The return of the NHL to Winnipeg has been, I'm sure, very exciting for Jets fans, especially now that they are in the Western Conference. However, success has been hard to come by, and now they join the ranks of teams to fire their head coach this season. Claude Noel has been fired.
This is not terribly surprising. Noel took over after the team moved from Atlanta to Winnipeg, and the team was 80-79-18 under him. They recently went on a five-game losing streak, and are falling out of the playoff race. As I usually say in instances like this, firing the coach is the path of least resistance. You know what is also easy? Hiring a well-worn NHL retread, which is also what the Jets did.
Winnipeg has brought in Paul Maurice, who I feel is coaching his eighth NHL team or something like that. Technically, he's only coached two teams, but he's been in Carolina twice, and also he started when the Hurricanes were still in Hartford. He's coached over 1,000 NHL games, and he's taken teams to the playoffs four times, but his overall record is not that stellar. You know what you're getting with Maurice, and that is a decent coach. That's not really going to change things.
The problem for the Jets has been goal prevention, but that's largely because Noel has never been given a good goalie. He's been stuck with Ondrej Pavelec, who has a career .905 save percentage. He's been awful this year, and Noel had to turn to Al Montoya, who hasn't exactly had a good NHL career either. What was Noel supposed to do with this situation, exactly? Try and focus on defense? Hire a new goalie coach? I mean, if you aren't getting Ken Hitchcock, you can only do so much.
I'm not saying that Noel was doing a particularly good job. I'm just saying that he wasn't given a ton to work with, and maybe the issue was above his head. If Winnipeg's struggles continue, and their dream of making the playoffs remains diverted, then the GM will likely be the next on the chopping block. Goodwill only lasts so long.