The slumping Winnipeg Jets fired head coach Claude Noel Sunday morning – ending his tenure with the team after less than three seasons – and replaced him with former Hurricanes and Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice.
However, if you’re expecting the move – which also included the dismissal of assistant coach Perry Pearn – to trigger an instant reversal of the franchise’s fortunes, you’re likely to be disappointed. This team still needs a roster shakeup at least as badly as it did a change behind the bench.
The move made by Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff isn’t entirely unexpected, as the Jets were in the midst of a five-game losing skid and had won just three of their past 10 games. That said, the team hasn’t received anywhere close to consistent goaltending from starter Ondrej Pavelec and their core of young players, which dates back to the franchise’s days operating as the Atlanta Thrashers, emits an air of complacency most hockey people can see from miles away. Until Cheveldayoff moves out someone meaningful (say, defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, center Bryan Little or winger Blake Wheeler) to show the roster he means business, it’s a longshot that Maurice’s arrival will suddenly spur them to the heights Noel’s presence never could.
Noel joined the Jets when the team relocated in 2010-11 and led them to a 37-35-10 record. The 58-year-old Kirkland Lake, Ont., native and his players were just as mediocre during last season’s lockout-shortened campaign, posting a 24-21-3 mark. He leaves town with an 80-79-18 record.
Maurice had been working as a TV analyst this season after spending last year coaching Magnitogorsk of the Russian-based Kontinental League. The 46-year-old has coached 1,084 games in two stints with Carolina and a two-year run in Toronto, amassing a 460-457-99-68 mark, as well as a Stanley Cup final appearance with the Canes in 2001-02.
As per Capgeek.com, the Jets are more or less capped out this season, but are projected to have some $23 million in available cap space this summer. With the playoffs all but a mathematical impossibility for them this year, Cheveldayoff would be wise to dump as much salary as possible between now and then to afford the team more flexibility to make change.
Maurice’s good nature will lighten the room to a degree, but for this franchise to compete with the big boys of the Western Conference, a coaching change in and of itself isn’t going to cut it. This doesn’t need to be a full-on teardown, but it does need to be more than cosmetic surgery.