Claude Noel lands in Western Hockey League (Updated)


Former Winnipeg Jets and Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Claude Noel has landed a job in the Western Hockey League.

According to Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province, Noel will be named head coach of the Vancouver Giants.

Noel, was fired by the Jets in January after three seasons behind the Winnipeg bench.

The 59-year-old led Winnipeg to a 80-79-18 record in his three years with the Jets, which included the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.

Noel led Columbus to a 10-8-6 record in 24 games behind the Blue Jackets bench during the 2009-10 season.

The Giants fired their coach, Troy Ward, on Wednesday.

Noel coached former Giants Andrew Ladd, Evander Kane, Kenndal McArdle, Spencer Machacek and James Wright during his time with the Jets.

Update: The Giants have confirmed the report.

Leafs’ Franson expects to play in New York

As Cody Franson walked the bowels of the Air Canada Centre Saturday night, he admitted it was tough to watch his team fall 5-2.

Adding insult to injury, a fan decided it was the perfect time to toss a jersey on to the ice during the third period.

Franson is healthy and cleared to play – he expects to be in the lineup tonight when the Leafs play their first road game of the season against the Rangers.

He said coach Randy Carlyle made it known he wouldn’t play against the Penguins just prior to pre-game skate.

The Leafs defenseman has been out of action since Sept. 28 nursing bruised left knee.

With the team involved in a back-to-back situation, with travel, it’s not entirely surprising Carlyle wanted to ease his blue liner back into the lineup.

The team did not have a morning skate in New York Sunday so final lineup changes won’t be known until game time.

When he does return, Franson insists the play, which sidelined him for the final two preseason games as well as the first two games of the regular season, won’t change the way he approaches lose pucks behind the net.

“My mindset won’t change,” he said. “If I could’ve had that play over again, I would’ve approached that situation the same way. Any time you’re going in for the puck that’s on the wall, you have to be somewhat cautious and that’s how I approach it. Some times those things happen.

“That play won’t be in the back of my head when I play.”

At Saturday’s morning skate Franson was seen taking shifts with Roman Polak. According to’s projected lines for tonight’s game against the Rangers, the two will be paired together with rookie Stuart Percy the odd man out.

Franson and Polak have never played together, but they’re certainly not strangers to one another.

Their stalls are next to each other in the Leafs dressing room and their history of playing against one another dates back to their Western Hockey League days when Franson was a member of the Vancouver Giants and Polak was patrolling the blue line for the Kootenay Ice.

“I played against him one year… one or two years,” Franson recalled. “He was in Kootenay so we only played once or twice a year. He was a bit strong kid back then and I played against him in St. Louis, Peoria and all those other places. I’ve played against him, I wouldn’t say a lot, but definitely in a few different places and it’s evident what kind of player he is.”

Polak’s memory of their WHL encounters was a little fuzzy.

“I don’t remember anything when I was in Kootenay. It was a long time ago,” he said. “It was a long bus ride, I remember the long bus ride from Kootenay to Vancouver. It was like 12 hours.

“He’s a great player, he’s a skilled player, offensive player so I’m just going to give him the puck and he’s going to do his thing. I’m going to do my thing in the defensive zone.”

Their junior memories may not be fond, but they agree it’ll take time adjusting to playing with one another.

“Any time you play with somebody new, it takes a little bit to feel them out and see how they think the game. There’s always a small adjustment window period for that and you just hope to make it as seamless as possible,” said Franson.

Added Polak, “We need to talk more – talk on the ice because we didn’t play with each other. We just have to talk more, but he’s a great player and we can figure it out on the ice.”

The Leafs have allowed nine goals against in their two losses to open the season, hopefully the veteran pair can help shore up a glaring issue tonight.

Vancouver-born Milan Lucic trying to be thorn in hometown team’s side in Stanley Cup finals

One guy who might be feeling the slightest bit conflicted heading into tonight’s Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals is Milan Lucic. While Lucic is a young guy who has made a name for himself with the Boston Bruins through his first four seasons in the NHL, he was born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia. He spent his formative years playing in the WHL with the Vancouver Giants and helped form himself into a physical force that the Bruins would draft in the second round back in 2006.

If you’re thinking he might be more anxious to win the Stanley Cup because his Bruins are facing his hometown team, you’d be right. For the 6’4″ 220 pound power forward, the extra motivation of playing at home for up to four games in the finals has to be inspiring. Considering what a force Lucic was when the Bruins and Canucks met up in Vancouver earlier this year, a thrilling 3-1 Bruins win that saw Lucic score a goal and add two assists, he could prove to be an X factor for the Bruins after being relatively quiet for most of the series.

CSN New England’s Joe Haggerty talked to Lucic about what it means to be back home for such a big opportunity.

“It’s definitely special to just be in a Stanley Cup Final is special. But to be in my hometown just makes it that much more extra special,” said Lucic. “I played junior hockey and won a Memorial Cup here. [The Memorial Cup] probably stands out the most, winning it at home in the [Pacific] Coliseum right next to where I started skating as a little kid. I was drafted by the Bruins here. I’m definitely grateful I was selected by them. We had arguably our best win of the regular season against the Canucks. It seems like in some ways this was almost destined to happen.

“I know growing up here that the Canucks have been waiting a long time to get back into the Stanley Cup Final. I know Boston fans have been waiting for the Bruins to get back in the Final. Both cities are jacked up and excited.”

Lucic isn’t the only Bruins player with ties to Vancouver of course. Team VP Cam Neely was acquired from Boston as a player from Vancouver back in 1986 in exchange for Barry Pederson. Neely went on to score 395 goals over 13 seasons in the NHL, the latter few which were injury plagued thanks to a bad knee injury. Neely became a hero to fans in Boston through the 1980s and 1990s before retiring and landing in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Now as an iconic figure in Boston, he continues to lead as a team executive.

While Neely never won a Cup as a player, he’d sure love to do it as a suit and doing it against his hometown team (Neely’s from Comox, BC), the team that traded him away early in his career. Lucic would love to help him do that and plays a game similar enough to Neely’s to make some fans compare the two. Lucic has even gotten some hints from Neely about how to play it.

“[Neely] says to go out there, lay everything on the line and play like there’s no tomorrow,” said Lucic. “In the end, you want to have no regrets. I think we’ve heard him say it. If there’s one thing he could have done while he played, it would have been to win a Stanley Cup. Here we are with the opportunity to do that, and to win it with him would be very special.”

We’re sure that fans in Vancouver would be proud of the local boys doing well, but this isn’t the year they want to see them do it. If Lucic follows Neely’s advice and plays all out, they might just get to have that Stanley Cup celebration in Vancouver on their own terms.