A few lollipops and a few veiled shots after he began, Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel denied Thursday there was any relationship problem between him and KHL-bound forward Alexander Burmistrov.
After three NHL seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers and Jets, the last two under Noel's guidance in Winnipeg, Burmistrov took his restricted free agency opportunity to pass on the Jets and sign with his hometown Ak-Bars Kazan in Russia.
When that KHL deal was revealed, a Russian agent for Burmistrov blamed Noel for a rocky relationship.
"I like Alexander Burmistrov," said Noel Thursday when put to the question at the MTS Iceplex after he watched Jets prospects go through another day of summer development camp. "I've said that for two years. I've liked the way he's played. I would have liked to have seen him do some things differently that it would help him further his career.
'I like Alexander Burmistrov... I've liked the way he's played. I would have liked to have seen him do some things differently that it would help him further his career... If Alexander had problems with me, he's never mentioned it to me'
"He's a smart player. He remains our property. He's elected to change locations to advance his career. I guess that's what he believed but I really don't have any comment on what somebody else says.
"If Alexander had problems with me, he's never mentioned it to me. He's played two years here, played a lot of minutes for us in a lot of different situations. But that what he feels needs to get done, between him and the people he works with."
Noel wouldn't speculate on the KHL helping Burmistrov's game.
"I don't know much about the KHL as far as the type of game," the coach said. "For him, he talked about getting his confidence and stuff like that. If that's what he feels, then he feels he needs to play, then he needs to make that decision. That's hard for me to sit and say the KHL will do this and won't do this. Evander Kane's a guy that didn't have much success there but certainly has much success here. I think it works in different ways.
"Whether it works for Alexander, that'll be determined by his play."
Noel was asked if he could see Burmistrov returning to the Jets in the future.
"Can't say," he responded. "That'll be decided by a lot of factors that I have no control over."
Noel also took the cautious road regarding three of the team's important players, RFA's Blake Wheeler, Zach Bogosian and Bryan Little having filed for salary arbitration.
"I don't get too involved in that stuff," Noel said. "I'm very confident in our people upstairs; that's their job. I know players have filed for arbitration but that's just part of the process. I'm confident we'll get that stuff done."
The coach also said he hasn't made up his mind about where new right-wingers Devin Setoguchi and Michael Frolik will fit into the Jets' combinations.
"It's hard to say," he said. "I know people would like to put names to lines and formations and all those things but these things work themselves out. I think you have to leave an open mind going into training camp and let the process play out."
When training camp begins in September, one of the next matters the coach will find himself in the middle of will be the potential introduction of two rookies to the 2013-14 team.
Both centre Mark Scheifele and defenceman Jacob Trouba appear bound for the roster, but how much rope will the coach be willing to give them?
"I think the amount of rope you're going to give young players coming in, well, first of all you're going to probably allow them to play quite a few exhibition games so that they can gather experience as quick as you can," Noel said.
"They'll be given every opportunity. I'm used to working with young players. It's kind of how my career has gone so I understand that. I think when you look at a player, you have to recognize that yes, he looks this way in October but if the player and coaching staff do their part and try to help him continue, then this guy may end up being a player really for us in January and February as he matures and gets more experience.
"You have to look farther than the first day or first month."