The Winnipeg Jets relieved head coach Claude Noel and assistant Perry Pearn of their coaching duties on Sunday, Jan. 12, according to the team’s official website.
Winnipeg has produced a lackluster 19-23-5 record this season under Noel and currently sits in seventh place in the Central Division, 10 points behind the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The team also announced that it hired Paul Maurice as Noel’s replacement.
Paul Maurice has agreed to a contract until the end of the 2014 season.— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) January 12, 2014
TSN's Darren Dreger provided a statement from Maurice discussing the opportunity:
Maurice tells TSN, "I'm thrilled to be joining a first class organization in WPG and very happy to be back on an NHL bench...can't wait."— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) January 12, 2014
Maurice talked more about the job at a press conference on Monday, Jan. 13 (via the Jets):
"We need more patience in our game, but that doesn't mean passivity." - Paul Maurice— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) January 13, 2014
"The frustration of the fans is the same in that locker room. They just want this to go away." - Maurice on the team's frustration— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) January 13, 2014
The Jets followed with a statement from general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff discussing the departures:
"On behalf of the Winnipeg Jets organization, I'd like to personally thank Claude Noel and Perry Pearn for their hard work." - Cheveldayoff— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) January 12, 2014
"It became apparent that things were not trending in the right direction." - Cheveldayoff— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) January 12, 2014
"I reached out to Paul (Maurice) after the Tampa game to see if it was something he'd be interested in." - Cheveldayoff— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) January 12, 2014
"Claude is a very special person, a very caring person and worked extremely hard." - Cheveldayoff on Noel— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) January 12, 2014
"He's battle-hardened and energetic and is chomping at the bit to get back into the NHL." - Cheveldayoff on Maurice— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) January 12, 2014
Maurice has amassed a 460-457-167 career record in 14 seasons at the NHL level. He was formerly the head coach in the Carolina Hurricanes organization (formerly the Hartford Whalers) and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Maurice’s experience will be needed to lead a Jets roster that has faltered in several key aspects of the game, including rankings of 25th in goals against average, 25th on the power play and 16th in goals per game.
Despite the utter lack of success, Noel handled himself with class and dignity even in his last days in the position. On Jan. 9, he told Kirk Penton on the Winnipeg Sun about the pressure that comes with the position:
I am a guy that has enough high expectations of the job I want to do for this team and this franchise. That’s what I focus on. Do I feel any more pressure today than I did my first year? I don’t know that I do so much. I’m a realist. I understand exactly how things go. I understand all that stuff, because that comes with this job.
While Noel deserves credit for how he handled himself in his three years as Winnipeg’s head coach, the lack of success in the regular season did not meet the expectations set forth by the franchise when the city was awarded the team in 2011.
Radio producer Satiar Shah understands the decision to fire Noel, but cautions that the problems run much deeper in the organization:
As per @DarrenDreger Claude Noel is out in Winnipeg. No surprise but the Jets problems go deeper than the head coach.— Satiar Shah (@SatiarShah) January 12, 2014
The Jets are basically the same franchise that made the move from Atlanta to Winnipeg three years ago. They have not added any marquee names to the mix since the move and have failed to groom enough elite homegrown talent to maintain a playoff-worthy campaign.
The hope is that Maurice’s hockey I.Q. and knowledge about what it takes to turn an organization around will be the difference-maker for a Winnipeg team looking for a direction.
*Stats via NHL.com.