Claude Noel learned a lot about coaching from the notoriously tyrannical Ken Hitchcock and this week the pupil once again channelled the master to get positive results.
Noel got grouchy after watching his Jets waltz to three straight losses and vented his displeasure at just about every available opportunity. His message got across.
Monday night's 2-1 win over the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins, the first in the team's new history in Winnipeg, was all about work and smart play. Noel needed to push buttons and he found the right ones.
Noel worked his troops over in the dressing room and then backed it up with snide remarks in the press after watching the Jets break out to an uninspired 0-3 mark.
"I'm not sure what it is we're waiting for right now. It looks like our team thinks we have a free pass to fail. I'm not sure what the wake-up call is," Noel said following the loss in Phoenix Saturday.
"We've got a franchise that's not used to winning, and it shows. This group has gone into a market that is frenzied for winning, and they've decided that this is what they're going to show them."
Prior to Monday's match with the Penguins, the coach was asked what he'd like to see from his team.
"Urgency," was his answer, and that's what he got, as the Jets went out and played their best game of the season, featuring will and hard work previously unseen.
Noel has said in the past, early in his head coaching days, he leaned too much on Hitchcock's ways before realizing he had to have his own style. Fine, Claude, do it your way, but maybe a little Hitch now and then isn't a bad thing.
This young Jets group has yet to find its way in the jungle that is the NHL, where guts and grind will often outdo talent and skill.
They like to fly around the ice and make pretty plays. They also have a tendency to spill the puck in the transition areas and then stand around watching while the opponent zips down the ice to pick apart defenceless goalies.
Squeezing that out of their game by any means imaginable is Noel's task. He's tried cuddly and now he's tried cruel. Cruel worked. Cuddly? They haven't earned that yet.
There's a fine line, of course, and Noel, must determine what is the right balance.
Whipping a horse from post to post will just result in a whipped horse.
Noel often states coaching is like parenting. The parent must discipline when required and praise if it's deserved.
At 1-3, there's no need to break out the gold stars, and now Noel must find a way to build on what he saw Monday.
Reinforcing what resulted in a win and not letting his young team slip back into the habits that resulted in defeat.
Teams must earn a coach's easy side and Noel may have erred in judgment early on by letting a few things slide. This group isn't ready for that much rope and Noel will need to stay on them.
After last night's game, the coach was unsure if he'd continue with his heavy hand. "We'll see how this works in the next game. If things don't go well, they'll see a side of me they don't normally see -- the gloves will come off."
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