It would be grossly premature, of course, to suggest this proves it really was Claude Noel’s fault all along.
But it is also undeniable that the Winnipeg Jets who took to the ice at the MTS Centre Monday night in head coach Paul Maurice’s Winnipeg debut demonstrated an enthusiasm and work ethic under their new boss that were both in short supply under Noel this month — and absent entirely for the past week.
Maybe it was the message Noel’s firing on Sunday sent — no one’s job on this team is safe anymore. Maybe it was the collective shame that this team’s woeful underperformance had cost a good man his job. Maybe it was just the shock that this is what it had finally come to.
But whatever it was, the Jets team on display in a 5-1 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes looked a lot like the team Noel steadfastly maintained all season this group could be, but so seldom actually was.
They won the battles in the corners, played solidly in their own end, took advantage of their offensive opportunities and got the kind of confident goaltending from Ondrej Pavelec that comes when you actually give the poor guy a little support.
Should you order ticker tape this morning for the championship parade down Portage Avenue? Hardly. While this Jets team looked immeasurably better than they did in woeful losses last week to Columbus and Tampa Bay, it is also a cold, hard fact that Monday night’s heroics came against a Coyotes team that limped into Winnipeg having lost four of their previous five games and who looked every bit like a struggling team last night, getting outshot 24-8 at one point in the second period.
Still, there’s life once again in what was beginning to resemble a corpse in recent weeks. And where there’s life, there’s hope.
"It’s huge. Everyone can kind of take a breath and get back to work," Jets captain Andrew Ladd said last night. "It was a tough time — a five-game winless streak. And everyone in here wanted to get back on track, but it didn’t seem like anything was going right.
"So nice to get a win and get some excitement back in this room."