Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Noel best man for coaching position

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Claude NOEL should be the coach of Winnipeg's NHL team because, and this is what matters most -- he's the best available candidate.

There are other reasons to give Noel the post but, should True North elect to not bring current Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay to Winnipeg, Noel's qualifications carry the day.

There are some other interesting names on the market: Craig Mac Tavish, Kirk Muller, Ken Hitchcock, Brad McCrimmon and Dave Cameron, but none push Noel off the podium.

The current coach of the Moose is an NHL-calibre boss waiting for his opportunity. Successful at every level -- including the NHL, where he posted a 10-8-6 record as interim head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2010 -- Noel deserves an opportunity.

Giving people a chance is what the Moose and True North have always been about. Now is not the time to stop that trend.

"I'm under contract to the Vancouver Canucks," said Noel, when reached on Friday and asked if he would like the job in Winnipeg. "Everyone in the AHL wants to be in the NHL. Players and coaches. I'm no different. I'd be interested in any head coaching job in the NHL. But there's a process and if anyone wants to talk to me, they have to go through Vancouver. I'm very comfortable with that process."

Noel has a Calder Cup title witht he 2003-04 Milwaukee Admirals on his resumé and three seasons as an assistant in Columbus. He's an elite communicator and constantly searching to grow and evolve as a coach. He's experienced and confident.

Noel has the chops and the ability to gain and retain his players' respect -- key ingredients to success in today's NHL where players earn more than the coach and can tune out the boss without regard for job security.

Noel has the required skill set. So, of course, do most of the other coaches listed above and Muller is a sexy choice at the moment.

Noel, however, has something that makes him stand out just a little bit.

He's a Moose and that's always meant something to True North. They've always spoken about finding good people and putting them in an environment where success can be achieved. It's Moose DNA to take a little opportunity and turn it into something bigger.

Take Mark Chipman and Craig Heisinger. No Moose and Chipman isn't the owner of an NHL franchise today. No Moose and Heisinger isn't a senior NHL executive today.

The Moose gave both men, and Winnipeg for that matter, a chance to be in the NHL. Believe us when we say it, no Moose and Winnipeg doesn't have the MTS Centre and an NHL franchise today.

The IHL franchise everyone loved to hate was the foundation of all the good things the community is experiencing right now.

The Moose provided Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa, Jannik Hansen, Cory Schneider, Alex Edler, Randy Carlyle, Alain Vigneault and Scott Arniel with a path to the NHL and it should be the same for Noel.

Players and coaches often talk about the Moose way. It's a culture passed down from the late John Ferguson to Carlyle and Heisinger. It's a set of values developed and nurtured by Bob Chipman and handed to his son Mark.

Moving to the NHL shouldn't change any of this, and if does it will spell bad things for this organization.

They don't have to drag the Moose name into the big league but they'll want to bring along the culture.

The values that have been at the core of turning a money-losing minor league franchise playing at a tired old arena into a success story that now includes a state-of-the-art facility and a call up to the bigs.

Those values say Noel and so does his resumé.

So move him up.

It's the way of the Moose and that should be the same whatever this team is called.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 4, 2011 C1

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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