to sort through it. It started in pre-season and it’s carried on through.”

Complicating matters is that none of the units have really taken charge and shown they should be together.

“That’s part of the problem,” said Noel.

Little said he’d played on a line with Devin Setoguchi with Team Canada during an Under-18 tournament.

“He’s a guy I know quite a bit about, I’ve played with him a bit before,” said Little. “He’s a good player. He’s had a lot of experience in this league and played in the playoffs. He knows what it takes to win. He has a great shot and good skill set. We’ll see how it goes but I’m pretty excited to play with him.”

Jets captain Andrew Ladd has three goals and four points in nine games and was asked if he was feeling a bit snake-bitten around the net this season?

“I think you’d definitely like to be contributing a little more offensively, but my game starts with little details, winning battles and getting to the net and stuff like that,” said Ladd. “I’ll focus on that and the rest of the stuff will come.”

Tuesday’s game marks the end of a season-long six-game homestand for the Jets. At 2-3 so far, this probably wasn’t what they envisioned.

“We definitely thought we’d have a little better luck at home,” said Little, referring to the 3-4 record at MTS Centre. “It’s a bit like last year right now, where we win one and lose one. We’ve got to try and get out of this. Our effort at home has to get a lot better too. We’ve got to get back to making this arena hard to play in. Right now, it’s too easy for teams to come in and outwork us.”

Defenceman Mark Stuart (who was scratched because of a hip injury on Sunday) was the first player on the ice on Monday and said after that he was hopeful to suit up Tuesday against the Capitals but Noel didn’t sound as sure. “If (Stuart) had one leg, he’d be hopeful,” said Noel.

Safe to mark down Stuart as questionable then.

Zach Bogosian missed Monday’s workout for maintenance, while C Jim Slater remains sidelined with an undisclosed injury. All Noel said was that Slater was more than day-to-day, that his issue might keep him out for a week. That means Patrice Cormier stays in the lineup for now as the fourth-line C and he’s been fine in the two games he played since his recall from The Rock.

It also appears as though LW Eric Tangradi will draw back into the lineup after sitting out two games as a healthy scratch.

Noel was cryptic when asked what Tangradi needed to do better, saying “that’s between the coach and the player.”

When pressed, Noel said his rugged winger knew what was required of him: “I would like Eric to have impact on the game and he can, when he plays the way I’d like him to play. He doesn’t need to reinvent himself. He just needs to have impact on the game, in a positive light.”

Tangradi seemed to have a positive impact in his last appearance, dropping the gloves with Montreal Canadiens centre Ryan White after the Jets fell behind 2-0 and Noel called a timeout.

Let’s see how Tangradi responds to the recent benching.

The Capitals have come out a bit slow, with a 3-5 record, but last year’s MVP Alex Ovechkin is off to a strong start, with seven goals and 10 points in eight games.

As for the announcement I said I would make in my post-game post, I’m happy/proud to announce I will be making my TSN Jets debut on Tuesday night, joining Dennis Beyak for the In The Box segment that Shane Hnidy usually handles when he’s not doing colour commentary on TV.

It should be a fun opportunity. Certainly looking forward to it and welcome your feedback on what you see/hear.

I’ll be back after Tuesday’s morning skate for a web story and pre-game preview with the projected lineups.

 

Categories: Hockey

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1 comment

  1. Rol says:

    Congrats …In the Box sounds intense. Good luck

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