Claude Noel, Kevin Cheveldayoff

Claude Noel: The official head coach of the unofficial Winnipeg Jets

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While word circulates that True North’s new Winnipeg team will indeed be the Jets, that official announcement will have to wait. There was, however, one official confirmation of well-founded rumors today as the team officially named Claude Noel their new head coach.

This completes a dramatic front office upheaval in which the team added a new general manager (Kevin Cheveldayoff replaces Rick Dudley), a new head coach (Noel for Craig Ramsay) and replaced various staff members from the Atlanta Thrashers days with members of their AHL franchise, the Manitoba Moose.

Noel gave a rather odd quote in reaction to the news that he would be the new head coach while Cheveldayoff described the hiring process as “thorough.”

“I leaned over on a can of tomatoes and thought and took about a minute,” Noel said Friday. “I was both nervous and when I got the news I was extremely excited. There was a lot of emotion. I’ve gone through this process a few times. I can’t wait to get started. I can’t tell you how happy I am. In my world there’s a high level of joy.”


True North decided on Noel after what Winnipeg general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff described as a “thorough process.”

“It is very exciting for me to be standing here knowing how strongly we feel that we have found that guy, and that the group of young players that we have moving forward,” Cheveldayoff said. “The young players that we’re going to be drafting here today are going to be coached by a guy that is a tremendous leader, a person who spends a lot of time getting to know each and every individual player.

“A coach that over the course of our due diligence that we talked to many, many players who have played for him, was coached by him, that said the dressing room was a fun place to be. It was a place where we enjoyed coming to the rink, that on the bench we enjoyed playing for him … and that he was a fair, and kept everybody accountable.”

Here is a quick rundown of Noel’s coaching credentials and the challenges he will face in his first season on the job from yesterday’s post.

Noel should be familiar to Winnipeg hockey fans after spending one season as the head coach of the AHL’s Manitoba Moose. He also spent four seasons as the head coach of the Milwaukee Admirals and was an assistant coach for the Columbus Blue Jackets for three years. Noel had a brief stint as interim head coach of the Blue Jackets, coaching 24 games after Ken Hitchcock was fired in 2010.

It could be a challenging first year for Noel and the Winnipeg Whatevers. They’ll remain in the Southeast Division this season, likely putting a great amount of strain on the team during road trips. The former Atlanta Thrashers roster was in a transition, too, so it’s not as if he will enjoy an overwhelming amount of talent. (Unless, of course, Cheveldayoff re-makes the team with some star free agents.)

Friday’s loss serves as ‘harsh lesson’ for Blue Jackets

Jasper Fast, Nick Foligno, Henrik Lundqvist
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Late in the third period of Friday’s game against the New York Rangers, things were looking good for Columbus.

Brandon Saad, who the team acquired from Chicago this off-season, scored his first goal of the season to give his team a 2-1 lead with under four minutes remaining in the contest.

Unfortunately for the Jackets, that’s as good as it would get.

The Rangers responded with three unanswered goals from Oscar Lindberg, Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello to spoil Columbus’ home opener.

“When something like that happens at the end, I think we’re gonna be a better team because of it,” defenseman Ryan Murray told reporters after the game. “It’s a harsh lesson, but it’s a good one.

Luckily for Columbus, they won’t have to wait very long to try and get their revenge.

The Blue Jackets and Rangers will finish off their home-and-home series at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, which might not be such a bad thing for Columbus.

“It’s good that we get another chance tomorrow,” Saad said after Friday’s game. “We were high on emotions (after the go-ahead goal) and they scored and it took the wind out of our sails, but we have to keep playing. We have to learn to keep doing our thing, regardless of the score.”



Kings GM says Mike Richards went into ‘a destructive spiral’

Mike Richards

The Los Angeles Kings may owe Mike Richards money until 2031 (seriously), but in settling his grievance, the team and player more or less get to turn the page.

Not before Kings GM Dean Lombardi shares his sometimes startling perspective, though.

Lombardi has a tendency to be candid, especially in the press release-heavy world of sports management. Even by his standards, his account of Richards’ “destructive sprial” is a staggering read from the Los Angeles Times’ Lisa Dillman.

“Without a doubt, the realization of what happened to Mike Richards is the most traumatic episode of my career,” Lombardi said in a written summation he provided to the Los Angeles Times. “At times, I think that I will never recover from it. It is difficult to trust anyone right now – and you begin to question whether you can trust your own judgment. The only thing I can think of that would be worse would be suspecting your wife of cheating on you for five years and then finding out in fact it was true.”

Lombardi provides plenty of eyebrow-raising statements to Dillman, including:

  • He believed he “found his own Derek Jeter” in Richards, a player who “at one time symbolized everything that was special about the sport.”
  • Lombardi remarked that “his production dropped 50 percent and the certain ‘it’ factor he had was vaporizing in front of me daily.”
  • The Kings GM believes that he was “played” by Richards.

… Yeah.

Again, it’s a powerful read that you should soak in yourself, even if you’re unhappy with the way the Kings handled the situation.

Maybe the most pressing of many lingering questions is: will we get to hear Richards’ side of the story?